Archive for Thursday, April 21, 2005

Former mayor vows to stay involved

April 21, 2005

Only two names are on a list at Basehor City Hall requesting to be notified whenever a meeting is scheduled for city officials. Former mayor Joseph Scherer is one of the names on that list.

Although he's no longer one of the city's power brokers, Scherer, a lifelong resident, said he's spent the last 15 years being involved in municipal government and being on the always-call list at City Hall ensures that he "will continue to do so."

Last week, Scherer presided over his last meeting as mayor. After a brief summary of consent items, he watched Chris Garcia -- who was once his predecessor as City Council president -- be sworn in as the city's new mayor.

Scherer offered congratulations to the new mayor, thanked remaining council members and kept parting words to a few brief comments. And then he said goodbye to city politics.

Scherer, an owner and operator of Realty Executives Elite in Bonner Springs, is also a residential developer in Basehor. He was elected to the City Council in 2001 and was soon after appointed City Council president. In 2002, on the heels of then-mayor Bill Hooker's resignation, Scherer was appointed to the top role in local government.

His public service stretches back to 1991 when he was appointed to the Basehor Planning Commission.

This week, the former mayor spoke candidly about his tenure as mayor. No longer in office and no longer in need of maintaining a working relationship with council members, Scherer spoke bluntly about what he felt was the council's lack of vision and how it may come back to harm the city in the future.

Initially, Scherer announced he would seek re-election. However, weeks later he changed his mind by deciding against running for another term.

Scherer said a growing divide among factions of the City Council fueled his decision.

"I decided not to run because the vision I had for the future of this city didn't match the City Council's," Scherer said. "I believe the biggest challenge for any mayor is growth and for the progress of the city. I was not able to accomplish that at a pace I felt comfortable with.

"I was unable to bring my council to a consensus. I was more than happy to pass the reins off to someone who can."

He said the City Council's inability to compromise on goals for the common good, hampered the city's ability to move forward with pressing needs in accommodating growth. Without a unified council, the city will be "behind the 8-ball, if we don't act quickly," he said.

"There's too many visions or differing ideas among the council and it led us nowhere," he said. "They have to take the next step and do what's right in negotiating and compromise."

Scherer pointed to examples such as the council's decision not to replace city administrator David Fuqua, who resigned in December 2004, choosing instead to wait until after the April election.

He counts "convincing the council and the community that we need a city administrator" as perhaps his biggest achievement while serving as mayor, but is also discouraged that he wasn't allowed to find a new city administrator after Fuqua resigned.

"I wish I could have replaced him during my term," Scherer said. "This city needs a city administrator."

Scherer also said he believes the council has moved too slowly on plans to expand the existing wastewater treatment facility.

The facility is approximately 100 connections away from reaching its peak capacity. Before he left office, Scherer and council members discussed a project ranging from $3.5 to $5 million to expand the treatment facility.

One hundred connections is a drop in the bucket compared to the number of homes currently platted for development in the city, Scherer said. Without an expanded treatment plant, development will dry up, he added.

"The growth is here," he said. "It's here right now and we have to deal with it right now.

"They don't realize there's no choice but to spend that money. We have to expand. I don't see how they can be so scared."

In 2001, Scherer assumed the office of mayor within 72 hours of the birth of his first child. He said he would spend his time away from public service concentrating on his family and business.

Through his business, Scherer hopes to improve the city he calls home by developing upscale projects that will compliment Basehor. And while his city service is marked by struggles, he doesn't count out returning to the political arena one day.

"In the future, if I see a council that is truly forward thinking then I would definitely entertain working in city government again," he said.

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