Archive for Wednesday, May 15, 2013

A ‘freaky’ Monday

May 15, 2013

I will admit that I had a bit of a freaky feeling when I looked at my May calendar. The page was fairly full as usual with a variety of meetings and events. What shocked me was that every Monday evening was open. There were no governmental meetings listed, which is probably the first time that has happened in more than a decade.

For at least 43 of the past 45 years of my life, Monday has been “governmental meeting” night. Of that time, 18 years was as an elected official, but for the most part I was a reporter. As you might have guessed, my “Monday chores” started when I entered the weekly newspaper business in 1970. I covered the city council and school board on alternating Mondays. I continued covering meetings in Carrollton, Mo., and here in Bonner Springs and Edwardsville. I would guess that I have been at well over 2,000 city, school board or county governmental meetings.

Going back, I have covered meetings of six different city councils, as well as school boards in three communities. And, yes, I’ve seen meetings that were good, bad and ugly. I believe that serving in local government is a great responsibility and an honor. It takes time to study the issues and a lot of soul searching to do what is best for the city or school district. When I was a reporter, it often seemed that the issues were simple, but when I moved to the other side I found out how tough the job can be.

Governmental meetings have changed a lot since 1970 when I first started covering the Mulvane City Council. They had no pre-published agenda. I found that was the practice at Carrollton, Mo., and later at Edwardsville. In those early days, each of the council members would bring up any issue that he or she was concerned about. The mayors had the task of handling anything else. I noticed that the Mulvane meetings were far better organized and the difference was that they had a city administrator. The same was true with the city of Bonner Springs with a city manager.

As the complexity of municipal government has advanced most cities now have a manager or city administrator who is the chief executive officer and manages the day-to-day operations. City councils are policy makers who chart the city goals and the manager or administrator carries them out through a professional staff. School boards always had superintendents who directed daily operations and prepared issues for the boards. Detailed advance agendas certainly make covering governmental meetings much easier and more accurate.

What was hard in the “old days” was that I had to write the story on Monday night after the meeting. When meetings continued until 10 p.m. or so, I had another hour of work ahead of me. Initially I had to go to The Chieftain office to write my stories. The advancement in computer technology allowed me to write the story at home, which made life much better.

Will I miss going to governmental meetings? Probably not, but I will miss the camaraderie. While I have retired from city government, I haven’t retired from life. I will remain busy helping the community through various organizations. I will slow down, but there is no way I am going to stop.

I was asked what I did on my first free Monday night. I went to Lawrence and attended my youngest grandson’s baseball game. It was certainly more fun than a governmental meeting.

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