Friday, September 30, 2005


There's an anti-government crowd in every city. Down here the anti bunch calls it "gub'mint," but the sentiment's still the same: damn that damned City Hall.

So there are those in Springfield who don't like Tom Finnie, the city manager who on Friday announced his retirement. Some liberals thought he cozied too close to Kingfish John Q. Hammons and other developers. Some conservatives thought he spent too much time and money on pretty things, like Jordan Valley Park. Some cops thought he screwed them on accumulated overtime. Some kooks thought he was trying to control their thoughts via remote control (OK, only one kook we recall, but she shielded the walls of her home with aluminum foil and everything turned out peachy).

We remember when Finnie got here in 1990, replacing Don Busch. Back then, Busch was viewed by many as damaged goods, and definitely not the guy to lead Springfield into the future. Today Busch is a respected figure in Springfield's private sector.

Finnie blew into town with a wind of refreshment. No desk to sit behind. Lots of action and plans. A Vision 20/20 long-range plan that sketched out Civic Park, now known as Jordan Valley Park. A big focus on downtown revitalization.

Now some say it's good that he's going because he's been there too long.

Over the years we've interviewed Finnie several times and always had the same take-away sense of innovation. As a come-here from Charlotte, he viewed Springfield as something bigger than most locals thought it could be. He was willing to reach. We didn't always agree with the way he would reach, but we always appreciated his willingness to do so.

Mayor Tom Carlson plans to recommend that Deputy City Manager Bob Cumley, 62, become the next city manager. All good and well, but we wonder if Cumley has the same sense of innovation. He served under Busch and Finnie; now he'll likely become the top dog next April.

Smart city leaders will praise Cumley -- and then look past him to the next hire. Springfield will need another visionary, preferably someone in their 40s or early 50s. And remember, the city manager doesn't have to be a man.

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