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A couple of bricks and bouquets

By Staff | Jun 6, 2014

This week, instead of handing out cheers and jeers, let’s change it up a bit and call them bricks and bouquets.

The first brick has to go out to the Blue Earth City Council.

Like many others in this community, I have been more than a little puzzled about the council’s hesitancy to hire a new director for the Senior Citizens Center.

Since August of last year, they have had a person filling in as the director when director Middy Thomas took a medical leave of absence. When Thomas unfortunately passed away from her illness, that person, Linda Jahnke, took over as interim senior center director.

And, from everything I have heard, she has done a fine job with it.

Logic seemed to dictate she would be the person to run the center and her title would lose the adjective “interim.”

After all, the city has a track record of hiring from within. They promoted a police officer to chief and they took a city Public Works employee and made him supervisor.

Of course, those positions were advertised and applications were accepted. But in the end, the city hired one of their own.

But, that did not happen in the case of the senior center director.

The city advertised the position, received seven applications and had the Senior Center board narrow the list down to three. (But with a tie for the third spot, it became a list of four names.)

Those four were interviewed by the senior center board and they submitted their top three choices, ranked top to bottom, to the City Council.

The top name on the list was again Linda Jahnke. And, that is who the board recommended the city hire.

The council once again did not choose her. In fact, they didn’t choose anyone.

Instead they decided, without a formal vote, to explore other options on operating the center without hiring a director at all.

My question is, why weren’t these options being explored six months ago? Why advertise for a position and then not hire someone because the job might be eliminated in the future?

This will probably drag on for another few months. In August, Jahnke will celebrate one year of running the Blue Earth Senior Center as both acting and interim director.

It would seem to me she has proven she can do the job.

The City Council could certainly promote her to being the director and still spend as much time as they wanted to, studying all of the different options out there.

The council is indeed charged with representing all of the people of Blue Earth and spending our tax money wisely.

There is no doubt the senior center costs money. There is upkeep to the building, heat and light bills to pay.

There is also a salary to the director. That person is only paid somewhat over $10 per hour, so it is not the highest paying job around.

The center does not make money for the city. Neither does the library, the pool or the city parks.

They are amenities for the citizens of Blue Earth and others to use. And, many of those citizens are of the senior variety.

One of those senior citizens is Karen Hernandez of Winnebago. Her work with Interfaith Caregivers of Faribault County is highlighted in our Senior Living section in this week’s Faribault County Register.

She deserves our first bouquet for the many hours and miles she has donated to serving others. We need more people like her.

And, we need fewer people who think it is OK to throw garbage into recycling bins. They are having a real problem with this in Winnebago, and they have had that same issue in the past.

Those people who use this method to dispose of their trash get one of my bricks this week.

But, I am sending out a bouquet to Jim Putnam for all of his work to save Lura Lake. He, too, deserves a big thank you from the community.

One more brick to toss the way of the Blue Earth City Council. This one is for holding not one, not two, but three closed sessions at last Monday night’s meeting.

Sure, they have a right to close a meeting for certain issues. And, I am not saying they did anything wrong. But three closed sessions is the most I have ever seen at one meeting.

Almost as much of the council’s business on Monday was done behind closed doors as was done out in the view of the public.

And, that is a bit of a concern. Hopefully it doesn’t turn into a habit.