Shawnee mayor encourages community involvement
Shawnee has officially stepped into a new year, spurring many to practice the annual tradition of making and keeping new resolutions.
For Shawnee Mayor Ed Bolt, an important goal of his began the instant he took office in the summer — striving to encourage residents to get involved in city government.
From the get-go, Bolt set some interaction-friendly habits into practice, some were new, and some were established through past leaders.
One regular function, started by former Mayor Richard Finley, is the custom of inviting a youth to call each Shawnee City Commission meeting to order.
Bolt has continued Finley's tradition as a way to encourage younger residents to experience city government and become active participants.
In an unprecedented move, one of Bolt's routines has been to meet with local media on a regular basis, leaving the door open for questions and conversations of any kind. He has kept these recurring meetings scheduled and available since he began office.
“I want to make everything as transparent as I can,” he said. “I want everyone to know they are welcome to come and talk to me about anything.”
While he may not always be able to answer — whether it's because he needs more information, he isn't familiar with the topic, or at times isn't afforded the ability to share — he turns away no effort by anyone to sit down and have a talk.
“This is your community,” Bolt said. “I want to do whatever I can to help.”
Before he launched into city government — first as the Ward 1 Shawnee City Commissioner for two years, and now as mayor — Bolt practiced various roles of involvement in the community.
He has been a part of efforts initiated by Community Renewal of Pottawatomie County, like participating in neighborhood block parties.
In the past, Bolt also was a member of Safe Events For Families (SEFF), where he spent a lot of time helping with festivals and block parties downtown.
Another group Bolt was involved with early on is the Blue Zones Project. Bolt — one of the first three local employees — served as organization lead in 2017.
Bolt is no longer affiliated with SEFF or Blue Zones Project. Also, as mayor, Bolt has been clear that Shawnee's Blue Zones Project's office is headquartered in his building at 420 E. Main Street — which at one time housed his business, Main St. Photo Studio & Gallery.
“Blue Zones does not pay me for use of that building; that's done by a group known as Sharecare,” Bolt said over the summer.
The mayor has been verbal many times during commission meetings how much he appreciates resident interaction, and encourages those who come to stay for the entirety of the meeting.
“Often people will address an issue or have a question (during the citizen comment portion at the beginning of the meeting), but they don't stay to the end, when commissioners are free to comment on it,” he explained. “Then they miss out on the response they were seeking.”
Typically, Shawnee City Commission meets at 6 p.m. the first and third Mondays of each month.
The board's next scheduled meeting is at 6 p.m. Tuesday, Jan. 19, in the Bertha Ann Young City Commission Chambers at City Hall, at 16 W. 9th St.
Also, residents can view the meeting live, online at shawneeok.org.