Independence mayor state of the city address

By Mike Genet mike.genet@examiner.net
The Examiner

In the Agta tribe of hunter-gatherers in the Philippines, the best storytellers are the most highly valued people.

The Agta are a prime example, Independence Mayor Eileen Weir said, that storytelling is important not just for entertainment, but also a sense of community.

Eileen Weir

“The common values expressed in the tribe’s folklore have a direct impact on how they treat each other,” she said – values such as cooperation and providing for each other.

“Independence has a rich tradition of producing and recording its great American story,” the mayor said during her state of city address, released on social media last Friday. “Our stories are part of our city’s history.”

Weir, who recently announced she will seek a third term as mayor next year, released her address a year after she declared a state of emergency because of the pandemic, when “we were suddenly plunged into a new way of life.”

While 2020 will be remembered as a year of loss for many people, and it put the community to the test, the mayor said, the community “responded with strength and fortitude” and managed to continue telling its story.

Whether it was distributing food and utility assistance, keeping city employees on hand, using shared funds to preserve busing or reinstating the city Health Department, the city’s response was reminiscent of history’s trailblazers that were drawn to Independence.

“I believe those stories formed our city for this challenge,” Weir said.

Citizens helped maintain a sense of community with sidewalk art, food trucks and virtual meetings, and the city reimagined some traditional celebrations with a virtual version and was able to build citizen engagement and connections with its online meetings, the mayor said. Independence added another sister city thanks to a partnership with Sugar Creek and Martin, Slovakia, and is ready to for a boon in tourism when the renovated Truman Library reopens.

Weir said the city will continue with its strategic plan of nearly five years now, with an emphasis investment in infrastructure and public utilities, as the rolling blackouts demonstrated that “these are matters of public health and safety.” With several openings currently in the force, and funds available to start hiring additional officers because of the great initial success of the voter-approved use tax, Weir said that the “need to recruit and retain highly trained professional police officers that share our community values will continue to be a top priority.”

With the pandemic, Weir said, the city and citizens were “stirred to service in ways we may not even have imagined or thought possible.” 

By continuing to tell Independence’s stories, she said, “we ensure the state of the city is strong and is ready for the next challenges.”