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Moving city forward should not be back to the future

Editorial

Although the timing came somewhat as a shock, the resignation of Happy Welch as Harrisonville city administrator was not a major surprise. Welch’s ties with former mayor Brian Hasek were enough to create a rift with Mayor Judy Bowman. Combine that with perceived deficiencies in job performance both in the past and present, left little doubt a change was going to be made. A performance critique of Welch from us on the outside is hard to make although examples of “areas of concern” have been noted in the past. We do not know all of the inner workings, so we trust our elected officials to look out for the best interest of the city. What we do know is Welch became an active civic leader outside of the realm of his job and made valuable contributions to civic groups and activities. For what he has done for the city, we thank him.

There are two elements of the event which we find especially disconcerting. The first was the immediate announcement of former city employee Mike Tholen to serve as interim city administrator. Tholen served the city for several years as finance director and as interim administrator prior to Welch’s hiring. Much like Welch, we find Tholen to be a dedicated civic servant and a likeable person, but Tholen was also near the center of many controversies in the past and some of his decisions were part of the problems found in the audit where the state auditor gave the city a grade of “poor.” Tholen’s hiring also represents a look to the past when we would really like the city to be looking forward.

Welch is the second official from Hasek’s administration to resign, the first was John Fairfield as city attorney. He was also replaced by a former city official, Steve Mauer, who continues to serve in an interim capacity. That placement is much easier to understand as Mauer is arguably the best municipal attorney in the Kansas City area.

The other element which deserves notice was the actions of three or four aldermen at Monday night’s meeting. Matt Turner was absent so whether his was a necessary absence or simply ducking out we don’t know. But Aldermen Brad Bockelman, David Dickerson and Clint Miller each voted “no” on going to executive session and then left the building rather than meeting with the remainder of the board and discussing the facts of the issue. The three acted like petulant children unwilling to play with the rest of the class. Their actions served no one well. They were not elected to show up when they like and only participate when they are happy. Quite honestly, for four years, members of the board opposing Hasek’s plans, were placed in a position of being on the outside, but they all showed up and did their job.
In April’s elections Hasek and Bowman presented much different views of the future. Bowman won and has started making the moves to make her plans reality. What comes next we will have to wait to see, but we genuinely
hope for some fresh blood and fresh ideas rather than more back to the future.

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