Thursday, December 18, 2014
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Lincoln City Council bids farewell to Tom O’Donohue as alderman

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[December 18, 2014]  LINCOLN - At the end of their Monday night voting session this week, Lincoln aldermen and Mayor Keith Snyder said their good-byes to Ward 3 Alderman Tom O’Donohue.

O’Donohue offered his formal resignation several weeks ago, saying he would finish out the year with his last meeting being on December 15th.

At the first meeting in January, Todd Mourning will be sworn in to replace O’Donohue.

At the time of his resignation, O’Donohue had learned that he had been elected to the Logan County Alliance Board of Directors. He said that because of this, he felt being on that board and the city council would constitute a conflict of interest. O’Donohue had already said that he would not run for re-election in 2015, so the resignation merely moved up the timeline on his departure.

O’Donohue joined the city council in May of 2010 as a mayoral appointment to replace Nathan Turner, who died suddenly in February of 2010. After the re-organization of wards in the city, he ran for Ward 4 alderman in 2013. At the lottery for seating position on the redefined council, O'Donohue drew the two-year straw, signaling that he would have the option to run for his first four-year term in 2015.

In the years that O’Donohue has served on the council, he has been vocal on several somewhat controversial issues in the city. He was a proponent for hiring a city administrator and served with Snyder and David Wilmert on a special committee that resulted in the hiring of temporary administrator Sue McLaughlin.

He supported the formation of a TIF district in Lincoln and the establishment of a utility tax for the city of Lincoln.

O’Donohue worked closely with Lincoln zoning officer John Lebegue in upgrading several zoning ordinances and establishing a new fee structure for building permits.

As an insurance professional, he worked with former Alderman Stacy Bacon to improve the city’s insurance programs, and reduce costs to the city.

Perhaps, his most controversial undertaking was his involvement with the Abraham Lincoln Tourism Bureau of Logan County and the city’s taking over the management of the hotel/motel tax. The work done on those projects resulted in O’Donohue and Snyder becoming active members of the Tourism Bureau’s Board of Directors and the re-organization of that board and agency.

O’Donohue was also a proponent of a unified organization for Lincoln and Logan County. He served on the initial UOC committee and was elected to the board of the newly formed Logan County Alliance.

Known to his fellow aldermen as outspoken and strong-willed, he often bucked heads with his fellow city leaders, but always contended that he was acting based on what he believed was the best for the city.

Snyder commented on his appointment. “In 2010, I know there were eyebrows raised when I appointed you to the City Council. But I think that I can speak for those of us involved in the city, that as we spent time with you, got to know you, and watched how you handled your responsibilities here, we found you to be a hard working conscientious and very dedicated member of the city council. You took on many difficult tasks from actually day one with the insurance. Recently you jumped in with both feet with the tourism issues as well as frankly most anything else that has come before the city, and we appreciate that. You have served the city well. You’ve never been one that is shy about sharing your opinion. But, we always found it to be a well thought out opinion and one that made sense, once we had the opportunity to consider things from your point of view. We very much appreciate that openness and honesty.

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Snyder also commented that he had discovered that O’Donohue had a keen interest in the traditions and history of the City Council and how things have operated. It was also noted that O’Donohue had become a student of the Robertson’s Rules of Order, which is a guide on conducting proper meetings under the Open Meetings Act.

On Monday evening as his fellow aldermen offered their good-byes to O’Donohue, Marty Neitzel commented that while they didn’t always agree on issues, she respected O’Donohue, and had enjoyed having him on the council. She said one thing she always admired about the council on the whole was that they could disagree in the chamber and walk out the door as friends.

Others who commented on O’Donohue’s departure included Jonie Tibbs and Kathy Horn. Horn commented specifically on O’Donohue’s work on the city’s insurance issues.

Melody Anderson said she had always appreciated O’Donohue’s feedback on issues. She agreed with Neitzel that the aldermen are not always on the same page, but they work it out.

Appreciative comments were also made by Fire Chief Mark Miller and City Clerk Susan Gehlbach.

In recognition of O’Donohue’s service to the city, Mayor Snyder presented him with a plaque, thanking him for his service to the city.

Snyder ended his commentary with a tongue in cheek jab at O’Donohue’s signature T-shirts. O’Donohue is known to wear his Superman T-shirt often under an open flannel shirt. Snyder commented that he had heard that O’Donohue had been elected to the chairmanship of the new Logan County Alliance. He presented O’Donohue a T-shirt with a quote from superhero Spiderman, “With great power comes great responsibility.”

O’Donohue accepted the gifts and a handshake from Snyder and made a brief comment. He said he enjoyed his time working with the council, and the city leaders and department heads.

[Nila Smith]

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