Of EMTs and men

We’ll leave it to you to come up with your own caption for this week’s Page 1 photo of lightning appearing to take aim on the Marion County Courthouse, scene of more than its share of thunderous meetings over the years.

One of the saddest, perhaps, happened Monday. Whether he’s a tragic figure who brought it on himself or a victim of either puritanical or power-mad forces, we may never know for sure given the secrecy — sometimes well-advised, sometime not — with which many in and out of government operate these days.

What we do know is that it’s a shame to see years of Steve Smith’s dedicated and excellent service to the community come to a sudden and unceremonious end, even though he will continue as a volunteer for at least a month.

Agree or disagree with his firing as ambulance director, no one can take away the hundreds of lives he’s saved or made more tolerable by his skillful actions as an emergency medical technician. He also has been an insightful advocate of the EMT program, foreseeing the need to expand into a full-time service rather than continuing to rely on ever-smaller handsful of volunteers who are paid nothing more than token tips for the vital role they play, especially in an aging community such as ours.

A few hours after Smith’s dismissal, commissioners summoned Marion’s city administrator to explain comments he had made a week earlier about the county lake. This, too, could have been a sad scene, devolving into a debate over whether the city or the county was best positioned to maximize the impact of the lake on community development.

Fortunately, the lightning bolts weren’t flying, and after everyone involved acknowledged the excellent work by superintendent Steve Hudson and scores of volunteers, it became clear no one was viewing anything about the lake with dissatisfaction but rather everyone was committed to maximizing its possibilities while retaining the natural peace and calm that has made it a favorite of weekend visitors and retirees across a broad region.

A litany of compliments for cooperation among the city and the county over such things as streets around the Courthouse was a welcome change from practices when communication did not seem to be the specialty of either the city or the county. Perhaps someday soon we actually will see city-county cooperation grow to the level at which such things as costly public works equipment can be shared among agencies, including other cities in the county.

Whether it be in developing tourism, in providing emergency medical services (where every community is in significant need of volunteers), or in public works (where costly specialized equipment challenge revenue-starved budgets), countywide cooperation is a concept whose time has come.

One of the sad things about the newspaper business is that we sometimes have to print news that isn’t as positive as we would like. Critics always accuse us of savoring such moments, but the fact is we hate bad news as much as readers do. We just understand that a diet of only good news, artificially ignoring challenges we can improve upon, is like eating only dessert three meals a day.

The staff bringing you this newspaper each week consists of some of the hardest working, most community minded people in the county. It sure as heck isn’t the pay or love from the reading public that keep them motivated to work long hours and weekends on your behalf 52 weeks out of the year.

Tuesday was the last day for one of the most dedicated and hardest working of them, news editor Adam Stewart, who after five years will return to the world of dailies in an editing role at the Hutchinson News.

His preference for Wildcat purple over Jayhawk blue aside, we’ll miss Adam’s Eagle Scout devotion to facts and fairness, the community, this newspaper, and especially its readers. In a profession filled with journalists whose integrity many casual readers question, Adam stands apart not just as a good journalist but as an even better person. We wish him only the best.

— ERIC MEYER

 

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