April is here and with it the annual opportunity for the citizens of Lake Ozark to select members of the board of aldermen. The role of those aldermen, of course, is to administer the functions of city government and assure compliance with laws and regulations. Much more importantly, however, they must positively represent the citizenry, promote our community and its image to visitors and facilitate an increasing prosperity for the citizens of Lake Ozark. I salute current and former members of city government and all candidates who have raised their hands to volunteer their service.
I have been visiting the ake with my family for over 30 years, and have permanently resided here for more than seven. In that time, I have seen many changes in Lake Ozark and it is a different place than in the 1980s. Then, the Strip was a place our children and we looked forward to visiting each year. Now, the first impression presented to visitors crossing the Bagnell Dam is an embarrassment to our city, and certainly not an appealing view to visitors and potential new residents. And this situation has not improved in the past seven years; in some ways it continues to deteriorate. I place a substantial part of the responsibility for this circumstance at the feet of city government. No incumbent asking for re-election has shown leadership on this issue and no incumbent should be honored by positive votes on April 8.
For many years there have been allegations of cronyism on the board of aldermen, a so-called “good ole boy” network. Proceedings of recent board meetings confirm that such a network still exists. Ordinances are enforced uniformly until supporters of officials are asked to comply — then enforcement must be “fair” meaning an exception is in order for a selected circumstance. It is nice that the members of the board get along with each other, but good government and representation sometimes requires independent and principled objection, not checking the windage or going along to get along. Any incumbent that has condoned or participated in this kind of conduct does not warrant re-election.
Recently the candidates participated in interviews with this newspaper. Each one talked about prosperity, economic growth, tourism, etc., etc., etc. The same points and platforms listed in each election cycle in recent memory. Each incumbent has a responsibility to report specifically how they have directly caused the fortunes of the city and its residents to be better for their individual efforts. Many good things have happened (Rt. 242, Eagles’ Landing), but simply being around, in the room, on the board when they happened doesn’t accrue to any individual’s credit, unless their fingerprints are all over the project. In other words, beware the incumbent who tries to jump in front of the parade (particularly if they opposed any such project before they supported it).
The city needs new, fresh and specific plans and ideas. We have an opportunity to change course on April 8 by electing solid leaders. Again, I thank, admire and congratulate each individual who participates in local government. It is an important yet sometimes thankless job. Teddy Roosevelt, a principled leader said it best:
“It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat”.
James J. Murphy