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Council swears in members, praises Shockers

  • The Wichita Eagle
  • Published Tuesday, April 9, 2013, at 11:42 a.m.
  • Updated Wednesday, April 10, 2013, at 5:55 a.m.

Wichita State University men’s basketball coach Gregg Marshall absorbed his most one-sided loss of the year Tuesday morning at City Hall.

Marshall got one vote for vice mayor as the Wichita City Council reorganized, coming up five votes short of unseating the winner, District 2 council member Pete Meitzner.

Never mind two simple facts: Marshall isn’t a member of the council, although some council members wryly observed after the meeting that the coach is more popular in Wichita than they are. And he wasn’t running for the job.

And here’s the kicker: Meitzner, a Shocker diehard fan who represented the city at his own expense last weekend in Atlanta for the Final Four, cast the one vote for Marshall. It was a hat tip, Meitzner said, for the way Marshall and his team represented the city.

“For the past month, every time the coach has spoken publicly, what a great, great ambassador he has been for this community and what we have in Wichita,” Meitzner said after the meeting.

In an e-mail Tuesday afternoon, Marshall promised to run a stronger campaign next year – tongue in cheek, of course.

“Much like not winning the National Championship this season, I am disappointed in being runner-up in the vice mayor election,” Marshall said. “Next year, I will be sure to campaign angry!”

The council welcomed new District 4 council member Jeff Blubaugh, representing south and west Wichita, and three returning members during the annual swearing-in ceremony: Lavonta Williams from District 1 representing the north and east side; James Clendenin from District 3 representing south Wichita; and outgoing vice mayor Janet Miller from District 6, representing parts of central, north and west Wichita.

In addition, the council said goodbye to Paul Gray, who turned over his temporary District 4 seat to Blubaugh. Gray served three months as a replacement for Michael O’Donnell, who resigned at the first of the year to take the District 25 seat in the Kansas Senate.

But Wichita State’s run to the Final Four and the Shockers’ narrow loss Saturday to eventual national champion Louisville was the main undercurrent of the meeting.

“So close,” Mayor Carl Brewer said, “but they went a lot further than anyone would have expected.”

“We’re so proud of them,” the mayor said. “They put us on the map.”

Meitzner took the mayor’s praise a step further.

“The Shockers made our city proud,” he said. “It was an awesome, awesome atmosphere in Atlanta. The game was awesome and everything out of Coach Marshall’s mouth was positive about Wichita and about our state. This was really a great event for our community. I want to thank the whole community for stepping up in a big way.”

Council members presented Gray with a glass sculpture for his second tour of duty at City Hall.

“I had even more fun this time than last,” Gray said. “The joy was all mine to work with the community to serve their needs and throw a couple of comments out there to be controversial, as I seem to do.”

Brewer called Gray “a friend for life, whether we agree or disagree.”

Then the mayor interjected a question.

“Do we agree today?”

“We agree,” Gray said, chuckling.

Then Gray’s colleagues took their shots.

“Paul, it’s getting easier to say goodbye to you,” council member Jeff Longwell said, referencing Gray’s departure from the council two years ago after serving two four-year terms.

“We will miss those soapbox speeches.”

“You’re obviously a glutton for punishment to come back for another three months,” Miller said. “I had fun pushing your buttons for another three months. It was good to serve with you, and remember to eat your veggies.”

Reach Bill Wilson at 316-268-6290 or bwilson@wichitaeagle.com.

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