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Shawnee gets its first city manager

Clyde Wooldridge
T.E. “Ed” Thompson became Shawnee's first city manager in July of 1930, at a salary of $7,200 per year. He would serve valiantly for 14 years.

CITY MANAGER DUE TO ARRIVE IN THE CITY

The date when T.E. Thompson of Grand Junction, CO, would assume his duties as Shawnee’s first city manager was not yet determined by the first of July, but he was due in the city on Saturday, July 5, 1930. This would be his first visit to the city and the official interview with the city commissioners, along with Mayor Joe A. Ingram.

The managership was offered to Thompson the week before by Ingram and Kib Warren, commissioner, who constituted a committee representing the city commission. Thompson accepted the post tentatively, with the understanding that he would be given a unanimous approval by the commission.

The vote was withheld until all the commissioners had the opportunity to interview Thompson. His record, which he submitted with his application, was investigated by Ingram and Warren, and found to be as he had given.

Thompson was well-qualified for the position, said Mayor Ingram. He had four years of experience as a city manager of Grand Junction, a city of 15,000 population and only a million-dollar less than Shawnee in assessed valuation. He also served three years as city engineer before that. Before those experiences, he served three years as county engineer of Mesa County and as engineer for the state reclamation service.

A Texas native, Thompson started his engineering and business career in that state. For two years he was city engineer of Houston and a similar period in the same position at San Antonio. He graduated from Texas A&M college, where in addition of being a student of no mean ability, he was considered one of the most famous football players that ever graced the Aggie gridiron. He was a lover of sports and a sponsor of athletic events wherever he lived.

Thompson said of leaving Grand Junction, that it was an opportunity of advancing to a larger city. Although he was making some sacrifices in the move, he believed it would be a promotion. He was 41 years of age, had a wife and five children.

CITY MANAGER SALARY OFFER INCREASED

Shawnee lost and regained her city manager on Thursday, July 3, 1930, although at a price. Whether the city would keep him this time, remained to be seen. T.E. Thompson, who had accepted the job as city manager in Shawnee, notified the city commissioners that morning that he reconsidered and was not coming.

His reason, he said, was because Grand Junction officials had increased his salary to $6,500 and offered him an additional $500 a year on January 1, if he would remain there. He accepted the increase in salary and dismissed the Shawnee job from his mind.

When this information was received in Shawnee, the commissioners gathered at the home of Mayor Joe Ingram, who was ill, and decided to offer Thompson more money, if he would accept. It was not known at the time how much more it would take to entice him to take the job.

Thompson was presented the offer by telephone. He notified the commission that he would agree to come for a conference if the offer for the higher salary was a unanimous vote of the commission. Members of the commission expressed disappointment that there was so great a possibility that Thompson would not accept the job. Not only would the city lose a strong manager, it was pointed out, but valuable time would be lost while another man was selected.

There was a special-called meeting in the City Hall on the evening of Saturday, July 5, 1930. Thompson arrived that morning and accepted the position at the meeting. He was tendered and accepted a salary of $7,200 per year and would assume his duties on Monday, July 7, 1930. The Commission met again and approved his $25,000 bond, which Thompson made to assume his duties.

All this was followed with a lengthy discussion with Thompson about civic topics. He was the target of hundreds of questions on all branches and concerning all phases of city government.

Following his employment, Thompson said he was glad to have been offered the job as manager of the city. “I am glad to have the honor of coming to Shawnee as the first city manager,” he said. “I expect to be a citizen of the community and try in every way to do my duty as such. My policy as city manager, will be to give as courteous and efficient service as is humanly possible to the people of the city. I am glad to have the opportunity to become part of a city which has such a wonderful future as I believe Shawnee has before it. If the people will be patient with me and lend me their cooperation, I will give every effort to make Shawnee one of the first cities in the state of Oklahoma in point of efficiency and civic pride and beauty.”

CITY ORDINANCES FOUND IN MESS BY NEW MANAGER

Codification of all city ordinances passed by the city council since 1911, faced T.E. Thompson on his first day, as he assumed his duties on July 7, 1930. Thompson said he found the records of city laws to be in sad shape, with no reference available over the last 19-year period.

Importance of having the ordinances codified was because it was almost impossible to determine what laws were in effect under present conditions. The only way of finding the ordinances was by turning through the chronological record book.

Thompson would not legally take charge of affairs until his $25,000 bond was approved and he took the oath of office. Some of the legal technicalities involving signatures of bonding company officials were not ironed out in time for its approval on that Monday. Most of his time that first day was spent getting acquainted with employees of the city and studying various phases of the governmental machinery.

Thompson said one of his first steps was to arrange for cleaning of city streets. Weeds at intersections and along streets needed attention immediately. Downtown streets needed flushing at night and washed during the day. He said the sanitation of the city must be a continual item.

He also said early attention should be paid to patching and repairs of city streets. This should be a follow up to the repair work inaugurated after the flood of 1928.

(These stories and hundreds more appear in the six-volume history of Shawnee, entitled “REDBUD CITY.” They can be purchased at the Pottawatomie County Historical Society. Due to the current health crisis in the United States their open hours are reduced. The Museum is open Tue-Sat, 10-12 a.m., and 1-2 p.m. If you cannot obtain a copy, you may call me at (918) 470-3728, and I will mail you a copy. The first three volumes are currently available, and hopefully, the fourth is coming out this fall. The price is $30 per volume, if you purchase at least two Individually, volume one is $35, volume two, $30, and volume three $35. Because of the current closing of research centers, I am stuck at 1981 in volume four, (1970-89).

Clyde Wooldridge is a local historian.