Archive for Thursday, December 6, 2007

Council fills vacated position

December 6, 2007

Tom Smith, who tried this past spring to win a seat on the Lansing City Council, will serve on the council after all.

In a special meeting Tuesday night, council members interviewed two candidates for the vacant Ward 4 council seat and ultimately unanimously approved Smith's appointment.

"I'm thrilled," Smith said once the meeting had adjourned. "I look forward to serving the people of Ward 4."

The appointment came after a rigorous one-hour question-and-answer session between candidates Smith and Karl Brown and existing council members. Questions focused on future development of city infrastructures, working relationships with city staff and priorities on future issues.

Council member Dee Hininger Jr., asked the candidates where they saw Lansing in five to 10 years. Smith responded he would like to see Lansing expand to the south but not lose what makes the town special.

"I hope the community would hold on to the atmosphere and culture of a small town with big-city business," he said, "and I think we're on the path to get there."

Brown followed, saying he would like to see the council continue to follow the strategic plan that was set up in 1995. He said more commercial growth was beneficial to the city, but he wanted to make sure "we don't lose sight of the taxpayer."

Both men have served on the council previously. Brown was twice elected as a council member and served a partial term as an appointee. Smith also served on the council for a part term.

Smith said he enjoyed his previous time on the council and had been trying to get back ever since.

Ironically, Smith is replacing the same person as he had earlier. Kenneth Ketchum resigned from the Ward 4 seat on Oct. 31 to move to South Dakota. Ketchum had also resigned from the council in 1998 and was replaced, briefly, by Smith.

Smith, who currently works at CUBIC Applications Inc., as a military analyst on Fort Leavenworth, now will give up his seat on the Lansing Planning Commission. He is a former member of the USD 469 Site Council, the building Task Force and president of the Lansing School Board. He said he was a hard worker and always came to meetings prepared and knowledgeable about issues and was willing to the do the necessary research to make sure that was the case.

Council President Andi Pawlowski continued the questions by asking the candidates what each thought were a council member's responsibility to city staff members.

Brown said the interaction was a two-way street that involved good communication.

"It's a two-way street because you work with staff and the staff work with you," he said. "You each have responsibilities and each are one part of total picture."

Smith answered by explaining there was great respect between the council members and city staff. He said the staff provides council members with important information that they use to make decisions. He described the staff as he "face of the city" saying he hopes to hire and keep top quality employees in the future.

Council members Don Studnicka and Harland Russell both asked questions about Smith's and Brown's thoughts about infrastructure regarding both the future and current shortcomings.

Both candidates agreed something needed to be done to fix the current lack of north-south roads that go through the entire city. Currently, only Main Street and DeSoto Road do just that. Smith said the city needed north and south connectivity and would push hard to get it done sooner rather than later.

With regards to the city's responsibility of bearing the cost of infrastructure of future developments, Brown said it would be a case-by-case basis but overall thought because developers were part of the equation they should share part of the burden.

Smith also said developers should take responsibility for their new subdivisions but added if there was a project, such as the Main Street Enhancement Project, that benefited the entire city, the city and state should cover the costs.

Once every question had been asked, Studnicka nominated Smith for the position and was seconded by Pawlowski. With no further discussion, the council unanimously approved Smith and he was immediately sworn in as the new Ward 4 representative.

In April, Smith had tried to oust Russell from his Ward 4 seat, but Russell prevailed with voters, 147-80.

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