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Why the City of Willard is Still Fighting the Last War
…and a final word on the mayoral race
Updated April 20, 2023: Shortly after the April 4, 2023 election, changes were made to the City Of Willard’s website — the information this article originally referred to was removed, and the page was updated to reflect upcoming meeting information and recent meeting minutes. An image of the old page is here:
The following article was written prior to the website update:
Before reading further, please visit this page on the City of Willard’s website. It is the page for the city’s elected government — the Board of Aldermen.
Have a brief look around, and then come back.
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Want to know when the next meeting is? Sorry. Can’t help you.
Want to read the most recent meeting minutes? Nope. Not available.
But you know what is there, prominently displayed at the top in several selected links?
Because, in my opinion, Willard is “governed” by two different men — the current mayor who was frequently late or absent while an alderman, and the previous mayor who never seems to have gotten over losing to him.
What was on the page before? A long list of meeting minutes.
But around the same time Corey Hendrickson lost the mayoral race to Samuel Snider in April of 2021, the Board of Aldermen webpage, though having remained in the same format for years, underwent construction.
The perennial list of meeting minutes would disappear.
Willard residents, I guess, needed to know who had been on time to meetings, and who had not. And who had been present at meetings, and who had not. And, in case you misunderstand, the records appear to be meant to point a finger at Mayor Snider during his time as an alderman.
And here we are, two years later, in April of 2023. The attendance records are still there. The webpage hasn’t been updated.
It just hangs there — a bitter albatross around the neck of Willard’s government.
Why hasn’t it been changed?
Probably because these two men and most of the aldermen have been “fighting the last war” for the past two years, and I guess there just hasn’t been time to change it.
Tuesday, April 4th, there will be another mayoral election.
The candidates are incumbent Mayor Samuel Snider and former City Clerk Jennifer Rowe.
And if you came here looking for advice on how to vote, I really don’t know what to tell you.
But keep reading anyway.
In April of 2021, after being mocked before the election by several politically-connected residents for having carelessly (and unknowingly) placed a large campaign sign over a snow-covered sidewalk (the Facebook post about that incident has since been deleted), after being attacked by a friend and former co-worker of then Mayor Corey Hendrickson for having neglected to include the required disclaimer notice on his campaign signage, after being called a piece of sh*t by the present chairman of the Planning and Zoning Commission upon winning on election night, and after being subjected to various other slights, Mayor Snider was sworn in.
It certainly seemed like some people weren’t too happy about it. And it seems they haven’t been happy about it ever since.
Pay attention to Willard politics long enough and you’re guaranteed to hear the following three phrases:
“He’s a career politician wannabe.”
“He’s just looking for his next photo op.”
“He doesn’t care about Willard.”
Or, as Alderman Landon Hall crassly put it in a Facebook comment on Saturday, “Corey has more love for our city in his pinky than the current mayor has in his entire body.”
The phrase I don’t expect to hear in Willard politics, however, until the current mayor (or the current board) is gone is this:
“Let bygones be bygones.”
Much of the fault for this mess probably lies with the mayor’s past performance as an alderman, but much of it does not.
In my opinion, former Mayor Hendrickson and his cronies — Aldermen Sam Baird and Landon Hall among them — would never let “bygones be bygones” anyway.
But somehow, despite all that, Mayor Snider, during public meetings, generally remains composed and polite, and more so than his opponents.
Does his focus seem to be oriented toward a political career? In my opinion, yes.
Does that mean he doesn’t care about Willard? I don’t think it has to mean that, but some obviously think it does.
In an interview with the Greene County Commonwealth, Mayor Snider had this to say:
“As a lifelong resident of Willard, I am passionate about and have a vested interest in ensuring the success of our community. Over the past two years as mayor, Willard has experienced an unprecedented amount of growth. We’ve created a City Office of Economic Development and have enjoyed the recently developed Dollar General store and TR Fitness center and have witnessed the construction of several hundred new homes in the past two years.”
Perhaps his opponents were willing to give him a chance after he was elected — despite someone feeling compelled to transform the city website in order to post his board attendance record for everyone to see. I wouldn’t know. I didn’t attend meetings then. I can only say that his opponents do not seem to have been willing to work with him since I started attending meetings in June. Nor he with them.
Regardless of whose side (if any) you may be on, the above may be hard to hear. You should have heard about it sooner. Past-and-present aldermen and city staff have known about it for a very long time. Maybe no one was willing to say anything. Or maybe they thought it would eventually go away on its own. Or maybe they picked sides, and were only willing to criticize the side they disagreed with.
Mayor Snider also made this pledge in his interview:
“Quality and sustainable growth will continue to be a primary focus for my administration. Additionally, I will continue to focus on projects and policies that improve our communities quality of life. Partnerships with organizations such as “Better Together” will afford us the opportunity of building and all-inclusive playground for Willard families to enjoy for years to come. I am grateful for the faith and trust the Willard community has bestowed in me and would be honored to continue serving as your mayor.”
Monday, March 20th, Pizano’s Pizza hosted a campaign event for mayoral candidate Jennifer Rowe. They provided a very impressive complimentary pizza buffet for the estimated 25 to 30 attendees. It was a private event (open to anyone), so I didn’t bring my audio recorder with me (as I do when I attend government-sponsored public meetings), but I did take copious notes of Ms. Rowe’s speech, of audience comments and questions, and of statements of support from several past and present aldermen.
To me, Ms. Rowe makes for a compelling candidate — if only I didn’t have so many lingering doubts related to the as yet unresolved investigation into former-mayor-now-Alderman Corey Hendrickson. And to be fair, she stated in January that she “was not aware of an investigation into Alderman Hendrickson.” And she also stated that he has never lived with her, either now or in the past.
Terry Kathcart, Chairman of Planning and Zoning, spoke first. A candidate can “run to serve, or be served…We need a servant that cares, not a politically ambitious politician.” And Willard needs “leadership to pull the city back together.”
Ms. Rowe then spoke about “building relationships” and Willard being considered “not business friendly” at Chamber meetings, but with “no reason given as to why”
“Open lines of communication” are needed, she said. And she spoke of the cooperative attitude she witnessed between residents and city government during the recent update to the City’s Comprehensive Plan.
Willard should “get back to [being] strong and what it needs to be.” And she had “no ideas to go higher [politically]” and “wants to fix Willard.”
Donna Garber Stewart spoke of running as a Ward 1 alderman, because the City had “lost five department heads,” and she’d like “to go back in and figure out why.”
In reference to a question about welcoming new residents, Ms. Rowe responded that she “wants to bring back community. A lot of the magic seems to be gone.” And Willard needs to “bring back the festivals…like the Fall Festival.”
She spoke of having a Master’s in Criminal Justice, of volunteering at the Willard Police Station, of how Police Chief Tom McClain encouraged her to apply for city clerk, and how she helped the police department get a new generator by learning how to apply for grants.
She said she “misses helping the community.”
Resident Vanessa Keene said she had moved here from California, and had to look up who the mayor was on the City website because he wasn’t present at the events she attended.
Kathy Stewart of Pizano’s Pizza said that “there are things happening in the city that are disturbing.” And that it was “too quiet” and there “need to be more people observing [the Board of Aldermen meetings].”
Stewart said of Ms. Rowe, “I think you’re a very good person for this job.”
Ms. Rowe responded that we need to “encourage people to come to the meetings” and “be more proactive in talking to people in the community.”
Alderman Sam Baird said that “current and past aldermen know Jennifer, and they know the mayor. To a person, they all support Jennifer.”
He went on to say that Willard was on a “rough track and needed to be redirected,” and that the city couldn’t “afford two more years of [this].”
He ended with a passionate appeal: “Jennifer is the most important person to Willard’s future.”
Terry Kathcart echoed Alderman Baird’s sentiment: “This is the hope of Willard right here. She doesn’t have a personal agenda.”
Ms. Rowe later said, “I love the community, and that’s my goal — I want to give back.”
Scott Stewart of Pizano’s said that it “speaks volumes about integrity and honesty that you have former employees and current aldermen [in attendance].”
Alderman Larry Whitman, whom I have a great deal of respect for, said that Jennifer “came in as a city clerk with no experience, and we immediately noticed a huge improvement.” And that he would “have no qualms at all about endorsing her.” That she would “take us back to that level we need to be [at] as a community.”
And sitting there — listening and taking notes — I wanted to believe him.
But, for now, my lingering doubts just won’t let me.
If you haven’t taken a look at the updated list of write-ins candidates for alderman, please see here.
If you’re looking for information about the school board candidates, or are curious as to how they might vote on book challenges, please see here.
*The WayBack Machine is an indispensable tool for researching the content history of webpages. I’ll be making a donation on Monday.
The date at the bottom of the email version of this article ￼was a note about something I was trying to remember while I was writing. Unfortunately, I forgot to remove it before publication.
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