For the next six years I was involved with many projects as a council member.
I wrote a grant for a restroom at the boat launch in 2005, which was converted to floats at its present location.
I hauled material donated from Harbor Rock, Dennis Company and Redi Mix to build the parking lot at the boat launch in my spare time.
I persuaded Weyerhauser to donate logs for the Steam Donkey, which had fallen over. With help from Bridgewater Logging, RB Construction, Don Corcoran, Leroy Johnson and Steve Russell, we got the Steam Donkey on new logs.
In my second year, I started mowing the Olsen Park lawn and maintaining the restrooms for the city.
In 2006, I ran for mayor and was elected. The largest project in Pacific County history, a regional wastewater treatment facility located in Raymond, had just started. Mayor Karl Heinicke got this project started and I continued pursuing Karl's dream in getting this built. I felt that it was good for South Bend because of the potential of continuing lawsuits and moratoriums around the issue.
I also decided that I would go after every grant available. With the help of the city council and Steve Russell, we received two TIB Grants every year. You can travel all over the state and look, but probably won't find what compares with the past four years here, where the City of South Bend has been under construction: building, fixing, restoring and doing as much as possible to make our community a better place to live.
We've also tried new and unique things with revitalization and encouragement of shopping local with South Bend and community merchants.
In 2012, after Steve Russell retired from an illness, I decided I needed to honor some of my local heroes. My fondest memory in 10 years as a helper and elected official of South Bend was the opportunity to honor Steve Russell, Karl Heinicke, Don Corcoran and Dale R Seaman. There are also many others I would like to honor and I hope maybe this Labor Day I can get that done.
I then hired Dale Little to replace Steve and we never lost a step. I was able to achieve a success with the awards of a few more grants for which projects will be completed the end of this year.
I no longer mow the Olsen Park, as the new parks guy took this over, but I still clean the public restrooms. We added another at the bottom of Eklund Park where the location has become a very popular walking and tourist stop.
Lots of things have happened this past year and I now have concerns about my health. I have had to do things that involved difficult choices, which took a toll on me that I did not anticipate. When I was elected, I was told I couldn’t make everyone happy, although I did try.
I don’t believe there is anyone in South Bend that loves this area more than I do. Over the years, I was asked to change, be more professional, punish good employees, fire some, correct my spelling and quit being Kirk Church. I tried very hard to be the Kirk that a few wanted and realized that I cannot do that.
It reminds of that saying, "I'm trying so hard to be what you want me to be that I don't know who I am anymore."
In my opinion, although politics is the means by which someone is elected, the City of South Bend’s Mayor shouldn’t be governed by purely political priorities. The mayor should always represent all the folks who live here and not just the political powers.
I seem to have lots of friends who are battling cancer and I have donated time and money to this effort because the problem affects everyone. I plan to continue working with all the cancer agencies in Pacific County. In truth, I have not been just the mayor of South Bend, but also a participating citizen of Willapa Country and North Pacific County.
I will miss this tremendously because being mayor opened doors of opportunity for me that may soon be closed. I hope not, but we'll see.
I have enjoyed playing the role of Santa. I have enjoyed all the benefits and donations of public giving in our community. WHHH, Know and Grow, the legacy Food Bank, Willapa Harbor Ministerial Association, HAVA, Relay for Life, and Sunday Market at the Dock are areas I will concentrate on now.
I have learned that I do not want to change for a few. I have a staff and a crew that I would put up against anyone.
The office personnel are professional and awesome.
The cops are the best in the business.
The judge, prosecuting attorney, public defender and city attorney are wise, knowledgeable and do a great job.
The all-volunteer fire department is unmatched anywhere.
While my health is relatively good and after long conversations with a few select local friends (I love my friends who also function as my sounding board. Thanks for the advice.), I have decided to not seek reelection.
I want to leave the city in good shape with my head held high, proud and grateful about everything my staff and I have gotten done. I apologize to all the employees and staff for stepping down. You really are a bunch of great folks.
Kirk C. Church,
Mayor, City of South BendEditor’s Note: This article first appeared on www.hometowndebate.com 5/10/13. If you would like to respond to this story go to hometowndebate.com