Thanks, Kevin

By: 
Jacques Rutten
Publisher

On June 30, Kevin Myhre will retire from his position as Lewistown’s city manager. After 25 years serving the community in law enforcement and city government, he is ready for a new challenge. For most of those years, I have had a front-row seat to Kevin’s career, while working at the News-Argus. There is a unique relationship between a local newspaper and the government of the city it covers. A newspaper celebrates the accomplishments of the city, but it also has a responsibility to be a watchdog of the government and report on the problems the city encounters. For that reason, it can seem like we are good friends one day and bitter enemies the next. There have been a few times over the years when my own relationship with the city manager has felt that way. Kevin joined the police force in 1991 and had already been a sergeant for two years when I started at the newspaper in 1997. His wife worked in the News-Argus print shop at the time, so Kevin and I got to know each other early on. He was promoted to police chief in 1998 and then became our city manager in 2002. As fate would have it, that was about the same time I became editor of the newspaper, and that is when our relationship became a little more challenging. As a new city manager, Kevin was tasked with overseeing several departments and dealing with complex issues on a daily basis. As a new editor, I was tasked with managing a team of ambitious reporters whose job it was to report on the local government, and it was not all good news. As a result, we occasionally found ourselves at odds over issues facing the city, and those disagreements occasionally ended with tense discussions on the phone or in the publisher’s office. At that time, I felt Kevin was too thin-skinned to be managing a city, and I am guessing he felt like I was just trying to stir up trouble. Looking back now, I suspect we were both right to some degree. Even back then, one of the things I appreciated about Kevin’s style was that we could argue about city policies or news coverage, but it never became personal. And he didn’t hold grudges. We could have a disagreement about an article in the morning and see each other that night at one of our kids’ school programs and act as if nothing had happened. By the time I became publisher of the newspaper in 2009, Kevin was already a seasoned city manager. He had earned a reputation for being levelheaded, hard working and knowledgeable. He wasn’t flashy, but he was effective. He got things done. He had also been through some battles by that point, and had developed the confidence and determination it takes to be a successful manager. As the years passed, I began to develop a greater appreciation for Kevin’s responsibilities as city manager. From streets to sewer to parks to personnel, a city is a complex operation and it takes a special person to manage it. City manager positions are known for being high stress and low appreciation. Public criticism is part of the job, but it may also explain why the turnover rate is so high across the country. Considering all the big issues Kevin had dealt with during his time as manager, and especially the last few years, it did not come as a major shock to me when I learned this winter that he was ready to take a new path. About a month after he announced his retirement, my wife and I shared a table with Kevin and his wife at the Chamber of Commerce dinner. It was the first time I had talked with him since announcing his retirement, and I think we both felt like we could let down our guard a little. We talked candidly about some of the tough issues the city was going through and wondered what the coming months would bring for our city government. But for the most part, we just had a good time, discussing kids and family. Kevin seemed relaxed and even relieved, like a weight was off his shoulders. Most of all, he seemed excited about what the future had in store. I was happy for him. Kevin Myhre and I may have had some differences over the past two decades, but through it all, I developed a great deal of respect for him as a person and a city manager. His 25 years of service to the city of Lewistown deserves our appreciation, and I wish him all the best in the future.

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