The Eternal Mayor - Part III


The Eternal Mayor, Part III

By James M. O'Meara, © 2006

Boom Town!

Battling Bob's election ushered in an era of unmatched prosperity for Walnutwood. His reign as Mayor far exceeded his father's in years, and his accomplishments seem almost superhuman, despite his attending a mere handful of Council meetings in all his years in power. His first term started quietly enough, and he caused barely a ripple when he attended his first-ever Council meeting. In fact, he offered no sign at all of the sweeping changes he was about to bring to town.

Fred Appleton persuaded Bob to attend the meeting stone-cold-sober. Bob fidgeted endlessly while members of council spent the session doing what most governing bodies do so well: arguing among themselves and spending a great deal of time accomplishing nothing. The only time Bob paid any attention was when an elderly woman complained her streetlight was still burned out after six months, and she was afraid of tripping in the dark while walking her dog.

"Can't we fix that?" Bob asked.

Fred Appleton looked out into the crowd and asked George Witherspoon, who ran the Street Department, when the light would we be changed.

"When we have the money," was George's reply.

"Well, how much can a light cost?" Bob asked.

"Oh, we have the lights. We got a ton of them. But we can't afford the overtime. This lady's way out on the edge of town. By the time we drive out there and change the light, we end up paying the crew a pile of overtime. Overtime ain't in my budget."

"Do you get overtime?" Bob asked.

"No. I'm the supervisor. I'm salaried."

"Then why don't you change it? This lady can't see at night."

Council chambers were utterly silent.

"It's just not the way things are done, Bob," Willie Parker said.

Bob started to say something, then just shook his head in disgust and sat back. The rest of the meeting plodded on predictably: A laundry list of complaints from citizens about unfinished tasks and broken promises. There were dirty streets, backed up sewers, dangerous intersections in need of stop signs, and roads with potholes. Citizen after citizen reported sleeping work crews and general malingering among town employees. All the complaints were rebutted by hand-wringing, infighting, and wails of poverty by the council while Bob sat quietly.

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