Ken Guthrie - Deputy Mayor Pro-Tem
Our colleague and good friend Ken Guthrie passed away Friday, September 27, 2014. I would like to share with you some of my thoughts as I reflect back on my time with Ken.
Ken was appointed to the Town Council in 2005, and early next year, Ken would have become the first councilmember to serve for 10 years. Being the senior member of the council, one might have thought that Ken would have tried to push his own agenda or resist changes, especially some of the ones I would dream up. But that wasn't Ken, he was always thoughtful, deliberate, and always listened to everyone else before weighing in. Ken always sat at the far end of the council table from me, and it was hard to see him with Carl and Dave's heads always in the way, so I moved Ken next to me. There weren't going to be any motions or votes until I heard from Ken. He was my wingman.
For probably the last five years, every couple of weeks or so, Ken and I would go out for Sunday breakfast. I would put together two folders of Town business for us to look at, pick him up at 9am and we would head off to IHOP or Denny's, although once we ended up at Prairie House when coincidentally it was Ken's turn to buy and he had a coupon. We would catch-up and then go over Town stuff before heading back to Town Hall to really dive into the details. He would tell me that he had a "hard stop" at 1pm, which meant that we didn't leave Town hall until after 3, usually when Laurie called. While Ken had a long business career at HP/EDS, most people did not know that Ken was only a class or two away from graduating with a math degree before he switched to computer science. He was a numbers guy like me. Ken was my sounding board for all our initial drafts of financial plans, budgets, and water and sewer projects that I would put together. I knew that if Ken thought it made sense, then I was on the right track.
A little over a year ago, Ken took early retirement. Rather than reduce his Town Council commitment, he took on several new projects which significantly increased his time at what he would tell Laurie was his "non-paying job". Ken and I had talked about how great it would be to have our utility bills accessible from the internet and to be able to receive bills by email. Ken ran with it. Ken spent months researching new utility billing software and finding one that met our needs. Our old software, which we had been using since 2001 was incompatible with our new system (naturally) so Ken had to create new programs to access and decode the account data. I know he liked the challenge and he was really proud of the programming he created. Ken spent several months checking the individual bills under the old and new systems to make sure there were no errors. There were none, well, except for the fact that the new software rounded up to the nearest cent unlike the old software. This meant that each month for some accounts there would be a $0.01 difference between the old and new billing systems - I told him I thought he did it to drive me crazy - he thought it was really funny. He explained to me that I should be happy the new software was already paying for itself.
As I think back, one thing that struck me was I never saw Ken get angry. Not once. He had a really good sense of humor. A couple of months ago, I told Ken we were changing one of our account passwords to "Cowboys" and he told me he didn't think he could remember that. He was from the DC area and he was a REDSKINS fan.
Ken felt very strongly that the Town should follow the same rules as everyone else. So, when we replaced the air conditioner at Town Hall in June, we had to have an inspection. We had a good laugh when, as you might have guessed, we failed (thanks Steve) due to some missing vent/valve overflow gizmo. It was installed the next day and we passed our reinspection. Several months ago, the Council raised the vehicle weight limit in the new road construction area. The old weight limit restricted concrete trucks to six yards instead of 10 yards in a full truck. However, during the road construction Jagoe is using fully loaded trucks. Even though it was a town project - Ken felt that we had an obligation to either increase the limit or else lighten the trucks. The rules apply to everyone, even us, even if no one knows. He was right.
At our Friday Council special meeting, Ken was in really good spirits. As we went over an ordinance written by our attorney, Ken had found about a dozen typos which he had red-lined on his copy of the draft. We went over them changed the ordinance and then adopted it with Ken's changes. That was Ken doing exactly what he always did. Thorough and meticulous. The special meeting was relatively short, and unlike our normal meetings, Ken didn't hang around long once it ended. That's because Friday night is always date night for him and Laurie and he had to go out and get dinner. So Ken's last Friday was a "non-paying job" that he really liked and an evening with his wife who he loved.
At Town Hall, I meet quite a few people that are looking at property and have questions about our Town. I explain that we are not Little Elm, and I talk about our low taxes and no HOA. I always make it a point to tell people that we are a small town, and we will always be a small town where "everybody seems to know everybody". I hope you all got a chance to know Ken Guthrie.