#113: Guthrie, OK 6/20/17

Spirits were riding high in the Guthrie council chamber as Mayor Steven Gentling took center stage with a beaming gray-haired woman.

“Whereas Maxine Pruitt has displayed a true commitment for the city of Guthrie for 25 years,” he read from a plaque so shiny I could see my reflection through the TV, “and has worked for NINE mayors, I am honored to declare Friday, July 7 as Maxine Pruitt Day.”

Whoops and hollers erupted in the standing room-only chamber. The mayor flashed an ear-to-ear grin and Pruitt accepted his handkerchief to dab her eyes.

“I’m so overwhelmed,” she spoke haltingly between tears. “My father-in-law, he very seldom missed a council meeting. He loved this town. I love this town. I love everybody in it.”

She whirled around to the dais. “And council, you all are the best.”

gut3.jpg
What a gentleman!

City manager Leroy Alsup crept up to spring a second surprise on her. “Maxine collects paperweights,” he explained with a hefty key-shaped object in his hand. “So we got her a paperweight that has her name on the top and it says ‘Key to Retirement.'”

However, the good vibes promptly faded as the council turned to a subject even heavier than a paperweight: the old Excelsior Library.

“There’s been quite a bit of history on this,” frowned the city manager. “Over a three-year period, the Friends of the Library have committed to certain steps renovating the building.”

Suddenly, Council Member Brian Bothroyd leaned forward, grabbing his microphone.

“What happens if, after year one, the terms aren’t met?” he inquired sharply.

“The city has the right to terminate with 60 days written notice,” the manager replied.

gut2.jpg
This is Dewey Decimal devastating

His answer set off Council Member Bothroyd on a forceful diatribe toward the Friends of the Library.

“I was requested to champion and make sure this building wasn’t gonna get demolished. And I did that,” he thundered.

“My goal was always to get y’all the key to the building, which I did. We surplused the building so I could hand you the keys on a silver platter! And it’s still sitting there.”

He gestured in outrage. “I wanna see you guys be successful. Leroy said it: the city has 60 days and they can retract the deal! I don’t wanna do that!”

“The city has some responsibility,” interjected Mayor Gentling hotly, “that we’re not turning over a building that’s set for failure.”

I don’t know what part of “key on a silver platter” the mayor wasn’t understanding. But Bothroyd reached into his bag of superlatives and pulled out a ringer.  “Again, when I’m championed to do something, I follow through. A hundred percent.”

If Council Member Bothroyd was a teensy touchy on the whole keys-on-platters ordeal, it may be because there was another issue knocking in his brain.

“I’m a straight shooter and I throw it on the table,” he ratcheted the folksiness to eleven.

gut1
“I put the pedal to the metal and tiptoe through the tulips, okay?”

“Let me tell you what happened the other night: I got about 40 calls and counting. They asked, how come I didn’t want to settle the Bruning case?”

His voice went high in disbelief. “I said, I voted no on the MOTION. The motion WASN’T to settle the lawsuit. The other part was a tax on you and I! THAT’S what I voted against.”

He waved his hand dismissively after venting. “So I don’t have to field any more phone calls on it.”

I’ll spread the word.

Special Feature! “Best Thing, Worst Thing”

This is an exciting new episode of the “Best Thing, Worst Thing” project. Usually, I storm into town, do some interviews, hear about the history, and package it together into a neat bundle for you. This time, we tag along with a few locals as they go about their day and get a more colorful listening experience.

For an explanation of the project, check out the page here. If you’re ready to hear a group of folks talk about the best thing about where they live and the worst thing about where they live, head over to the City Council Chronicles podcast to download the latest episode. Or you can play it below.

Episode 6: Colby, Kansas

colby.JPG

Photo source: Google Street View

Colby is technically a city of 5,400 people in the northwest corner of Kansas–but it’s tempting to call this a “small town.” Agriculture is important here, but Colby also has a community college and medical center. In this episode, we tag along to a Rotary Club meeting, participate in a tornado drill, and try not to get blown away by some fierce wind. We hear from a librarian, a hospital executive, a newspaper publisher, a principal, a tax preparer, and a retired city employee.

#89: Sheldon, IA 3/1/17

It was an exciting day in Northwest Iowa: the city of Sheldon was expecting!

No, not a newborn. Rather, a fully-grown library director.

“We are successful?” Mayor Katricia Meendering inquired with a coffee cup poised at her lips in case a spit take was necessary.

“Yes!” a city employee blurted out enthusiastically.

“Wonderful,” said the mayor, taking a relaxed sip of joe.

“It’s taken us a little bit but we’re happy with Nicole Morgan, who we found from Oskaloosa,” the employee explained, anxiously scanning the council members for a reaction.

There were nods of approval around the room.

“Family?” the mayor quizzed offhandedly. She quickly chuckled and added, “I’m just kidding, you don’t have to answer that.”

The woman was clearly caught off-guard, but didn’t want to say no to Sheldon’s head honcho. “Oh, um, she has family in the area. She’ll be commuting for a bit.”

Okay, folks, let’s not get TOO personal. She hasn’t even started–

“Maybe she could come introduce herself at some point?” city attorney Micah Schreurs inquired hopefully.

shl1
“Maybe you could find out what kind of flowers she likes?”

“Sure,” the staffer responded hesitantly. “We’ll…let her acclimate a little bit first.”

“Yep. Get her feet wet. Then…the first meeting in April!” Meendering barked. She immediately broke into another awkward laugh. “I’m just kidding.”

Perhaps. But if I were Nicole, I’d hold off on the unpacking until I made an appearance at city hall.

In a thrilling turn of events, the library wasn’t Sheldon’s only source of breaking news. The mayor coyly waited until the sleepy middle of the meeting to drop this bombshell on the other unsuspecting Cornhuskers: her exclusive tour of the Crossroads Pavilion.

“Wow,” she deadpanned. “If you have not had the opportunity to see the most recent updates they have done…wow. It’s absolutely breathtaking.”

This modern engineering marvel was so inspiring, there was apparently only one word to describe it.

“We were there at noon. Two, three guys [were] putting the floor down and…wow,” she murmured.

shl2.jpg
Interior of Crossroads Pavilion

But the praise had barely died down before Council Member Pete Hamill brought up a subject that was distinctly not-wow.

“For dog and pet owners, be responsible for your pets. Just heard of two incidents in the past ten days of one person being bit by a dog,” he frowned, propping his elbow on the dais. “And then another person walking their dog being attacked by two strays.”

“Oh, my,” exclaimed the startled mayor. “I thought you were going to talk about ‘doody business’ because I’ve been getting a lot of calls on that.”

Council members silently watched her fold her arms in annoyance.

“That’s serious. I think the doody is serious too, but…” she trailed off.

Not as serious as a dog-mauling was the implication. Let’s hope the new library director isn’t watching. She might just choose to stay in bite-free Oskaloosa.

Final thoughts: Clearly the V.I.P. (Very Important Pavilion) here was Crossroads. I give it 8 out of 10 stars for the “wow” factor.

#38: Dover, DE 7/25/16

It’s a beautiful evening at Dover City Hall. The city council is ready to go and boy, what a diverse, good-looking group of–what?

This isn’t the city council? Then who the h*ck are these people?

dover4

Control room, can we get a shot of the city council please?

FullSizeRender

THERE they are. Barely.

The first order of business was presenting an oversize, Publishers Clearing House-style check to a senior citizens’ home. The guy in charge accepted the award by embarking on a long, slow stemwinder of a tale. “We have 30 employees. We’re down a couple right now. We hired people from 18 years old–she just left–”

dover6

As the speech meandered, so did the control room–which decided that now was the perfect time for cutaway shots.

“Our average age is 75 years old. If you think about that, 75 is an average age–”

dover11

“We have a wonderful facility. For those of you who have not been out there, I would be glad to give you a tour–”

dover10

“It’s tough out there. For the fire department, you know, when you deal with seniors, there’s a lot of cooking incidents–”

dover9

FOR THE LOVE OF GOD, NO MORE CLOSE-UPS.

At the conclusion, everyone snapped out of their stupor and applauded. Councilman Fred Neil–himself well above the average age in the senior home–shook hands and quipped, “as an 82-year-old, save me a spot!”

The council quickly pivoted to the youthful and chipper city librarian, who was here to brag about Dover Comic Con. “We’re starting on Friday night about 5:30 with the arrival of the Ghostbusters,” she promised.

Councilman David Anderson leaned forward intently. “Will the Tardis be there this year?”

“The Tardis will be there,” confirmed the librarian.

Councilman Neil piped up. “I thought it was marvelous when I went last year! I was greeted like a character, even though I was not in uniform.” (For context, he looks like the guy from “Up.”) “Even though I was one of the old guys, I appreciated what was going on.”

Speaking of goings-on, “Mr. Sudler had a get-together last weekend,” recalled Councilman William Hare. “I have to say that all the hype about Roy’s Ribs was true! There was only one problem with ’em: there wasn’t enough!” The councilmen cackled in response.

Picture1
The rib kingpin of central Delaware

Councilman Roy Sudler, Jr., the culinary maestro of city hall, leveled a challenge right back at Hare: “Mt. Zion AME Church, they will be hosting an annual back to school and community fair. They would like to invite you to be this year’s celebrity chef–helping to cook hotdogs and hamburgers.”

Councilman Hare reflected. “Is there a waiver that we’re not held responsible for them eating my cooking?” Ha! Councilman, you and your poisonous gruel! Stick to what you know: order a couple buckets of Roy Sudler’s Ribs and call it a picnic.

Final thoughts: Oh, hey, control room dad!

dover1