A retired Santa Fe Railroad employee appears to have the inside track to become the City of Ottawa’s next representative on the Ottawa Recreation Commission’s board of directors.
After interviewing three candidates at its study session Monday, Ottawa city commissioners reached a consensus to recommend Richard Burgoon, 63, for the position, Leslie Quillen, executive assistant to the city manager, said.
Burgoon’s appointment to the ORC board likely will become official next week. The commission is expected to vote on the matter at its next meeting 7 p.m. Wednesday at City Hall, 101 S. Hickory St., Ottawa.
Burgoon, a lifelong Ottawa resident outside of his military service, worked for the railroad for 35 years before retiring, according to his application. A veteran, Burgoon said he is a member of the Ottawa American Legion and vice president of the Vietnam Veterans of America and Associates Chapter 912 in Ottawa.
Tony De La Torre, who is currently one of the city’s two representatives on the ORC board, will see his term expire June 30. He is eligible to serve another term, according to the ORC by-laws.
De La Torre also interviewed for the position Monday, along with Troy Gavel, a 33-year resident of Ottawa.
Michael Finch, a fourth candidate and finalist during the last ORC appointment process, withdrew his name from consideration, Quillen said.
If confirmed Wednesday, Burgoon would join Dennis Tharp as the city’s other representative on the board. The Ottawa City Commission voted 4-0 April 17 to appoint Tharp to fill Joe Goedert’s unexpired term on the ORC board through 2016. Goedert, a banker, resigned from the ORC board in mid-March because he had accepted a position with a bank in the Wichita area.
Burgoon said Wednesday he was excited about the opportunity to serve on the board.
“I’ve been involved in ORC since 1962 when I started playing baseball,” Burgoon said.
Burgoon, who also played in the ORC’s basketball league, said he raised three boys who participated in ORC sports and that his wife was active in ORC as well.
“I think my experience with ORC’s programs will help me on the board,” Burgoon said. “I would like to see us get more kids active in ORC and get them out from in front of the TV. I’d like to get more families involved.”
Burgoon’s term would be for four years, expiring in 2017.
Linda Reed, mayor pro tem, said the decision to not reappoint De La Torre was a very difficult one and that all three candidates who interviewed Monday were excellent.
“Tony has done a tremendous service for the city,” Reed said. “Tony is very knowledgeable, and he has represented the city very well. Tony has served 12 years, not consecutively [but in two different stints] on the board, and we decided maybe it was time to give someone else the opportunity to serve.”
Reed said one of the reservations about not reappointing De La Torre, in addition to his good work, was that the ORC board is going through a transition period, with a lot of new members.
“We know Tony is very passionate about ORC, and we think he will still be involved and active in ORC, even if he’s not on the board,” Reed said. “I think ORC will still benefit from his expertise.”
De La Torre said he was disappointed he wasn’t reappointed, but noted that he was pleased the commission selected Burgoon.
After a lengthy study session Monday, commissioners voted 3-1 to recommend Burgoon, with commissioner Mike Skidmore casting the dissenting vote.
The board is made up of five members — two appointed by the city commission, two appointed by the Ottawa school board and one at-large position selected by the other board members. The school board’s appointees are Linda Spencer and Jeff Curry, and Dan Stepp is the at-large member.
De La Torre also expressed concern about the recent turnover on the board and thought he could help provide the experience the board needed during a transitional phase. In addition to two new city appointees, the school board likely will replace Curry, who resigned his position as Franklin County sheriff April 1 amid allegations of criminal wrongdoing, on the ORC board in the future. Curry has not been attending meetings in recent months, board members have said. The school board’s other representative, Linda Spencer, will see her term expire in another year, De La Torre said.
“I’m saddened I wasn’t reappointed — I thought I had been doing a good job,” De La Torre said. “But I’m happy for Rick [Burgoon]. I know Rick, and I was the one who encouraged him to apply. I think he’ll do a great job on the board.”