I've said hundreds of times that I love my job serving the citizens of Neosho.
Without a doubt, it has been one of the most enjoyable opportunities in my 43 years on this earth. But as with any job or occupation, there are always things that pop up that remind you that even with the best of intentions, some days are better than others. But I would have never dreamed that local politics in today's world would include things such as threats or innuendos of harm, but would you believe they still happen – even here in Neosho?
As a city, we don't make a big deal over things like this. But last week, city hall went on alert after a generalized comment was made about a bomb and a potential threat at city hall. This wasn't a Boston-type threat that required an evacuation or a shutdown of the area, but it still reminds me that even in local politics, there is always a risk. I thought I'd share a few more of my experiences since serving on the council.
I remember very clearly, about two years ago, when a comment was made to me that Neosho "needed another Kirkwood incident." I'm normally a pretty calm person, but even I was a little shocked with that one – enough so that I had conversations with law enforcement. To those that aren't familiar, in early 2008, a gunman went into a city council meeting in Kirkwood, Mo. and killed five, including the city's public works director, two council members, and the mayor (who died months later of his injuries.) And as we learned from the Neosho church shooting in August of 2007, to say it can't happen here simply isn't true.
Other memories directly relate to some "local" issues and council actions on them. One was during the early discussions on the TDD when a "friend" showed up at my office and said we needed to "go on a ride". While I had no reason not to "trust" this individual, it was a bit awkward (maybe I've seen one too many of the Godfather movies.) The ride lasted about 30 minutes and it turned out to be more of a lecture on how things are supposed to "work" in Neosho, but it still caught me off guard. Those "rides" happened on more than one occasion.
Another was related to last April's election when my term was up. It was a call from a local business person (and supporter) who had been approached about needing "change" in Neosho. While the details don't matter, I was very surprised by the tone of the conversation and the "promises" that were made if those changes were to happen. And given the comments, it was obvious those behind it were full of hate and anger – something that can sometimes be the spark that causes other bad things to happen. In the end, nothing came of it. The election was fairly decisive and we moved on. But it did remind me of the unfortunate truth of politics and how brutal some can be when money and power hang in the balance.
Page 2 of 2 - Regardless of the risks, politics continues to be a passion for me. And serving my community is something I truly value in my life. But as with anything, risk can sometimes be around the next corner. I don't expect sympathy or compassion – it's my decision to be doing this job. And I don't believe any "hits" are out on me based on my views or council actions, but it does make you step back sometimes and think "Really? In Neosho? Are you kidding me?"
Next Thursday night, May 9, I'll be heading up another town hall meeting and listening post for citizens to come out, hear about what's happening in Neosho and discuss any topics you wish to bring to your elected officials. It will be at the Neosho Golf Course meeting room. It will start promptly at 7 p.m. I hope to see you there.
Until next time: keep the faith, stay the course, and may God bless Neosho!
Richard Davidson is mayor of Neosho.