On a night when the Ottawa City Commission paid tribute to one of the longest-seated members in the governing body’s history, the commission might have set another milestone Wednesday.
Jeff Richards most likely served one of shortest commission terms on record.
Two minutes after Richards was sworn in as a commissioner, the commission voted to accept his resignation.
The swearing-in ceremony and the vote to accept Richards’ resignation were placed back-to-back on the agenda by design. Kansas statute prohibits one person from holding two public offices at the same time, outgoing Mayor Blake Jorgensen told the audience.
Richards, who was re-elected April 2 to a two-year term on the commission, submitted his letter of resignation because he was sworn in as Franklin County’s new sheriff April 10 — one day after news arrived that Gov. Sam Brownback had appointed him to the position. Richards succeeds Jeff Curry, who had resigned amid allegations of criminal wrongdoing.
Richards has a long career in law enforcement, most recently serving as a detective with the Overland Park Police Department.
Richards thanked the community for giving him the opportunity to serve on the commission the past two years, and he thanked his fellow commissioners for the opportunity to serve with them.
“I’ve enjoyed the last two years very much, and I appreciate all the support the community has given me,” Richards said. “It has been a pleasure and an honor to serve on the commission.”
Incoming Mayor Sara Caylor thanked Richards for his service and said the city’s loss was the county’s gain.
City commissioners have 45 days by state statute in which to appoint Richards’ successor. The commission plans to discuss how best to proceed with filling the vacancy during its next study session at 4 p.m. Monday at City Hall, 101 S. Hickory St., Ottawa.
The commission also paid tribute Wednesday to Gene Ramsey. The five-time mayor joined the city commission in April 1994. Ramsey, 83, did not seek re-election, and his term expired Wednesday — ending a 20-year stint on the commission.
Citing a Boy Scout saying about leaving a place better than you found it, Jorgensen said Ramsey left the commission and Ottawa a better place than when he took office.
Jorgensen presented Ramsey with a timepiece plaque and also with a framed proclamation thanking Ramsey for his years of service. Jorgensen, reading from the proclamation, declared April 17, 2013, as Gene Ramsey Day in Ottawa, which was met with a standing ovation from the packed gallery.
About 150 people, including former city manager Scott Lambers and several former city commissioners, attended a reception in Ramsey’s honor before the start of Wednesday’s meeting.
Ramsey thanked the community for its support through the years and cited some of the changes that had occurred in Ottawa during the past two decades.
“I’ve always tried to do what’s best for the citizens of Ottawa, and I take pride in who we are and what we’ve done,” Ramsey said.
Ramsey said he appreciated all those individuals who care about the city and strive to make Ottawa a “safe and better place to live.”
Mike Skidmore, an Ottawa banker, was sworn in Wednesday night as Ramsey’s successor. Skidmore captured the most votes in the April 2 election to earn a four-year term on the commission. Commissioner Linda Reed, who won re-election to a four-year term earlier this month, also was sworn in. All commissioners are elected to at-large positions.