By JAN LARSON McLAUGHLIN
BG Independent News
The last meeting of the year for Bowling Green City Council on Thursday was a bittersweet one. Sweet was the fact that council approved a balanced budget for 2018 – unlike the 2017 budget which had a general fund deficit of $625,000.
But bitter was council’s act of bidding farewell to two council members – one who has served steadfastly for 12 years, and another who came forward to fill an opening about 15 months ago.
One by one, council members thanked at-large council member Bob McOmber and Fourth Ward council member Scott Seeliger.
“I’ve given some thought to how I would handle this moment,” said council president Mike Aspacher, who served on the Bowling Green Board of Education alongside McOmber before serving with him on city council.
“He has served as such a great sounding board,” Aspacher said of McOmber, who had the knack of sorting through difficult matters and making them easier to digest.
Council member Bruce Jeffers recalled being a new guy on council and learning from McOmber during walks and drives through the city.
Council member Sandy Rowland said she might be among those people who still call upon McOmber for advice on issues. “The value I gained from sitting next to you and learning from you can never be matched,” she said.
John Zanfardino, the only sitting member to be on council longer than McOmber, credited his Republican counterpart with his role in helping to pass the city’s anti-discrimination ordinances. McOmber was asked and agreed to tape a robo-call the weekend before the election to voice his support for the ordinances.
“I do believe without your support, it would have failed,” Zanfardino said.
Council member Daniel Gordon noted his appreciation of McOmber during the recent trash collection reform efforts. Though far from an exciting topic, McOmber took the issue seriously and sought compromise.
“Your leading by example taught me as well,” Gordon said.
Though his service was short, council thanked Seeliger for coming in and filling the Fourth Ward term. Aspacher said Seeliger “joined under difficult circumstances,” and served well.
“I was really impressed with the way Scott dove into the job,” Aspacher said. “He very quickly became a valued member of council. I though his contributions were really significant in a short amount of time.”
Jeffers said he appreciated the perspective that Seeliger brought to council.
Gordon added that both departing members made improvements to their community. “I think you both should be very proud,” he said.
Aspacher agreed. “You both have had very positive impacts on the community you live in.”
Mayor Dick Edwards thanked both men for working for one common cause – despite political party differences.
Seeliger offered congratulations to the two new council members who will start their terms in the new year – Greg Robinette as at-large member, and Bill Herald as Fourth Ward member.
“It’s been a wonderful experience working with all of you,” Seeliger said to his fellow council members, offering special praise for McOmber. “Thanks Bob, for your steadfast drive over these 12 years.”
McOmber said he was especially grateful to the mayor, the city administrative staff, department heads and city employees. He also recognized the sense of respect under which City Council operates. “There’s always been a sense of decorum,” which isn’t found in all city governments, he said.
Of course there were differing opinions on issues over the years. “We vehemently disagreed on some things,” McOmber said. But council always conducted itself respectfully, he added.
While on council, McOmber made a point of attending all the annual employee recognition events. The city services are made up of people who plow the snow, pick up the trash, answer the phones, put out fires, and protect its citizens.
“I wanted those people to know” how appreciated they are, he said.
McOmber also thanked his wife, Becky, for her support and “wise counsel.” He credited his wife for keeping some of his ideas from going public. “Some of the bad ideas never made it past our kitchen.”
“I’ll take you out to dinner tonight,” McOmber said to Becky, sitting in the council chambers for his final meeting.
He also extended his hope for continued success to the existing and new council members. “I wish all of you the best of luck,” he said.
City Council will hold its organizational meeting for 2018 on Tuesday at 5 p.m., when the new council members will be sworn in, and council will elect officers for the new year.