Keck is a rare breed of politician who does what he told us he would do

Jeff Neal

I'm sad to say it's a rare breed of politician who campaigns on a platform and then sticks to it.

Somerset Mayor Alan Keck promised us that he would do everything in his power to promote growth -- not only for the City of Somerset, but for all of Pulaski County.

He also said he would listen to the people -- all of the people.

Six months into his administration, Keck began a discussion about annexation that would have almost immediately increased the city's population numbers by several thousand -- enough that might make a difference in trying to get a prominent retailer or industry to look our way.

That, my friends, is promoting growth.

But to accomplish these goals, the city would have to take in unincorporated areas of the county on a "non-consensual" basis.

And that bothered a whole lot of people out in the county. So they spoke out on their concerns. What city services would be provided and when would they reap the benefits? How would city ordinances effect their rural lifestyle? How many police officers and firefighters would have to be added to cover the extra area? How much would our taxes increase?

All reasonable questions. These questions -- paired with a bit of misinformation and the usual pinch of general government distrust -- was taking us all on a rocky road.

Late Tuesday night, Keck opted to pull out of the mass-annexation discussion.

Not that anyone changed his mind -- they really didn't.

He listened and relented because it was clear that by simply discussing annexation, there was fear, anxiety, anger and bitterness emerging from all points east and west.

Keck is striving for a solid community that works together -- not a divided one.

By pushing forward, he might've gotten the numbers he needed to move the needle for the city. But to what end?

A forced annexation might very well have fostered distrust and division -- and at a time when city and county officials are working together so well, that was just not going to be acceptable.

Instead, the City of Somerset will move forward in a slow, more deliberate manner in its quest to surge past the 40-year-old population number of 12,000. It will do so by taking in communities who actually want to be a part of the city.

I commend Keck for going for broke by bringing up annexation. I, for one, certainly could see the benefits.

But more importantly, I admire him for hearing what the community was saying in response.

In essence, he backed off for all of us -- despite the fact that he believed very much in his vision.

That is a true leader. And one we all can be proud of.

JEFF NEAL is the editor of the Commonwealth Journal. Reach him at Follow him on Twitter at @jnealCJ.

Recommended for you