Editorial

Editorial by the Plain Talk "All of us took an oath that we were going to serve this community with honesty and integrity. For whatever reason, we were put in a position where we could not perform in that manner. I'm going to be certain that we do not exclude the citizens of this community who we represent from their honest opportunity to interject their thoughts if they so choose."

The above statements certainly sound like the words of an elected official who cares about the input and rights of Vermillion citizens, don't they?

Those are the words of then-Alderman Roger Kozak, during a special meeting of the Vermillion City Council on Aug. 16, 2000.

Just to jog your memory, the summer of 2000 was when Vermillion was embroiled in controversy over the construction of its new fire hall.

Kozak was upset that aldermen and citizens had been told earlier in the year that the project could be referred to a public vote. And then, at a meeting when bids were opened for construction of the new building, the city attorney at the time informed the council that the issue was not referable because the decision was administrative in nature.

He made it clear, however, that such a project shouldn't go ahead while running roughshod over the wishes of the people.

Kozak, being progressive-minded, noted at that August meeting that despite the controversy, he would work hard to ensure that the community would receive a new fire/ambulance facility.

And it did, thanks, in part, to him.

Shortly after Mayor William Radigan's death in the spring of 2001, Kozak stepped up and told his fellow city council members that, should they desire, he would be willing to lead Vermillion.

He has served as Vermillion's mayor since.

Tuesday, that role will end. Dan Christopherson, who defeated Kozak in the city's June 1 election, will take the oath of office, as will aldermen chosen by citizens last month.

Kozak offered Vermillion a leadership style that utilized imaginative daring, pugnacity and cunning.

It was a style that won him a fair share of both friends and enemies over the years.

The attacks on the mayor's character especially seemed to have grown thick in this last year leading to the city election.

One couldn't help but sense that a certain group of Vermillion citizens did all they could, in the months leading up to the city vote, to make Kozak as vulnerable as possible.

As the mayor sought to complete a rather aggressive agenda, the attacks became more frequent.

Eventually, according to some people, he couldn't do anything right.

Chestnut Street was wrong.

Noon work sessions � wrong.

A new city hall? Wrong, wrong wrong.

Those who opposed the Chestnut Street project or noon work sessions or attempts to provide the community with a modern, well-functioning city hall knew where to aim their criticism.

For that, we all owe Kozak a bit of gratitude. He, not us, after all, had the bull's-eye painted on his back.

The slings and arrows seemed to periodically come in torrents. And, at times, they were a bit ridiculous.

Like the accusations that he was harboring "public" plans and "secret" plans for Vermillion's new city hall. Or the claim that Kozak perjured himself while testifying in court action involving Chestnut Street.

Strangely, it wasn't the judge in that case who made that accusation.

It was made by an observer in the courtroom, and it never had any merit.

Kozak has remained unfazed by the criticism over the last three years.

If he was ever discouraged, he never let on.

It is clear that, in his capacity as mayor, he's always put the interests of the entire citizenry of the community above everything else.

The result? Vermillion is a better place today than it was three years ago when he first became mayor.

Thanks, Roger.

The Vermillion Plain Talk editorials reflect the opinion of Plain Talk editor David Lias. You may contact him at david.lias@plaintalk.net

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