‘What a public official should be’ | Local News

Before Vermillion City Council got to work at its regular meeting on Tuesday evening, it took time to hear a heartfelt goodbye from one of the community’s icons, Maxine Johnson.

She read from a script she had prepared herself that spoke on behalf of many citizens of Vermillion who are grateful for the service to city government provided by Mayor Kelsey Collier-Wise, who chaired its last meeting this night before the city’s new mayor, Jon Cole. , took the oath.

Cole defeated Collier-Wise by 25 votes in the June 7 mayoral election. He and other city council members – outgoing North East Ward councilor Julia Hellwege, outgoing Central Ward councilor Katherine Price, outgoing South East Ward councilor Rich Holland and a new face on the body Director, North West Ward Councilor Mike Murra, were all given the oath of office Tuesday night by Finance Officer Katie Redden as the city council began its new term.

“Kelsey, I would like to thank you for bringing so much of who you are to Vermillion,” Johnson said. “We are lucky this is where you wanted to be and spend your life. When the torch passed through your hands, it was a dark and almost hopeless time, truly a time like no other, and you accepted this torch and handled these times with poise, grace, dignity and compassion.

Collier-Wise was serving as Central Ward Alderman and City Council President when she was named to the mayor’s office on May 4, 2020 by her fellow council members. The meeting, including the administration of his oath, was held via videoconference to allow for social distancing during the COVID-19 pandemic.

She resigned as a member of the Central Ward council and was sworn in immediately after her appointment as mayor to fill the vacancy following the April 20, 2020 death of Mayor Jack Powell, who lost a battle of five years against cancer.

Collier-Wise was elected to her first term as a member of the Central Ward Council in 2012. She was re-elected to that position in 2016.

His nomination for mayor came just as the COVID-19 pandemic was beginning to spread through South Dakota. With the pandemic came a myriad of issues that she and other city government leaders have had to deal with, ranging from the closure of bars and restaurants in the city center, the closure of the Prentis Plunge during this summer and an order with the aim of encouraging the use of masks without warrants.

“You got us through that dark time of losing (Mayor Powell) Jack and then you got through the COVID crisis with us and you finished projects like Streetscape,” Johnson said. “I want to thank you for acknowledging that life is harder for some than for others and for helping people get help when they need help.”

Collier-Wise is Executive Director of United Way of Vermillion and helped establish the Community Connection Center (CCC) downtown in the community. CCC, owned by United Way of Vermillion, is home to the Vermillion Food Pantry, Welcome Table, Salvation Army and Evan Project Diaper Bank.

Collier-Wise’s first term as mayor ran from the time of her nomination in May 2020 until the first July meeting following the June 1, 2021 municipal election. Voters overwhelmingly returned her to the office of the mayor in 2021 for a one-year term; among a list of five candidates for this position a year ago, she obtained 52% of the vote.

“Please always listen to all conversations with a smile and the assurance that you will address any concerns,” Johnson said. “Thank you for leading yourself with grace and being involved in so many wonderful projects for the good of all of us and for recognizing that some things may not be so important to me, but they are to someone else. .”

She said it’s refreshing to see that Collier-Wise has recognized the need to do business in a way that benefits the greatest number.

“Watching you make decisions and accept challenges is humbling,” Johnson said. “We spend a lot of time – at least I did – having idols in my life and saying I wish I was like that when I grow up. Kelsey, you’re that someone.

She added that Collier-Wise set a wonderful example of what a public servant should be.

“You have shown us that you can handle public affairs with dignity and compassion,” Johnson said. “I could go on for a long, long time, but there are a few words that would say exactly what we need to say to you and that is ‘thank you’.

“And, oh my stars – thank you Mr. Mayor, Madam Mayor, The Honorable Kelsey Collier-Wise. Thank you from the bottom of our collective hearts and keep aiming for those stars,” she said. “I know you are appreciated and I am sure we will continue to see you in our lives. Thanks for all you’ve done.”

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