If it had been aired to a large local audience, there no doubt would have been shouts of relief and sighs of regret when Mayor Drew Hastings gave his final report this week to Hillsboro City Council.
At the meeting, I did not hear either one. What I saw was the entire council and others standing and applauding in agreement when the mayor decided to honor Juan Cole, a local young man confined to a wheelchair, with the Outstanding Citizen of the Month Award.
It was good to see everyone agree that Mr. Cole was deserving.
Often during Mr. Hastings’ eight years as mayor, that has not been the case.
I am not here to tell you that you should agree with how the mayor served the city, and I’m not here to tell you that you should not.
I will tell you that way too many times it was shameful how some in this city treated the mayor. It is fine if you disagree with him, but the levels some stooped to in an attempt to bring him down are hard for me to comprehend.
Often, it seemed like Hillsboro was a microcosm of politics at the national level — one side trying to tear the leader down, not seeming to care if they do what they were elected to do or if they make our city a laughingstock.
You can disagree with your given leader. You can disagree strongly. But you can do it with class or you can look like, well, someone much lesser than the person you disagree with. Too many in this town looked like the latter.
That does not necessarily mean they were wrong, it just means they went about things rather cockeyed.
There were things Mr. Hastings did for Hillsboro that I really liked. There were some things I did not agree with.
Like he said in his last report this week to council, in part: “I have not been a warm and fuzzy mayor, a mayor that valued friendship over duty. A week before my election in 2011, I said in a newspaper interview, ‘I am not running to make friends or win a popularity contest.’ I meant that. I ran because there was a job to be done.”
I think the mayor would tell you that on certain occasions he did not choose the right words. In fact, in my opinion, some of those words were more than a poor choice. And those kind of words cannot be taken back.
But I also think that with him being a professional comedian, oftentimes his words were misconstrued.
If he could do it all over again, I’m sure the mayor would change some things. Who among us would not?
In the end, the mayor tried to make a difference in this town. He took on a challenge few have been willing to accept. If nothing else, you have to respect that.
This week’s council meeting also saw longtime public servant Dick Donley give his last address to council as safety and service director. Dick had the courage to step into the position in August when there was great turmoil in the city due to a collapsed building and some other “uninhabitable” ones.
I suppose it could have been coincidence that shortly after Mr. Donley took the position, things started getting better. But I don’t think it was coincidence. I think it’s a lot more likely that a little common sense and class go a long way.
Thank you, Mr. Donley, for your service, both recently and in all the years past. I hope we have not seen the last of you in public service.
In parting, I’d like to wish those who follow in Mr. Hastings’ and Mr. Donley’s steps the best of luck. I hope you have learned from the mistakes of past years. But more importantly, I hope you continue to build on the successes.
Jeff Gilliland is the editor of The Times-Gazette. He can be reached at [email protected] or 937-402-2522.