Council has changing of the guard
Citizens packed the Library Activity Room Monday to witness the seating of the new Baldwin City Council.
After the out-going council quickly dispensed with old business, City Clerk Peggy Nichols swore in three new council members and a new mayor: Todd Cohen replaced Gene Nelson, who was appointed to the council to fill in when a council member resigned. Cohen, who won out over Nelson in the city election, will serve for two years.
Ken Wagner and George McCrary replace Joe Salb and Lee Whaley, who held four-year positions on the council. Whaley lost his seat in the election. Salb did not run for re-election.
Ken Hayes, the new mayor, ran against the out-going mayor, Stan Krysztof, in the spring primary election. But Krysztof didn't garner enough votes to go on to the general election.
Ted Brecheisen Jr. and Marilyn Pearse remain on the council serving out the remainder of their terms.
During a break in the proceedings for punch and cookies, the old council mingled in a congenial manner with the new council.
Bringing the gavel down to start the first session of the new council, Mayor Hayes made an announcement:
"Forty-one years ago my mother and father were married on this date. I have no excuse now for forgetting their anniversary."
Based on promises made during the election process , the new mayor and three new council members have their task set out for them.
"I think Baldwin wants new direction in government," said Hayes after the primary election.
"I think the winds of change have been blowing in Baldwin," said Wagner.
"People are looking to us for leadership," said McCrary.
"We need a council that actively invites public input," said Cohen.
Every member of the council participated during discussion of items on the long agenda for the evening, asking questions and on several occasions taking advantage of the large crowd to push the idea of public participation in the governmental process.
Although there were at least three dozen people in the audience, only one person asked a question during the discussion. Many attendees were simply relatives of the newly seated council members. Council member McCrary's two daughters were there.
"I think it's boring," said Madeline, McCrary's youngest daughter. She was more interested in practicing her ABCs on a note pad and thought it would be more interesting to explore the books in the library.
As the evening wore on and as the discussions over important issues got longer, the audience dwindled to a handful.
The spirit of cooperation was present during the evening. After the council quickly approved Baker University's request to hang banners from city light poles, Cohen said:
"I commend Baker University for offering to let other groups use the banner brackets."
"I think it's great when Baker University and the city are working together," said Mayor Hayes.
By the time the eighth item on the agenda came around, the council was getting warmed up to its purpose. A lengthy discussion with BG engineers and Terry McKinney, Director of Utilities, brought out the questions and responses.
"This is not going to be as easy as the banners issue," said Mayor Hayes.
During the election Wagner made it known that he was going to look at every expense. He did just that Monday evening when he questioned a reduction in costs on the proposed sewer treatment plant.
"I want to make sure that six months after start up of the new plant that we'll be happy with it," he said.
Despite a full agenda and lengthy discussion on two items, the new council managed to whip through the items and finish its work in just over an hour without tabling any issues.
(Editor's note: Pictures from Monday's city council festivities will be in next week's Signal.)