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  • Last modified 194 days ago (May 19, 2022)

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Commencing with commencement

If you haven’t heard that commencement means beginning at least as often as you’ve endured robo-calls about car warranties, you clearly haven’t attended enough graduations.

You missed three last weekend but will have more chances Sunday, when rows of Hillsboro and Marion graduates march with pomp and circumstance into the great abyss of potential workers reluctant to accept jobs, especially in small towns.

Your editor still has a year before his grandson dons robe and turns tassel for the first time. Parents, grandparents, aunts, uncles, cousins, and the like have every right to take pride in their kin’s accomplishments, even if they are — like my grandson’s second-place time in the 110-meter hurdles — not exactly earth-shattering or even good enough to place in a Marion County meet. It’s still an accomplishment, and we’re still proud.

Marion and Marion County are about to have their own commencements of sorts as they graduate from two officials who often became lightning rods for criticism. And in storm-weary Kansas, that’s saying something.

Conversations about them haven’t become as heated as political conversations have been in aptly named Burns, but large segments of society seem to have had their patience routinely singed until Marion’s city administrator announced his retirement and the county’s emergency manager was sent packing.

Temptations this week will be to feel sorry for the emergency manager’s unceremonious canning and to be jealous of the administrator for getting a raise while heading out the door, even if the raise is only fair and he admirably seemed willing to avoid leaving the city in a lurch by his departure.

The important thing now is that both the city and the county devote every effort to commencing with a real search to find the best possible candidates and configure the positions they will fill to allow for the best possible outcomes.

That means considering whether the emergency manager might also supervise county dispatchers as a separate entity or become part of an office like the sheriff’s. It means not acting until after an outsider gets to imprint his vision on proposals to do such things as share inspectors with Herington, which seems more troubled than Marion and doesn’t even have the certified inspector whose work it wants to share.

The lesson of all those commencement speeches is that endings are determined by beginnings. Whether we find two more lightning rods for protest or two spark plugs for improvement depends on not settling for what’s available but actually recruiting the best and brightest, then setting them up to understand exactly what role we expect them to play and clearly establishing positive ways in which they can play it.

What path we commence upon will determine where we arrive.

— ERIC MEYER

Last modified May 19, 2022

 

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