It was a crowded, emotional venue as three now-former city council members bid goodbye. It was also a new beginning for the three new council members who were sworn in to the delight of their supporters who helped fill the room.
At the start of the evening, Mayor Hansel gave the departing council members one final time to speak from their about to be vacated positions.
Vince Wetta initially said he “just looked forward to spending more time with his kids and grandkids.” After everyone else spoke, though, he came back and added he “wanted to thank the citizens of Wellington and Sumner County” for letting him do this job. He wanted to “wish the city luck.” He said he was able to “appreciate the city employees more,” referring to all of the hard work everyone does in every department. He also mentioned on a very emotional note that “Yesterday was he and his wife’s anniversary.”
When it came time for Jim Valentine to speak, he pointed out that he was one of the few people in the room who was dressed up and wearing a tie. He then went on to applaud “the work of the street department employees working in Heritage Park, taking care of the ditches. They all work hard.” He went on to “thank council members Wetta, Butts, and Korte for their service. You have quite a future ahead of you. Thank you for all you have done.”
Bill Butts took his turn, saying, “my years here have been delightful, despite not knowing what I was getting into.” When it came to approaching his job, he “listened, but acted on what we as council members believed to be right.” He went on to say “You take for granted so much of what goes on in running a city. What would we do without our police and fire? I want to thank all of you for the opportunity and I love you all, wish you luck in the future.” He later thanked City Manager Shane Shields, saying “he was the right man to hire.”
Jan Korte took her turn, saying she “was thankful for the education. I knew how some of it worked before.” She went on to say that she preferred to “concentrate on the positive. I am pleased the hospital is still operating, even though they are not out of the woods yet. I am also pleased the college is coming to town. I have high hopes.” She concluded by saying that “During our tenure, we saved quite a lot of money in refinancing our bonds. I don’t know the exact figure, but it was spectacular. I am leaving here with a smile on my face.”
Council member Hawley also wanted to “keep it positive, if we can.” She mentioned that during the recent contentious debate on the automated trash issue, two younger people reached out to her on social media, asking how they could help. Hawley commended them, saying she was “glad they took time out of their day with their questions.”
Finally, council member Kipp Etter cautioned people to “be mindful with the weather we have had with our water department and the hard work they do in the cold weather. If you see them out working, let them know they are appreciated.” He also said he was “appreciative of the council members for their civic duties. I wish them the best of luck.”
At that point, the departing council members stepped down and received their parting gifts from the city clerk. They were also allowed to remove and keep their name plates.
With the ending of one chapter, it was time to start another. Jennifer Heersche, Joe Soria, and Kevin Dodds then stepped up and were sworn in by the city clerk before finally signing their oaths. Upon receiving their own name plates, they then stepped up and officially took their places on the city council.
Joe Soria spoke first, thanking his supporters in the audience. He said it was “very entertaining and educational for us new council members.” He thanked his wife and family and told an emotional story of how his late father helped him make up his mind. Choking up as he spoke, he said, “We lost him last March, but before he passed, he said to me, ‘if you want change, you gotta be a part of that change.’” Holding up his new name plate, he said “This is for you, Dad.”
Kevin Dodds thanked the community, saying “I will be your representative. I have no personal gain or agenda. I am here for the future of Wellington and its citizens. I will always be ready to listen. I hope I don’t disappoint you.”
Jennifer Heersche thanked “the citizens for giving me the change to represent you to my best ability. It is not something I take lightly. This is for my kids, as much as anyone else.” She finally “thanked my family for what they did to help get me elected.”
Getting down to business, their first act was to elect a president of the council. It did not take long for council member Soria to nominate Jim Valentine. Kevin Dodds seconded it, and the final vote was unanimous.
Valentine thanked all of them, pointing out the reasons he wanted the new council members to always remember. For Heersche, there were “613, Dodds, “537”, and Soria, “765.” “You are a city employee, you work for the citizens of Wellington. Those people are counting on each and every one of you.”
The city clerk called for a council member to replace Mr. Wetta on the airport advisory board. Soria nominated Mr. Dodds. It was swiftly moved and seconded with Mr. Dodds getting the post.
Not to be left out, it was then mentioned that Mrs. Korte’s spot on the special alcohol advisory board would also need to be filled. Council member Etter nominated Mrs. Heersche, and the final vote was unanimous.
Moving onto the contentious automated sanitation issue, Shane Shields commented that the “16th is when this issue would come up” for any kind of vote. After brief discussion, it was decided that any vote on the issue would be postponed until after a work session occurred on the 23rd of this month. At that work session, the council would discuss their options on dealing with vicious dogs and bringing the new council members up to speed on the trash issue.
With that, the the meeting was adjourned until next week.