Mayor, aldermen, judge honored night before new electees take seats
By Steve Bowman
Editor, The Brentwood Spirit
His voice cracking with emotion, Pat Kelly last night thanked Brentwood for allowing him to be its mayor for the past 14 years and an alderman for eight years before that.
He was speaking at his final regular board meeting as mayor. Tonight he will preside over a meeting to certify the April 7 election results and install newly elected mayor Chris Thornton and five other city officials who were elected or re-elected.
At the end of last night’s meeting at city hall, plaques were presented to Kelly and to four others whose terms have expired: municipal judge Ronald Hill and aldermen Lee Wynn, Anthony Harper and Keith Robertson. Each person made a brief speech to the crowd. After 22 years of serving at city hall, Kelly had trouble getting his words out.
“One of my favorite movies every year, and my kids will attest to this, is ‘It’s a Wonderful Life,’” he said. He paused, then continued with emotion straining his voice. “I believe that about this community. And I want to thank you for allowing me to serve as your mayor. Because I truly believe it’s not about the mayor, it’s about the community. And it’s about what we do as a group, as opposed to what any one individual does. And I just thank you for that opportunity.”
Earlier in the meeting, during the public comment period, former alderwoman Barbara Clements stepped to the microphone and thanked Kelly for, among other things, strengthening the city’s tax base.
“I was fortunate enough to spend 14 of your 22 years serving with you and it was a joy, it was a privilege,” Clements said. “You have dedicated yourself to making our community a better place to live. … You can look at everybody wanting to move in to Brentwood, they want to live here.”
Ward 2 alderman Lee Wynn has been on the board for 24 years. His successor is Keith Slusser, who ran unopposed.
“I came to Brentwood in 1958 to teach PE and coach football,” Wynn said. “This is the greatest city to live in. We’ve had our ups and downs but I’ve made good friends here — it’s easy to make good friends here because there’s good people. I look forward to being up and down these streets still, even though I walk out tonight for the last time as an alderman.”
After 37 years as Brentwood’s municipal judge Ronald Hill is being succeeded by Patrick Dignam, who ran unopposed. Hill told the crowd that the job reflects “what our community is.”
“We don’t try murder cases, we don’t try serious crimes,” Hill said. “We try crimes that affect our community. … How it operates, how we deal with our fellow citizens. … And that’s the way I viewed most of the crimes. They’re not earth shattering but they are important to the people involved.”
Anthony Harper, Ward 1 alderman for seven years, is succeeded by David Plufka, who was elected over Hart Nelson .
“Alderman Wynn gave me two great pieces of advice, which I’ll share with upcoming aldermen,” Harper said. “The first one was to vote your conscience, which I felt that I always did. … The second piece of advice was to wait until someone on that side of the room started talking before I scratched my nose because then I knew the camera wasn’t live.”
Keith Robertson was Ward 3 alderman for 14 years and on the Brentwood Planning and Zoning Commission for seven. His successor is Steve Lochmoeller, who won the election over Andrew Hartnett.
“Those were seven busy years and we made a lot of difference in Brentwood,” Robertson said. “It’s a process; it’s not due to one of us, it’s due to all of us, and I hope we’ll have a lot more harmony from this point on.”
Interviewed after the board meeting, Kelly said he is satisfied with what he helped accomplish but it’s difficult for him to leave after being in city government since 1993.
“I said four years ago that I wanted to complete the Drury [Hotel] project and then I was going to be done,” he said. “It’s hard. It’s been part of my life for 22 years and when you care about the community it makes a difference. … It’s just time to let some other people take the reins and let them have some fun.”
Asked if he will continue attending board of aldermen meetings, Kelly laughed as he replied, “No, not unless I’m dragged by chains. I think it’s up to the new board to do their job and I’m more than happy to help in whatever capacity. If they have questions and they would like me to come and talk about something or give them some background I’m open to that. But no I’m not planning on attending just to be attending meetings.”