New Jackson mayor sworn in at meeting

Tuesday, May 8, 2007
Jackson Mayor Barbara Lohr laughed at the banter of Jackson aldermen shortly after taking the oath of office Monday night. (Fred Lynch)

Even before she was sworn in Monday as mayor of Jackson, Barbara Lohr provided a glimpse of her leadership style.

Defeated mayoral candidate John Graham, taking the opportunity for public comment on nonagenda items, brought the Jackson Board of Aldermen an annotated, highlighted copy of the city's contract with the Missouri Public Energy Pool that he said was "catastrophic for the city."

His comments brought sharp rebukes from Alderman Phil Penzel and city administrator Jim Roach. Graham, who came in third as a write-in candidate, said the contract has no end and that "we are obligated forever."

The contract resulted in a three-step increase in Jackson electric rates that cost residential customers 40 percent more and added 54 percent to the costs for commercial users.

"I submit this is the best deal going," Roach said.

"Did you read it before you voted on it?" Graham replied.

"Absolutely," Penzel added.

Graham said the city should reconsider and find another source of electricity.

"Who is this mystical, magical other source you can buy electricity from without a long-term contract?" Roach asked.

At one point when Graham interrupted Penzel, the alderman said, "I'm talking now."

When the exchanges continued, Lohr stepped in. Speaking calmly and accepting at least part of what Graham said, she defended the contract as a good deal for the city and asked her colleagues to discuss it without rancor.

"By the fact we are a member, we own part of the distribution system if we decide to stay," she said.

The confrontation ended quickly after that, and the meeting proceeded smoothly. Lohr was then officially sworn in as mayor along with three new members of the board: David Hitt, who is returning to the board; Mark Dambach, who defeated alderwoman Valeria Tuschoff; and Curtis Poore, appointed to fill the remainder of Lohr's unexpired term.

Outgoing Mayor Paul Sander, who is coaching baseball for Saxony Lutheran School, arrived just as the meeting was breaking up following a doubleheader.

Sander said there was nothing on his agenda for the city that he views as unfinished and said there was no single action of the city during his 14 year tenure that he would claim as his No. 1 accomplishment.

"We just did a lot of stuff," Sander said. "The town exploded. It prospered and thrived, and I was just proud to be a small part of it," Sander said.

After ringing the bell officially adjourning her first meeting as leader of the city, Lohr said the effort to calm the tense debate between Graham, Penzel and Roach was an indicator of her style. "We hope that we will be able to have civilized discussions, that we can disagree without temper."

Lohr appointed Penzel to be mayor pro tem in place of Kerry Hoffman, who left the board. She appointed the colleague she narrowly defeated in the mayoral race, Alderman David Reiminger, to be chairman of the Street and Light Committee and appointed Dale Rauh to be the chairman of the Street Committee.

rkeller@semissourian.com

335-6611 extension 126

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