Voters of Shawnee went on record June 18, 1929, by almost 10-1 in favor of amending the city charter to provide for the city manager form of government. At the same time, they defeated by almost 5-1, one proposed amendment to the charter written and adopted by the city council.

CITY MANAGER CHARTER VOTED

Voters of Shawnee went on record June 18, 1929, by almost 10-1 in favor of amending the city charter to provide for the city manager form of government. At the same time, they defeated by almost 5-1, one proposed amendment to the charter written and adopted by the city council.

Proposition No. 2, better known as the city manager amendments, drafted by a committee of citizens, was carried by a vote of 2,100 to 221. Proposition No. 1, better known as the city council’s manager plan, was defeated by a vote of 262 to 1,039.

Every one of the 16 precincts in the city gave a big majority for the No. 2 proposition. Comparatively speaking, the vote was light, but the balloting was spirited among those who took an interest in the campaign and reached fever pitch in several instances. On two occasions, Mayor Neal Wimmer and Park Wyatt, attorney representing the citizens committee almost came to blows while disputing issues. Several other instances of disputes between some of the officials on duty at the polls and workers for the citizens committee were also reported.

It was reported that although the city manager amendments were voted for, their legality would be contested in the district court. Defeat of the council’s proposed amendments ended the chances for a court dispute on that issue, as leaders of the citizens committee had announced that they would contest the legality of Proposition No. 1.

GOVERNOR SIGNS CHARTER

The signature of Governor W.J. Holloway was placed upon the new Shawnee City Charter at 4:45 P.M. on Thursday, June 20, 1929. It was done in the presence of a delegation of 30 Shawnee citizens, proponents of the city manager form of government.

A midnight session on Wednesday to certify returns of Tuesday’s election was performed before a temporary restraining order could be issued. The city council then directed that the charter be presented to the governor. It was filed with the Secretary of State immediately after the governor’s signature was affixed.

Election of the six commissioners who would hire a city manager had to be done within the next 10 days by Mayor Neal Wimmer. A writ of mandamus was issued in district court several weeks earlier specifying this time limit.

When the Shawnee delegation arrived at the capitol shortly before 4 P.M., they were informed by the governor’s secretary that the chief executive was too busy to see them. It did not take long for the leaders of the delegation to impress the secretary with the urgency of their call.

A short time later, the delegation was ushered into the governor’s office. Governor Holloway explained that he was spending much of his time in the capitol to be in more direct touch with the senate in the closing days of the legislature. After questioning the spokesman for the delegation, during which he revealed that he had made a close study of the Shawnee situation, the governor signed the document.

“I gave audience to Mayor Wimmer and Fred Reily on Thursday morning,” the governor said. “They urged me not to sign the charter.”

The application for an injunction against the city council certifying the election returns and the temporary restraining order were dissolved and dismissed in district court on Thursday afternoon. The court was informed that the returns had been approved by the council before the order was served on them. Lon Hackett, night chief of police, and Harold Higley, another city employee, in whose names the injunction suit was filed, expected to make an appeal.

J. Knox Byrum, representative from Pottawatomie County, met the Shawnee delegation at the capitol and assisted on getting an audience with the governor.

CITY ELECTION HITS SNAG IN NEW CHARTER

Calling of an election for nomination of candidates to run for city commissioners and city treasurer, struck a snag on Monday, June 24, 1929. After a careful reading of the provisions in the amendments to the city charter, it revealed that Shawnee had no official mayor, councilmen or treasurer.

According to the terms of the amendments recently adopted by a vote of the people, all present city employees, except the mayor, councilmen, and treasurer would hold their office until replaced by the city manager, who was to be appointed following the election of six city commissioners. No provision was made for the present elected offices.

A conference of attorneys was called on June 24, to thresh out the problem, but there was still a difference of opinion as to just what the charter demanded. Fred Reily, city attorney, announced that the present administration would call the election if they had the power, and asked the advice of other attorneys.

One theory was advanced that members of the present administration would be forced to disregard the recently adopted charter and continue in the capacity of city officials until their successors had been elected and qualified for their offices.

Reily pointed out where the adopted charter provided for more than one way the election should be called and when it should be held. It showed proponents of the new manager plan where a strict observance of the new charter provided for the official city election to be held next April.

After a year of debate and legal actions, the city of Shawnee finally hired its first city manager, T.E. “Ed” Thompson in July of 1930. He would remain in that position for 14 years before resigning in 1944.

 (These stories and hundreds more appear in the first volume of Shawnee history, entitled: “REDBUD CITY: SHAWNEE, THE EARLY YEARS, 1830-1929.” It can be purchased by calling Clyde Wooldridge at (918) 470-3728, or by visiting the Pottawatomie County Historical Society at the old Santa Fe Depot. It can be purchased for $35. Volume two, “1930-1949,” is also available for $30. They may be obtained as a package for $60. Volume three, “REDBUD CITY: SHAWNEE, THE MIDDLE YEARS, 1950-1969,” is coming sometime before Christmas. All three volumes are slightly over 400 pages with hundreds of photos and illustrations. They are fully indexed, making it easy to look up individuals or places of business. Volume four 1970-1989; volume five 1990-2009; and volume six 2010-to the present, are scheduled in the next two to three years, bringing the history up to the current time of publication.)

Clyde Wooldridge is a local historian.