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Elkhorn City Council member resigns, cites tensions with mayor

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Catherine W. Idzerda
May 1, 2013

— Less than a month after the April election, the Elkhorn City Council is looking to fill an empty seat.

The move comes after District 5 Alderwoman Kim DeHaan resigned April 16, two weeks into the new term.

DeHaan was first elected in 2009 and was re-elected in 2011. She ran unopposed in the spring election.

In her resignation letter, DeHaan cited the tension between the council and Mayor Howie Reynolds.

DeHaan told The Gazette Tuesday a recent incident pushed her over the edge of frustration into resignation.

The council held a closed session meeting about the future of city hall in April. The building has a number of problems, and the council is considering whether they should repair it, move city hall offices into an existing building or do nothing.

In a conversation with a local resident, Reynolds suggested that DeHaan and another council member supported moving city hall to a location south of the city, DeHaan said.

The resident angrily confronted DeHaan’s father-in-law at a local restaurant about the issue.

The council had not come to a decision regarding city hall, yet she was taking blame for the idea, DeHaan said.

Not only was the resident’s behavior inappropriate, but it also was a reflection of the mayor’s way of dealing with people, DeHaan said.

“The mayor doesn’t want friction with people,” DeHaan said Tuesday. “He’s worried about what people will think. We (the mayor and the council) have to think about what’s best for the whole city.”

Reynolds said he didn’t mean to “throw anybody under the bus” on the city hall issue.

“I just think we should have transparency,” Reynolds said.

He plans to have a meeting at which the council will prioritize all spending issues, and “the city hall might not even be on that list.”

In her resignation letter, DeHaan wrote that she saw fellow council members as members of a team that was working together, even when they don’t agree with each other.

The mayor’s job is to support and lead the team, she said.

Without that leadership and support, DeHaan compared being on the council to the television show “Survivor,” in which players have to “outwit, outplay and outlast” competitors in order to succeed.

The council is accepting applications for the District 5 position, Reynolds said. Applicants will be interviewed and must be approved by unanimous vote of the council.

Read the full text of DeHaan's resignation letter below:

"Dear Howie,

This letter is to inform you that I am resigning from the position of alderman for District 5. Although I have helped to implement and change some things while I was on the council, I no longer feel passionate about the position that I chose to perform.

I don’t know if you are a fan of the popular TV show “Survivor,” but I often catch myself thinking that I am a player in the show. The show’s motto is to “Outwit, outplay and outlast.” Being a member on the city council is just that—it is truly a challenge and proper alliances are necessary to survive.

I think of my fellow councilmen as part of a team and that our challenge is work on city issues and working with staff to try to mediate the problems and finding alternatives or solutions that will make the city stronger. Your part in the game is to lead the team and serve as a spokesman in supporting your team.

Whether you agree with your players or not, you are there to support them. My experience under your leadership has led me to believe that the council is your competition, not your ally. It seems when issues come up within the city you work against us instead of with us to solve issues.

The frustration that the position of representing my constituents leads me to a lot of undue tension, and it just isn’t worth it. I have a business of my own to run, and at this time, I need to put my focus into its ultimate success. Many times the energy that I expel on city government issues should be redistributed to the business that holds my lifeline.

I wish you all the best and hope that all of the players accomplish many successes during their time playing the game. Politics aside, I learned many lessons from my team members that I will value for a lifetime. The staff of the city of Elkhorn is to be commended for a job well done.

Sincerely,

Kim DeHaan

District 5 alderman"



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