ALPENA -In the end the cost of firing former Alpena City Manager was high for Mike Nunneley and Dave Karschnick, as residents voted to remove the pair from Alpena Municipal Council after a long and sometimes ugly dispute by those on both sides of the recall issue. Matt Waligora however received enough support from the community to continue forward as mayor and escape the recall effort.
The recall against the three members of council originated shortly after the controversial termination of Taylor, when questions and accusations surfaced about whether they conspired to make the decision outside of an open meeting, as well as the pressure it would place on an already strained budget.
Cindy Johnson said the recall group did what it thought it must for the betterment of the city and is happy the will of the people was recognized. She said just because the recall is over, the group intends to continue to pay close attention to the council and the actions it takes moving forward.
"As a group we are pleased the citizens had a voice in this and now we can move on," Johnson said. "We still have a responsibility though to see this through the hiring of a new manager and the appointment of temporary board members and the special election. We will continue to provide the community updates through the process."
Johnson said the group is not surprised Waligora was not recalled and she believes Alpena is a trusting city that believes in second chances. She said she hopes he takes advantage of the opportunity he has been given and makes the best of it.
"Now it is up to the mayor to show the voters they did the right thing by keeping him," Johnson said. "I think he is capable of doing that, but only time will tell and it is up to him."
Waligora, who fought off the recall 2,459-1,990, said he appreciated the support he received from the voters, but admitted the recall of Nunneley and Karschnick will have an impact on the city. Waligora said he is ready to put the recall issue behind him and will work with whoever is put on the council to replace them.
"I'm glad the voters had enough faith in me to allow me to continue as mayor, but I think it is unfortunate that two very dedicated councilmen got recalled," Waligora said. "I'm ready to move on and continue to move through the process and work with the two appointments until February and the voters choose the new council members."
Karschnick was the longest serving member on the council with 21 years. He said a part of him is relieved the election is over because of the controversy involved with the Taylor release. He said he has enjoyed serving the city, but stands behind his decision on Tayor.
"To be honest I'm thankful at this point because I won't have to listen to all of the rumors and lies like I have for the last seven months," Karschnick said. "If I knew when I voted that I would get recalled I still would have done it because he deserved to go. I did the best I could for 21 years and it is unfortunate they won out in this case. At least I won't have to put up with Shawn Sexton, Cindy Johnson and Mark Hunter any longer."
Nunneley was, in a way, the face of the recall. He has been outspoken for several years about the need for the city to explore ways to generate revenue and reduce expenses. It was Nunneley who made the council aware he was going to bring up the vote on Taylor's contract and took a great deal of public criticism for it. He said no matter how ugly things got or how personal, he said he told the truth and didn't condone some of the action taken by those opposing the recall. Nunneley said he still believes firing Taylor was the right thing to do, but the voters didn't feel the same way.
"I have a philosophy and apparently the town has a different one. The people had a decision to make and they made it," Nunneley said. "I wish good luck to the mayor and still think Alpena is a great city. When I made that vote I didn't care what the fallout would be and I would make it again today and tomorrow. It has been a distinct honor to serve the people of the city in this manner and I will continue to help in any way I can, even it is from outside of the council.
Steve Schulwitz can be reached via e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org or by phone at 358-5689.