Bob Karls served the City of Pontiac for 40 years as its first city administrator. On Monday night, Karls attended his final meeting in any city capacity and left with applause and a special day named in his honor.
The agenda was quite light with only two actual action items, plus a proclamation for Karls. The consent agenda was approved 8-0 — Fourth Ward Alderperson Jayme Bradshaw was absent and Curt Myers resigned his seat as the other Fourth Ward alderman last week, citing personal issues. In the consent agenda was an item for a street closer of Chestnut Street between Walnut and Hazel on Aug. 27 from 3-10 p.m.
In the regular agenda, The old J.E. Brady sign that has been sitting at the city garage will be finding a new home after the council approved its donation to a local resident.
The main item on the agenda was the official proclamation to Bob Karls.
Mayor Bill Alvey read the proclamation that noted Karls first started with the city on Jan. 1, 1982, and his official retirement effective Sept. 1, 2022. The proclamation also stated that Aug. 26, 2022, will be City Administrator Robert Karls Day.
After making the proclamation, Alvey offered his congratulations and Karls then spoke a few words of appreciation.
“Back in December, when I announced my retirement, I said I'll hold off on my thank-yous and good-byes till a later date. When Jim (Woolford) was sworn, he said 'do you want to say anything?' I said, 'no, I'll hold off saying my thank-yous and good-byes till a later date.'
“Well that later date has gotten here; I've been up in front of you many times and this is a tough one.”
Karls started by pointing out his wife, who has been by Karls' side all these years. He said when he was hired, it was a package deal.
“Susan came to the first city council meeting where I was sworn in and walking out, she said, 'I'll go to your last,'” Karls said with a chuckle. “She held true.”
“You know, being the wife of a city administrator isn't all that easy,” Karls continued. “Everybody expects she knows exactly what's going on. 'Why is the city doing that, why is the city doing that?' 'I don't know, you'll have to ask somebody that knows.' 'Oh, you know.'
“Plus, all of our schedules were worked around Monday night. It's been a team effort. … She's been my partner, so thank you.”
Karls regaled the audience with a story of when he first got to town, there was a specific timeline. He did not meet it.
Karls went through a summary of his career, including recent events that have had an impact on the city.
“The last four years we've been through a lot as a community,” Karls said.
He also noted flooding that took place, including the one that happened soon after he arrived that he called a “400-year flood.” He mentioned many stores closing, the prison situation where it closed but it didn't, and more recently, the 59-hour notice that the city was in the ambulance business.
“Those are pretty significant things,” Karls noted.
He said that he was told that the first things the council wanted him to do was get rid of the parking meters and get a fire station. He pointed out, through photos, the refurbishing of the Abbott Automobile dealership into the public library, the development of the area near the interstate with the hotels and Wally's in that western part of the city, then the hospital on the west side of the interstate, and concentrating on the downtown area. Plus many other additions to the community.
“A lot has changed physically, it's because of a lot of people,” Karls said. “I was thinking back, I've attended over 1,100 city council meetings. That's about a year's worth of work time.
“The city council is the political foundation of the city. … This is where you set the stage, set the tone for the community,” Karls said to the present members of the council. “You are the political backbone of the community.”
Karls also gave thanks and praised the mayors he has worked under — the late Dale Campbell, Mike Ingles, Scott McCoy, Bob Russell and current Mayor Bill Alvey. He drew praise on the other elected officials, department heads and those working for the city in all capacities.
He also was complimentary of the residents of the community.
“They supported us, they help raised our family. This is really a unique community,” Karls said in thanking the people of Pontiac. “If we focus on what we have as opposed to what we don't have, we'll really move forward.
“Jim, it's all yours, take good care of it. In summary, thank you to everyone for the support to you've given us for the past 40 years. Thank you.”
A standing ovation followed as Karls took his seat, signaling his final address as city administrator emeritus.
This article originally appeared on Pontiac Daily Leader: Bob Karls proclamation made at Pontiac City Council meeting