Speaking Personally

The opposite of a scandal
Last week, I reported that former Alderman David Collins stepped down and has been replaced with Tyler Morris as the Ward II Alderman in Willow Springs. It was a very tame transfer of power – exactly the kind of regime change that characterizes a healthy democracy. If you’re looking for a scoop or a scandal, you’re not going to find it here. Nonetheless, here’s what I observed as I worked on the story. 
First, no one tried to conceal anything from me at any time. A week before the city council meeting in which Collins resigned, I was looking into his change of address and interviewing the county election authority about what it might mean. To his eternal credit, Collins took my call and answered all my questions openly and honestly. To the city’s eternal credit, they did the same. Because they intended to take it up in open session the following week, I did not break the story early. 
According to Collins, his new home is exactly what his wife wants. He’s made a change that has made her happy, and you have to respect that. I certainly do. 
Watching him function as an alderman, I liked him a lot. I appreciated that he represented and fought for many of the issues that my readers bring to me. In short, I saw him as a true representative of the people in this community. 
In the process of his resignation, I have come to respect him even more.
This is a man who has chosen what’s best for his family over remaining in power. I do not believe his change of address was grounds for him to be forced out of office. To be perfectly clear, he wasn’t.
From what I observed, he interpreted state statutes and local ordinances and decided voluntarily to step down immediately. But of course, we all know about elected officials who play fast and loose with residency requirements. “Residency” can be a tricky concept to define. 
Collins, however, repeatedly told me that he refused to lie or bend the truth. 
Because of who he is, and the position he occupies in this community, I believe David Collins will remain as influential as he cares to be in Willow Springs. I hope to see him continue to exercise that influence.
I also hope his example of brazen outspokenness on behalf of those he was elected to represent sticks around in Willow’s city government.
On that note, I have high hopes for the newly appointed Tyler Morris. Another business owner and family man like Collins, I have always found Morris to be open and engaging when I visit his restaurant. He’s energetic and plugged in to the community, and I’m looking forward to watching his political career.
In the end, the only thing I would have changed about this whole process was the special meeting that took place at 8:00 a.m. on a Saturday to appoint and install the new alderman. Beyond the griping of a 33-week-pregnant and busy mother of three, plainly said, it looked suspicious. I understand the timing was to accommodate packed schedules and travel plans between now and the date of the next meeting. Still—for a situation in which everyone involved behaved openly and honestly, the early morning meeting raised a lot of eyebrows. Perhaps this was unavoidable. 
I don’t want this one critique to overshadow my point that this shake-up is overall an excellent reflection of Willow Springs. We have one involved, engaged business owner who performed his duty faithfully and well and then chose an honorable exit. We have one young, successful business owner poised to take his place. We have a City Hall that kept me, the media, informed every step of the way.
There’s been a lot of talk about small towns on the national stage recently, and I wish the folks arguing could have seen what I observed over the last couple weeks – people who care about their own giving their time and talent in service of each other. Try that anywhere you live.
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