Kurt Fritsch, our outgoing city manager, called me on Tuesday of this week to invite me to have a couple of "going-away" cocktails with him and Allen Gunther yesterday (Thursday) and I was happy to accept. I've known Kurt for as long as he's been in McCook, being introduced to him by Duane Tappe shortly after his arrival in town, and we've been friends ever since.
We decided to meet at the Coppermill Restaurant and Bar and were quickly joined by Bill Stokley, Matt Stebbins, Cal Siegfried and Jim Clapp. We talked, reminisced, and told stories about the five years Kurt has been our city manager as well as a few other "tall tales" and I thought it was a great sendoff for a guy most people liked.
Kurt's five-year, mostly non-controversial, tenure as city manager in McCook is an interesting case study, considering he came here from a much larger city (North Las Vegas, Nevada) and is a Democrat working with mostly Republican colleagues and constituents. He was respected by most because of his fair-handed decisions and his stewardship of the people's money.
Stewardship of money is an important but perplexing concept. There are few places in our country that haven't been impacted on in some shape or form by the economic downtown we've experienced over the past couple of years and the key to recovery from our two major political parties is always the same. The Democrats want to raise taxes on the wealthy and increase spending in certain strategic areas while the Republicans want to cut taxes and decrease spending.
I bring this up because of Kurt's first hand experience with this concept as city manager. McCookites are no different than anyone else; they want everybody's spending cut except their own. One of the rigors of his job was to turn people down for special projects they desired because there was no money in the budget for it. Kurt said he had to tell people over and over that if it's not in the budget, we can't spend it and he had to endure several tongue-lashings because of his response. But that was a large part of his job and he seemed to do it well.
What many of you don't know about Kurt is the significant amount of time he spent volunteering his time to help others. From cleaning up land to putting up fence-posts, Kurt volunteered a great many hours of his free time to help others and I think that's the most important legacy he leaves behind.
He heads west tomorrow (Saturday) with his brother to his new home after working his final day on the job today (Friday) and I wish him the best. He told me a couple of years ago that his job in McCook wouldn't be his last because of his desire to get back closer to home and he's finally going to get the chance to do that. The town he's moving to is only 100 miles from where he grew up so he's very excited about the move, although he treasures the friendships and relationships he's made here. He has invited me to come up for a concert in August and I fully intend to do that. Kurt and I have always had great times socializing with each other and that will give me a chance to not only spend some more time with him but to visit a part of the country I've never had the privilege of seeing before so it's a trip I'm looking forward to.
I hope our city council will investigate the applicants who seek to replace him long and hard before they make a decision because whoever they select is going to have big shoes to fill. I wish them good luck and I wish Kurt good fortune as he begins his new position.
He'll be missed.