‘Unified government’ consultant responds to mayor (Somerset) Commonwealth Journal

 

The following Letter to the Editor was originally published in the (Somerset) Commonwealth Journal on August 24, 2013:

Dear Editor:

I read with interest the article in last Sunday’s Commonwealth Journal concerning the ongoing unified government study in Pulaski County. I was particularly interested in comments made by Somerset Mayor Eddie Girdler that seemed to imply that as the project consultant that I have been harassing him and the City.

Nothing could be further from the truth.

Let me begin by first stating that I have nothing but the highest regard for Mayor Girdler. Somerset is a progressive city with lots of good things going for it. I fully respect the fact that the City Council earlier this summer passed a resolution indicating that the City does not wish to consider unifying with any of its neighbors, no matter what the potential benefits of such unification might bring to the City and its residents.

As project consultant, I made it clear early on that one of the most important parts of the study is to learn more about how each of the existing government jurisdictions operates. To that end, I have now met with the mayors of each city in the county, with the exception of Mayor Girdler, plus Pulaski County Judge/Executive Barty Bullock. I now have a better understanding of how each community is organized, a little bit of the history of each and most importantly, some of the things which are very important to each community, again with the exception of Somerset.

When I started this part of the study, I sent a letter to each mayor, including Mayor Girdler, requesting an appointment. I followed this up with a telephone call to each. Mayor Girdler never returned any of my calls. I stopped by his office on two occasions when I was in Somerset, each time asking his assistant for just “five minutes” to speak with the mayor, with the hope of scheduling an appointment that if for no other reason would allow him the opportunity to share with me why he is so opposed to this study and the opportunity to learn more about how unified government works, and, to see if there are any benefits to be gained for the community (the study has not been completed, so we don’t know yet if there will be any benefits). While he was out of town during one of these times, his assistant refused to announce my request to the mayor the other time.

I did receive a one paragraph letter from the mayor, in which he indicated that he would not meet with me, nor would he allow any city staff member to meet with me. He did indicate in his letter that some of the information that I was interested in obtaining would be available through an Open Records request.

Consequently, having tried every other approach to meet with the mayor, I did file an Open Records request of him (since I never got past his assistant’s desk, I was unaware of the procedure of submitting such requests to the city clerk).

In closing, throughout my career I have worked with elected officials on all levels – state, federal and local – going back to 1980. I have worked with local officials – successfully – all over the United States in communities like Hennepin County, Minnesota (Minneapolis), Philadelphia, Campbellsville, Ky., etc., on a variety of issues. While

we might not always agree, in every instance the relationships have been productive, professional and mutually respectful. I have no doubt that this will be the case with Mayor Girdler when our paths do cross in the future.

In closing, I appreciate the opportunities that I have had thus far to learn more about how Greater Pulaski County works. My invitation to Mayor Girdler stands: I would welcome the opportunity to begin an open and candid discussion of all of these issues with him. 

Sincerely,

 

Luke B. Schmidt

L.B. Schmidt & Associates, LLC

6316 Innisbrook Drive

Prospect, Ky. 40059