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Former Independence Mayor Don Reimal, 78, is remembered

Mike Genet
When he was mayor, Don Reimal adorned his City Hall office with Truman memorabilia. Reimal was in local office for 20 years, 12 as a City Council member and eight as mayor.

Former Independence Mayor Don Reimal died Wednesday. He was 78.

Reimal, who was mayor from 2006 to 2014 and had been on the City Council for many years before that, had battled illness in recent years.

Although the illness limited his ability to communicate, Reimal still made occasional appearances in the city, and current Mayor Eileen Weir said his mind was “always sharp.”

“He just had an empathy and consideration for the people of Independence, especially those who had challenges,” Weir said. “That’s what he cared about, and preserving the city’s history. Those were the things that impacted me.”

“When he was district council person, he went to all the meetings and engaged with the people. He had incredible economic development projects.”

Chief among those, Weir noted, were reviving the Square, including the city’s role in preserving the Historic Truman Courthouse; Centerpoint Medical Center’s construction; and the Independence Events Center, an arena that meant minor league hockey coming to Independence.

But the biggest highlight of Reimal’s tenure, he and Weir agreed, was helping guide the school boundary change of 2008, leading to several schools in the city’s west side moving from the long-struggling Kansas City School District to the Independence School District.

A commercial carpenter by trade, Reimal first joined the council in 1994 when he won a special election to represent the First District in the northwest part of the city after Ron Stewart was elected mayor. He was re-elected to the council three times before he became mayor in 2006, again succeeding Stewart. He won re-election in 2010, then chose not to seek a third term.

“He was a very kind-hearted person, a very empathetic person,” Weir said, “and wasn’t someone who stood up and demanded a lot of attention or credit.”