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Tempers flare as lake chief resigns

Staff writers

Heated meetings have left the county commission divided and the county just two weeks away from having no superintendent at the lake.

Citing family reasons and with his wife, Jill, at his side, superintendent Steve Hudson on Monday gave two weeks’ notice of resignation, after the conclusion of the Bluegrass at the Lake festival he started.

“I’m at the age in my life that if I don’t make a move now, opportunity might not exist in the future,” Hudson said. “I can leave with my head up high, knowing that what we’ve done out there is wonderful.”

Hudson has no specific plans. He was given permission to stay in the house assigned to the lake superintendent for up to 60 days, until he can line up a new job and new housing.

“I want to stay somewhere with KPERS (a state pension), even if it’s trash pickup,” he said.

In prepared remarks, commission chairman Randy Dallke praised Hudson.

“There’s no words that I can possibly say to tell you thank you enough,” Dallke said. “That’s the kind of job Steve has done for the past 13 years. He’s put the county lake No. 1. That cost him a lot. The ‘co-person’ (his wife) loses a lot, too.

“Because you stop someone and tell them ‘no’ and spank their hands, they hold grudges. ‘Steve Day’ (a community appreciation dinner May 27 at which Hudson first indicated his plan to resign) is a just a small token of what you’ve accomplished. Sometimes, the minority is just the loudest mouth.”

Commissioner Kent Becker also hinted at controversy having been a motivator for Hudson’s resignation, which Hudson himself has never publicly said.

“I realize that’s the kind of job that sometimes is just a no-win situation,” Becker said, “and I think you’ve followed the rules that are there. I think you’ve done an adequately good job of what you’ve done.”

Several were in attendance for Hudson’s announcement and to protest an earlier decision by commissioners to allow a developer who has been clearing runoff-filtering land near the lake to obtain a controversial easement for a driveway.

Lake resident Larry Lalouette urged commissioners to reject Hudson’s resignation — which, in the end, Dallke voted against.

“Reject his resignation,” Lalouette said. “Let him have more time to be with his family. Let him take his vacation when he wants to take it. Bring in another man to do what he does when he’s on vacation.”

The question of whether Hudson was prevented from taking time off to attend a family reunion to meet his new grandchild colored the discussion.

“Last Mother’s Day, my family went down to see my grandson,” Hudson said, noting that he stayed behind to tend to his duties at the lake. “I made them a promise at that time that I would never miss another holiday.”

When Lalouette pointedly questioned Dallke about whether the county had rejected Hudson’s request for time off, Dallke replied: “I’m saying only that this man has dedication and puts the county lake first.”

Becker pressed the point, asking whether the county had made it impossible for Hudson to take time off for family functions.

Commissioner Dianne Novak, who has been critical of Hudson’s performance in the past, said, “That was his choice.”

“It’s never been said, but that’s the kind of dedication Steve had,” Dallke said.

Dallke urged rethinking how the job is structured, with the superintendent able to use county-owned buildings to operate a private bait shop and living in a county-owned residence.

“To think of someone being crucified because he lives in the house out there,” Dallke said, shaking his head. “That’s what Mr. Gordon Pendergraft (another lake resident) complained about three weeks ago. That’s the kind of stuff that we need to change.”

Novak replied that she had resigned from jobs in the past,
“and when I resigned, I didn’t blame other people.”

Lalouette shot back: “Aren’t you the one who went in the paper and said the lake has been the subject of years of neglect?”

“That’s quite an accusation you’re making,” Novak said.

“That’s not an accusation, that’s the damned truth,” he responded angrily.

Dallke squelched further comment, saying: “I’m personally against putting someone back in there to do the job the way we have in the past. We need to do some worrying about the job description.”

Becker urged lake residents to consider incorporating into a city to create an intermediary body before disputes among residents make their way to the commission.

“You aren’t just a fishing lake anymore,” he said. “You’re a community. When are the residents out there going to step up and say that we need some sort of organization out there?”

Hudson patrols the lake both early in the morning and late at night. Lake operations are intertwined with Hudson’s bait shop. County fees paid by credit card, for example, are processed by Hudson’s store, with Hudson absorbing fees charged by credit card processors.

At meeting’s end, Dallke offered to gather information about what might be needed to ensure a smooth transition at the lake. Novak objected, saying all commissioners should be involved.

Last modified June 8, 2017

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