Monday, December 22, 2014

CARDER: Officials play musical chairs with a sense of humor

By DOUG CARDER, Dumping the Notebook | 4/19/2013

“If I have seen further, it is by standing on the shoulders of Giants.”

Sara Caylor, Ottawa’s new mayor, opened her remarks with that quote from Sir Isaac Newton after taking the oath of office Wednesday as she thanked the commissioners she has served with — especially the guidance she said she has received from five-time mayor Gene Ramsey, who wrapped up a 20-year stint on the commission Wednesday.

“If I have seen further, it is by standing on the shoulders of Giants.”

Sara Caylor, Ottawa’s new mayor, opened her remarks with that quote from Sir Isaac Newton after taking the oath of office Wednesday as she thanked the commissioners she has served with — especially the guidance she said she has received from five-time mayor Gene Ramsey, who wrapped up a 20-year stint on the commission Wednesday.

“There are 14 pictures on the wall,” Caylor said, pointing to previous city commission group photos that adorn one wall of the commission chambers at City Hall, 101 S. Hickory St., Ottawa.

“I think Gene is in every one of them,” she added, to laughter from the packed gallery.

Caylor, an Ottawa native, also took the opportunity to recognize her family, parents and siblings, as well as to wish her mother, Linda Cain, a happy birthday.

“When Mom gave birth to a daughter 30-plus years ago at Ransom Memorial Hospital [in Ottawa], she probably didn’t think she would be sitting here on her birthday watching her daughter become mayor of Ottawa,” Caylor said.

Caylor, who was elected to a four-year term on the commission in 2011, said she first ran for commissioner to teach her two young daughters about the importance of “service above self.”

Since joining the commission, Caylor said, she has tried to focus on “quality of life” issues and noted that she would continue to make that a point of emphasis as mayor. Caylor has been an advocate of improving parks and adding more walking trails and sidewalks, which are a few examples of efforts by the commission to improve the quality of life in the community.

Caylor also has been a strong proponent for ramping up the city’s use of social media to get its message out to the public.

Linda Reed, who was appointed mayor pro tem, was re-elected to a four-year commission term April 2. She and Caylor urged residents to contact commissioners with any questions, concerns or comments.

“We want to hear from you,” Reed said.

Caylor added that the commission’s role is to serve the people, and maintaining open lines of communication was vital to providing good representation.

Blake Jorgensen, outgoing mayor, thanked his wife and kids for their support during the past year. Jorgensen said he was pleased with how the year went, though it seemed to pass by quickly.

Commissioners are elected to at-large terms, and then commissioners vote each year to select a new mayor among themselves. The mayor’s appointment is for one year.

In addition to making improvements to streets, sidewalks and parks, Jorgensen said, the groundwork had been laid for future projects. He cited such examples as the K-68 and Davis Road improvement project currently under construction and the sewer improvement project, which he said would shore up the infrastructure and allow for future business development.

Calling Ottawa home for 26 years, Jorgensen said the community was a great place to “live, learn and retire.”

Jorgensen also thanked Ramsey for his service, as did all the commissioners and Richard Nienstedt, city manager, during their reports.

“Gene has served 20 years — think about that,” Nienstedt said. “That’s an entire generation.”

Commissioners also said goodbye to Jeff Richards, who resigned Wednesday after being re-elected April 2 to a second, two-year term. Richards resigned because he had been appointed Franklin County’s new sheriff by Gov. Sam Brownback and had taken the oath of office April 10.

The commission voted to accept Richards’ letter of resignation two minutes after he was sworn in Wednesday. The items were placed back-to-back on the agenda by design, because state statute prevents a person from holding two public offices at the same time.

Commissioners commended Richards for his “outstanding work” on the commission and said he would be sorely missed. They wished the veteran law enforcement officer the best in his new role as sheriff and said the city’s loss was the county’s gain.

Mike Skidmore, who was elected to his first, four-year term on the commission earlier this month, took the oath of office Wednesday night and showed the audience — from the outset — that he had a good sense of humor when he joked with Richards about his two-minute term in office.

“Jeff, I’m looking forward to reading your memoirs about your second term in office,” Skidmore said.

Doug Carder is The Herald’s senior writer. Email him at dcarder@ottawaherald.com

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