In my line of work, you meet hundreds, if not thousands, of people in any given year.
In my 24 years in Seymour, I’ve met everything from protective parents to police chiefs, investigators and insurance agents, teachers and town drunks, cops and cowboys, governors and grave diggers, characters and criminals, several folks who reached their 100th birthday and many more whose life ended too soon.
While covering the city and even being a part of city government, I’ve seen Seymour cycle through seven mayors and six city administrators.
Some were good.
Some were bad.
Some were mediocre.
But during my time in this community, never have I met a better person than Sam Burt, who retired last week as Seymour’s city administrator after nearly five years of dedicated service.
I’m a tough critic.
Too tough, many would say.
During Sam’s time as administrator, I’ve been both boostful and brutal when analyzing his actions.
In the process, I was blessed to get to know Sam as a person, a human being.
When you get to know Sam, one of the first things he’ll tell you is that he’s a pastor first. His actions confirm that.
He’s a good listener, which I suppose is a tenant for his preferred profession.
I know that Sam loves Seymour. Any member of the Seymour Board of Aldermen will tell you the same thing. So will the city’s 20 employees, whether it be a department supervisor, police officer or part-time mower.
Sam Burt came to city service during a tricky time.
His predecessor had resigned. The administrator before that left abruptly. The one before that was fired.
Soon after he assumed his post, we had a serious controversy within the police department where the chief was suspended.
The entire police force quit.
At the same time, the mayor resigned.
Not long after that, the city’s regime changed. A new mayor and two new board members were elected.
As a result of the shift in power, the city’s agenda changed.
A year later, the power shifted again.
Again, the city’s agenda changed.
The only constant was Sam Burt.
For much of his tenure in Seymour, Sam’s job was a moving target. Such is the case in public service, especially when you’re at the top of the pyramid.
Despite that, I watched as Sam worked daily to serve Seymour. I had a front-row seat as he built relationships within the community and his workforce. Not being a native son, building those bridges wasn’t easy.
I also watched as he groomed and elevated his ultimate successor, Hillary Gintz, who becomes the city’s seventh administrator since the retirement of Jimmy Crisp in 2004.
From the time he hired her two years ago until his departure last week, Sam has heaped praises upon her dedication and talents.
His legacy will show as time passes.
We wouldn’t have Gintz and her talents if not for Sam.
He brought back Bob Paudert as our police chief.
He ferreted out a few bad apples, elevated talented folks like Lance Davis and Toby Sanders. He built relationships with workforce leaders like James “Pud” Helms, Leslie Houk and Mitch Plummer.
His new hires include talented types on the police force such as Chase Davis, Alan Goff and Steven Pogue. Young talents like Brendan Brooke and Nicole Gonzales were discovered.
Looking back at Sam’s time in the city’s top post, his service was commendable. A list of his accomplishments can be found in a news story within this edition. They range from leading the development of property at Seymour’s northeast edge to creating a pay scale that ensured all of the city’s employees receive a livable wage and benefit package.
At the core of what Sam did was care.
That’s a key word when describing a man I’m proud to call my friend.
It’s very obvious Sam Burt cares about people.
He cares about key qualities such as honesty, integrity and respect. In today’s brutal world of wheeling, dealing and even openly taking advantage of others, Sam’s adherence to those qualities sometimes didn’t serve him well. Nowadays, transparency often can make you a casualty, which is a shame.
And he cared enough about Seymour that he realized it was time to turn the reins over to the city’s next administrator as the community enters a new decade that likely will result in widespread growth as our geographic location and proximity to Springfield makes that rapid transformation inevitable.
For almost five years, Sam had one of the toughest jobs in Seymour.
He served admirably.
We all should thank him for that service.
Dan Wehmer is the Citizen’s editor, publisher and owner.
He can be reached at 417-935-2257 or via e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.