Outgoing governing body members honored at Topeka City Council meeting

City manager Brent Trout, left, presents outgoing Mayor Larry Wolgast with a flag of the city of Topeka — which Trout said had been signed by the city council members and many of the city’s department heads — during a recognition ceremony at Tuesday’s council meeting. (Photo courtesy of the city of Topeka)

Outgoing Topeka City Councilwoman Elaine Schwartz was recognized Tuesday for her work to aid causes she’s passionate about, including the Topeka Zoo and discouraging tobacco use.

 

Outgoing Councilman Richard Harmon, a lawyer, received praise for the legal knowledge he’s contributed.

And outgoing Mayor Larry Wolgast was recognized for his dignity and leadership in a ceremony at Tuesday evening’s meeting of the Topeka City Council.

The city during Tuesday’s ceremony also honored Councilwoman Michelle De La Isla, who is leaving her council seat next week to assume the mayor’s office she won in the November general election.

Tuesday’s meeting was their last full meeting on the governing body for Schwartz, Harmon and Wolgast, who are to be replaced early in next week’s meeting by Aaron Mays, Michael Lesser and De La Isla, respectively. De La Isla’s seat will be filled by Mike Padilla.

Wolgast began Tuesday’s ceremony by recognizing Harmon, who’s been on the council since April 2005.

He noted how Harmon — while expressing support prior to voting in favor of a zoning change the governing body approved earlier Tuesday — had read a statement making it clear that body was properly following guidelines established in the landmark 1978 Kansas Supreme Court zoning case of Golden v. City of Overland Park.

“He makes sure we do things properly and take the right steps,” Wolgast said.

The mayor noted that Harmon, then deputy mayor, had essentially served as mayor for about six weeks when then-Mayor Bill Bunten was hospitalized with pneumonia in 2009.

Harmon recalled how he and Wolgast, prior to the 2013 municipal election, had coffee together on a semi-regular basis while discussing which of them was going to run for mayor.

Wolgast subsequently ran and won, Harmon said, adding “You’ve been a wonderful mayor.”

Wolgast next recognized Schwartz, a councilwoman since April 2013 ,who has regularly recognized local people and entities at council meetings as being her “Gem of the Day.”

Wolgast praised the job Schwartz has done chairing the city’s transient guest tax committee and nominating Topekans to serve on city boards and committees.

He made reference to how she’s worked closely with the Topeka Zoo, and also sponsored a proposal the governing body approved last month banning the sale of cigarettes and other tobacco-related products to anyone younger than 21.

Wolgast concluded, “I would say that my Gem of the Day is Councilwoman Schwartz.”

The mayor next recognized De La Isla — who’s been on the council since April 2013 — for her work to develop the downtown area and the strong voice she’s provided for “under-represented” residents.

“We really look forward to you and your service” as mayor, he said.

Wolgast then presented De La Isla a wooden gavel crafted by a friend of his, which he’d received when he became mayor in April 2013. Wolgast had previously served on the council since April 2009.

De La Isla responded by speaking positively of the leadership Wolgast has provided the city.

“You always managed to do this with so much class,” she said.

De La Isla added that the current governing body “has seen so much as a body” since taking office in April 2013.

“We have a brand new city manager, we changed city attorneys, I mean, the list is endless,” De La Isla said. “And we have been able to go through so many challenges in this community together. So I just want to say ‘Thank you’ to the city of Topeka.”

Tuesday’s ceremony concluded with city manager Brent Trout’s presenting Wolgast a flag of the city of Topeka, which he said had been signed by the council members and many of the city’s department heads.

Reporter Tim Hrenchir can be reached at (785) 295-1184 or @timhrenchir on Twitter.

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