ALPENA - When faced with making a difficult decision a person must be able to weigh the options in front of them as impartial as possible, become educated about the issue requiring action and ultimately doing what you believe will have the best possible outcome for all involved.
According to Mayor Matt Waligora, he did all of these things before entering his vote which led to the termination of former City Manager Thad Taylor on Monday. He said although the move has been much less than popular in the eyes of many in the community it is a decision he is comfortable with and one he is confident was the right move.
"I was prepared and I felt every councilman was prepared. In my preparations I watched budget process last year attended many meetings and really took part more than what people may be giving me credit for," Waligora said. "Given the amount of time that I had to make a decision I think I made it as best I could and did what I thought needed to be done."
Because the three members of the council who voted to terminate Taylor didn't provide specifics other than he didn't share the same vision or direction as the board, there has been a swell of public outcry demanding reasons for the firing. This is also true of the staff at city hall, who after a meeting with Waligora Tuesday, still opposed the move. Waligora said he didn't think the issue would cause as big of a stir as it has, but added it shows how passionate the people of Alpena can be. He said the days after the vote had an impact on his personal life, as public backlash began to show.
"I can't honestly say I expected to be this big and that is due to the support of Thad. People respected him on a personal level and I understand where it comes from and I can appreciate that," Waligora said. "I'm human. It has taken a toll on me. It's affected my sleeping habits and it's affected my eating habits. Decisions like these are not easy and the outcomes aren't always good, but if asked if I could take my vote back and do it different, no, I wouldn't."
Because there are some hurt feeling in the community, on the council and also with Taylor, Waligora took it upon himself to request a face-to-face meeting with Taylor, which took place Thursday night. Waligora said the two talked and parted ways amicably.
"I reached out to Thad and he was gracious enough to invite me to have a private conversation," Waligora said. "I think that is a reflection of both of our characters. It was a private conversation and everything that was said is between him and I, but I guess the important part of that is he gave be the impression that he is in a good place and I'm in a good place with each other."
Jim Peltier has been mentioned as a possible replacement to Taylor and Waligora acknowledged Peltier's name was mentioned after Monday's meeting. He said what might happen is a temporarily manager be hired while a permanent replacement is found. Waligora said at this time there is no agreement with Peltier and other candidates will be considered from inside and outside city hall.
"We absolutely do not have an agreement with Mr. Peltier," Waligora said. "Everyone who is qualified is a potential candidate at this point. Every member of the council will be involved in the process of not only selecting a short-term replacement, but also a long-term one as well."
Because he voted with Councilmen Mike Nunneley and Dave Karschnick on the Taylor issue and they all share the same political party, some expect the three vote with one another on a regular basis. Waligora said that will not be the case and he will support the other councilmen's opinions and thoughts as he feels he has done since being sworn into office.
"We are all individuals and were elected as individuals and each has an equal vote," Waligora said. "I will prove that in my actions as I have before and after this matter. I have to prove that, not only to the public but to the two individuals that were the majority in this decision. i have to prove to those two guys that they still have an input and I will."
Steve Schulwitz can be reached via e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org or by phone at 358-5689.