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Civic leaders hereby do declare a whole bunch of stuff

  • The Wichita Eagle
  • Published Friday, Feb. 7, 2014, at 6:47 p.m.
  • Updated Sunday, Feb. 9, 2014, at 12:26 p.m.

Correction: A previous version of this story incorrectly identified the executive assistant to Mayor Carl Brewer and the Wichita City Council. Her name is Virdena Gilkey.

President Ronald Reagan’s 103rd birthday didn’t slip by Sedgwick County commissioners.

The board passed a proclamation last week honoring the late president’s birthday.

County and city leaders pay respect to others, bring awareness to causes and honor good work with dozens of proclamations every year.

County commissioners made 52 proclamations last year. Wichita City Council members made 122.

Shocker Day. Police Week. Constitution Week. Earth Day. National Clown Week. Women in Construction Week. Black Colleges and Universities Recognition Day.

And on both sides of Central and Main – City Hall sits on the south side, the courthouse on the north side – Girl Scout Cookie Month. (Can we get an amen?)

The process of getting a proclamation is essentially the same for the county and city. The person or group seeking the proclamation submits wording, and commissioners or council members give it consideration.

Jill Tinsley, the county’s community relations director, handles proclamations for commissioners. The board reviews them before the proposed proclamation is put on an agenda. At City Hall, proclamations require at least four signatures from council members. County proclamations are signed by the chairman and county clerk.

Tinsley couldn’t remember the board turning down a request for a proclamation. Neither could Chairman Dave Unruh, first elected in 2002.

Mayor Carl Brewer remembers a few getting the thumbs-down at City Hall. The organizer of a family reunion wanted a proclamation recognizing the event – yes, the council does that – and included the phrase “ghetto-fabulous” when describing the bunch.

“I’ll never forget it,” Brewer said. “We decided, ‘No, we’re not doing this one.’ ”

The council considers up to five proclamations at a meeting. Proclamations also are made at events or simply mailed or given to interested parties. The five-proclamation limit is a necessity, Brewer said.

Without it, “we would have everybody there till noon just reading proclamations,” Brewer said, laughing.

The county and city present proclamations on certificates inside a folder. The county spent $116 on printing and folders last year, Tinsley said. Virdena Gilkey, executive assistant to Brewer and the council, joked that the city has been using the same stock of paper and folders for so long she had no idea of the cost.

Commissioner Karl Peterjohn, first elected in 2008, is behind the county’s annual proclamation recognizing Reagan’s birthday.

Peterjohn turned to the “those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it” lesson to describe why he has pushed for the recognition every year.

The proclamation recognizes Reagan for his role in ending the Cold War and bringing down the Berlin Wall as well as his work on drug policies.

Peterjohn said it disappoints him that there is no memorial to Reagan in Kansas.

“I think it’s very important Kansas recognizes him,” he said. “I think it’s altogether fitting and proper that we do this.”

Unruh signed off on the Reagan proclamation but said he worries that “honoring a specific individual, no matter how worthy, can set a precedent where there’s no end to it.”

He noted that the commission hasn’t recognized other presidents’ birthdays.

“I would have concerns about just an abundance of proclamations when they don’t deal directly with our community partners or if they’re dealing with issues about which we don’t have influence,” Unruh said.

Brewer said proclamations are a way for leaders to recognize people who often aren’t on center stage.

“They don’t get the accolades,” he said.

Reach Deb Gruver at 316-268-6400 or dgruver@wichitaeagle.com. Follow her on Twitter: @SGCountyDeb.

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