The Joplin Globe, Joplin, MO

November 28, 2012

New Baxter Springs mayor terms council meeting unusually quiet

By Andra Bryan Stefanoni

BAXTER SPRINGS, Kan. — Mayor Mike Kaufmann on Wednesday said the Baxter Springs City Council meeting Tuesday night lasted less than 45 minutes, and he noted he’s glad it was unusually quiet.

“I just hope things can kind of get back to normal, get past the controversy, and we can all get back to doing our thing as far as moving forward to make our city better and just getting along,” he said.

Kaufmann, who was serving as mayor pro tem, was appointed mayor on Nov. 20 after controversial Mayor Jenifer Bingham abruptly resigned.

Her resignation followed the Nov. 6 election, in which three of her opponents on the council faced a recall vote, forced by a petition brought about by Bingham’s supporters. Recall organizers alleged in their petition that the three violated the open-meetings law. Ron Costlow was the only one of the three councilmen recalled in the election. Voters retained the other two, Gary Allen and Ed McAfee.

At Tuesday night’s meeting, the council replaced Costlow with Donnie Wade, representing the 4th Ward.

“We also discussed a Christmas dinner for employees and accepted a bid from Moates Excavation on the demolition of some homes,” Kaufmann said. “That was about it, and we were out of there by 7:45.”

Kaufmann, who has served on the council since the 1990s, said the role of mayor was “thrown my way rather quickly.” His day job is as the manager of Senior Citizen Village, a 52-apartment complex for the elderly.

He said his plans for the coming months are “to keep things rolling, keep everybody on board, keep everybody focused,” which he said had not happened in recent months during the controversies surrounding Bingham and her opponents on the council.

Among the issues the city faces is aging infrastructure, including a water and sewer system that Kaufmann said “constantly demands attention.”

“But we also have to realize, we’re not in the best economic times I’ve seen in my lifetime,” he said. “We won’t be doing anything immediately, but as needs arise and we can get to them.”