Trauger column: Is Chief Wilson’s departure tied to City Hall trouble?
“Cause I’m already gone
And I’m feelin’ strong
I will sing this vict’ry song”
— The Eagles, “Already Gone”
Last week, Police Chief Terry Wilson moved up the time frame for his retirement … significantly. It went from February to less than two weeks away.
Terry Wilson is not a man prone to spontaneity from my observation — although you might not guess it from the guy wearing the oversized foam cowboy hat while directing traffic.
So, what is up with that?
I am aware that things are not all roses right now at City Hall. They are undergoing a major change in their financial backbone — which was desperately needed. That alone can cause stress!
However, there seems to be an undercurrent of fear and mistrust, which is just what many of us who sat on City Council previously worked so hard to combat.
I know, from reading the letters to the editor and Facebook comments, that City Council is under tremendous scrutiny. This is actually quite a surprise. This is virtually a new council with three of the seven being elected in April.
The strange thing is that the last citizen poll done in 2016 showed extremely strong support of council and the direction the city was moving — to the extent that the company doing the polling said that the high level of trust and confidence in an elected body and staff was rare.
Most of the City Council members I served with, and my successor who stepped in after my resignation, took a great deal of effort to build transparency, trust and integrity with staff and with our constituents.
So, what has changed?
To start with, three of the seven council members. The biggest change is that this council is more polarized and dogmatic than in the past. From what I have seen and heard, some members of this council are significantly less supportive of staff.
By no means does this include all members of council, and I will refrain from naming names. But this has a tremendous impact on how your city is run. It could impact a chief’s decision to be gone earlier than anticipated. I do not know for sure.
Everyone in the city must pull their weight, including City Council members. However, in order to get things done, council, or any team, needs to be able to work together with respect and integrity. They also must respect the work and effort by city staff. They may not always agree, but without a dedicated city staff, nothing would be accomplished.
We are almost six months from the last city election. Promises were made during that campaign regarding finding $2 million within the existing city budget to fix your streets and the decaying underlying infrastructure. The tax proposal to fix the streets was soundly defeated based upon those promises.
I ask those who made those promises to you, where is the two million? I ask you, are your streets being repaired as promised? It is one thing to make promises. Anyone can do that. It is quite another to follow through.
Let us start to hold those council members who made promises accountable. Show us the money … and the results. However, it cannot be at the expense of staff.
I would also encourage this council to weigh the long-term impacts of decisions they make. Sometimes it is better to spend a little more now rather than opting to spend the minimum or none. We are seeing the impact of such decisions with the city’s need to abandon their Municipal Operations Center. A decision to take the least expensive route in building that building years ago has cost the city millions and millions of dollars.
Back to Chief Wilson. I do not have any idea what prompted his decision to move up his retirement. Perhaps nothing, other than wanting to enjoy a beautiful Colorado autumn. I want to salute Chief Wilson for a job well done. He may not be perfect — none are — but he has done an exemplary job of guiding his department and keeping Glenwood Springs residents safe for quite a few years. It is a tough job — tougher than most of us realize.
Terry’s dry sense of humor has lightened many meetings. He has never been afraid to be out in the field alongside his officers. While he may have come, kicking and screaming, into the computer age — preferring “old school” — he has always had the backs of his officers.
Now, it is time for a change for Glenwood and Chief Wilson. Terry Wilson, I am sorry to see you go. Thank you for your service to this community. Enjoy this season of your life.
Kathryn Trauger lives in and writes from her hometown of Glenwood Springs. She has served the community as a member of Glenwood Springs City Council and chair of the Planning and Zoning Commission, and she currently serves as the chair of the city’s Financial Advisory Board. Her column, Perspective, appears monthly in the Post Independent. She may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or at 970-379-4849.
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