Thursday, April 30, 2009

The Mayor of Casterbridge

The Burgermeister of my town is an extraordinary guy who has given, given, given, without reservation, to his community; and he can’t be thanked enough!
by Charlie Leck

If you’ve read here something to the contrary, disregard it. Thomas Hardy is my favorite novelist of all. I have never enjoyed reading novels any more than when I have one of his works in my hands -- from Tess of the D’Urbervilles… and Jude the Obscure… and Far from the Madding Crowd… to The Mayor of Casterbridge! Wow!

These are the thrillers from the old days – books that keep you turning pages and wondering what’s going to come next.

I live in the town of Independence, Minnesota. My town is about 25 miles straight west of Minneapolis.

The Mayor of my town lives up the road a piece from me. I’m always drawn to looking out over his farmland and I’ve taken some photos of the place and his big old dairy barn. I always label these photos as “the farm of the Mayor of Casterbridge.” It’s an allusion to the Thomas Hardy novel that I so thoroughly enjoyed. When I refer to our Mayor, I call him the Mayor of Casterbridge.

Our mayor is a dandy guy! There are a number of people around town who insinuate that he is selfish and dishonest. Those people are crazy! They don’t begin to understand. I’m going to tell you the real and honest story about him.

First, however, in the interest of full disclosure, I want you to know that I am on the other side of the political spectrum from him. He’s a danged conservative Republican. He adamantly supported people like Ronald Reagan, George W. Bush and John McCain. Now, you might think this automatically disqualifies him from my list of admired people. It’s difficult to overlook the stupidity of supporting a second term of office for George W. Bush, but I pinch my nose and get quickly by it.

Over the years, I’ve attended, maybe, 50 or 60 City Council meetings that the Mayor has presided over. As a matter of fact, I attended another of them a few nights ago.

If our Mayor has a weakness, it’s that he’s too nice. I wonder occasionally if he shouldn’t’ be more tenacious – you know, show some teeth or a fang! Other councilpersons say the dumbest, dangedest things and the Mayor just smiles at them with patience and understanding.

Last night, the Mayor gave a report on his activities on behalf of the citizens of my town, our wider community and the state. Now, keep in mind that he’s a bachelor and he has more time on his hands than many of us, but also realize that he’s a farmer with cows, barns to clean, fields to tend and machinery to keep up.

In the two weeks since the last meeting, the Mayor explained what he’s been up to – I wrote as fast as I could and just didn’t keep up with him and missed a few things.

  • He attended a Land Use Advisory Committee meeting

  • He was at the Police Academy Graduation Ceremony

  • He went out to Oregon and represented our state at a meeting there

  • He went to an Active Living Grant Committee meeting

  • He was at the State of the County ceremony and speech.

  • He attended the Hennepin County Environmental Services Commission meeting

  • He represented our community at the Community Action League conference

Mind you, I really did miss a few of the meetings he went to. Around me the audience was chuckling lightly as he went through the list. A couple of his adversaries on the Council were burying their faces so that they didn’t show any expression while the Mayor listed his most recent busy-ness.

On the little note pad I had with me at the meeting, I merely scribbled out “WOW!”

Three very important reports were made to the City Council last night – a financial audit report, a report on the serious drop in home evaluations in the community (that naturally impacts the amount of property tax income the city can expect), and the police and safety report. I watched the Mayor of my town as the reports were presented. He never missed a word. He was totally attentive each and every second of each report. He asked important and relevant questions. He tried to clear up matters that the audience or councilpersons might not have understood.

Now get this! He’s served as our Mayor for nearly three decades. In that time, the people who want to get him out have called him a cheat, a liar, a crook, a common eccentric and an uncommon, egocentric nut-case. My, oh my! I guess that’s one of the costs of being in politics.

I call him honorable. Simply that!

I have a feeling that this is his last couple of years in service to our community in this office. It’s just a feeling, mind you. For all I really know, he may go after another four year term.

When he does hang it up and hands the reins of the community over to another, we ought to have the biggest darn fete any small community could possibly put together. I have never seen a public servant like him and the whole community needs to rise up in gratitude and toast and honor him. I’ll tell you this: If we do stage such a celebration, there will be Governors, Senators, Congresspersons, Mayors, Commissioners, Secretaries of departments of government, and maybe even a President here to extend their hands in appreciation and commendation to him. And they won’t all be Republicans – not by a long shot.

I am enormously proud to be a resident and citizen of his community. He’s one of the few Republicans I ever vote for, but I always do so proudly. He is a kind gentleman and a terribly good neighbor.

I just don’t know a public servant like him and I’m glad he presides over my town. I can’t thank him enough for his years of service.

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