A Publication of WTVP

There are many facets to the mayor’s job in cities like Peoria and Washington, Illinois. Usually the public sees those of us who occupy the mayor’s desk presiding at city or town council meetings. They hear us make proclamations about noble deeds and even nobler people. And as they watch the evening news, the public may hear us lay out our vision for our communities—and a financial blueprint to accomplish the vision. Occasionally, we, as the chief elected officials of our communities, are called upon to initiate programs to solve specific problems or serve a larger leadership role as the guardians of the local public trust—trust in stable, affordable, transparent, energetic and secure local government.

Rarely, however, does the public get to see true courageous mayoral leadership in the face of heart-rending human tragedy and breathtaking physical destruction. But such indeed happened beginning last November 17th when a monster tornado—over 1/8-mile wide, ripping apart over 3½ miles of urban environment—blitzed through the City of Washington. Over 1,000 homes were destroyed or seriously damaged by winds upwards of 200 miles per hour, causing tons of life-threatening debris to fill the sky.

Washington was seriously wounded, but not broken. Before the last of the debris hit the ground—some as far as 200 miles away—Mayor Gary Manier was on the scene to provide leadership of intensity, tenacity, compassion, perseverance and courage. In times like those faced by Washington residents on November 17th—and to this day—they needed someone to look to for direction, guidance and comfort.

They are getting it in super doses from Mayor Manier.

I have admired Mayor Manier for many years. We work together on various municipal issues through our membership in local governmental organizations. He has worked in Peoria for Caterpillar and knows the issues we face here. And on a personal note, my mother-in-law lives in Washington and was one of those who lost about everything—except her most precious possession—her life. She can attest to the terror of the mammoth storm, but also to the steadfast leadership from the mayor’s office.

It’s a common practice among localities in a defined geographic region to provide mutual assistance to one another in times of devastation. This is particularly the case in covering each other’s backs in firefighting emergencies. But the scope of the damage in Washington—to public right of way, for example, or demands on public safety personnel—brought forth an outpouring of assistance from neighboring communities, including Peoria. I am proud that our Public Works Department personnel and police and fire departments were able to offer backup as needed. I’d like to particularly call out the leadership of Peoria Police Lt. Steve Roegge, who spent many hours providing strategic direction to Washington at critical moments.

No one can predict when or where the most outlandish whims of nature will precisely fall and cause horrific destruction. It could have been here. But if it does, I am confident that our colleagues and neighbors will rise to the challenge, as was the case in Washington.

The people of Washington are indeed blessed to have someone of Gary Manier’s stature and leadership in the mayor’s chair at this time in its rich history. This is the finest example of mayoral leadership and courage I can think of.

Mr. Mayor, while the job is far from done, please take a well-deserved bow! iBi