The mayor of this tiny town that was all but destroyed by a tornado earlier this month has resigned, saying he needs to focus on his family and isn’t the leader Greensburg needs right now.
However, the City Council has yet to accept Mayor Lonnie McCollum’s resignation and is considering him on sabbatical for now, said council President John Janssen, who would replace McCollum. The council will take up the issue Wednesday.
“He’s submitted his resignation, but it’s laying on a table ignored,” Janssen said. “We need him to rest up a little bit, and it’s our hope to get him back. He’s doing such a good job, and he’s so qualified. I’d much rather he be doing the job than me.”
McCollum, 62, said he won’t reconsider. He said he resigned Tuesday because he needs to give more to his family and because he’s not very tolerant of different views of how Greensburg should rebuilt, something he sees as a roadblock during recovery.
“This time, for the first time in my life I’m going to let go of it ... because I really think I need to do it for myself and my wife and my family,” said McCollum, whose home was destroyed by the tornado that ripped through the night of May 4.
He said he wants to enjoy retirement and not have to attend “meeting after meeting” during the recovery effort. He also acknowledged that he was tired of dealing with complaints.
“I’m a little snappy sometimes when I’m not getting my way ... and I think there’s no place for that now,” he said.
Mayor's optimism praised
Sharon Watson, spokeswoman for the Kansas adjutant general’s office, said McCollum was a voice of optimism in the days after the tornado, which was more than 1.5 miles wide and packed winds of up to 205 mph, leveling more than 90 percent of the south-central Kansas town of 1,400 and killing 10 residents.
“One thing that was unique about him was the way he approached the citizens and encouraged them about rebuilding,” Watson said. “He was quick to say, ’We will have a brand new town, and this will not be the end of Greensburg.”’
McCollum, a former superintendent of the Kansas Highway Patrol who was elected in a write-in campaign last year, said he continues to be hopeful about Greensburg’s recovery.
“The spirit of the town is excellent,” he said. “I know this can be done.”