What gives with Rapid City (SD) Mayor Sam Kooiker? All of a sudden he seems to have gone from a reasonably level-headed city exec to 1) a reckless power-consolidator without much regard for the input of other city officials and 2) a brazen political machinist trying to pack county offices with his allies. On that last score, I really don't fault Kooiker for supporting people in their quests for elected and appointed positions in the area, but I'm noticing a trend that is disconcerting. The common element of his recent activities? Kooiker is transparently pushing friendship and political allegiance over experience, much to the peril of city and county residents, of which I happen to be both. I don't like this. More to Kooiker's political peril, it belies the level-headedness that he seeks to maintain and project as a crucial element of his executive authority. As outgoing Alderwoman Bonny Petersen expressed it to me this morning, "it would all be laughable if it wasn't so serious."
Right on, Bonny. It was irksome and annoying during the primary season that ended a couple of weeks ago to put up with Kooiker's repeatedly gratuitous and cloying robo-calls favoring John Roberts and Jordan Mason for county offices. But as aggravating as the campaign was, it had, as Bonny notes, a laughable element to it. Both Roberts, running for County Auditor, and Mason, running for Register of Deeds, had the support of local "Wingnuts" (as they proudly dub themselves). The candidates had nothing discernible in the way of education and experience that qualified them for the respective offices they sought, but that was no impediment to their reckless campaigns. Kooiker and these political dilettantes are apparently more interested in making statements than staffing county offices with experienced and competent people. The voters agreed, trashing both the Roberts and Mason campaigns by 70-30 margins in favor of the vastly more experienced incumbents.
Obviously, the shattered delusions of Kooiker and his fellow "Wingnutters" didn't make much of an impression on the mayor, who just embarrassed himself even more acutely with his failed effort at picking a new Police Chief for Rapid City. A few days ago Kooiker cavalierly bypassed long-standing procedures by selecting a candidate for police chief with no input from the Rapid City Council, which was not only an unseemly slap in the face to Rapid City's district representatives and their constituents, but a message to the citizens of Rapid City that Kooiker has no respect for a process of decades-long standing that has produced a succession of Police Chiefs that have done commendable jobs of running the RCPD. At yesterday's council meeting, which Mayor Kooiker must have assumed would be a rubber stamp approval of his choice (a fine officer and gentleman named Elias Diaz, who deserves much better treatment than this), considering that the Mayor scheduled a break in the council meeting for a reception for Diaz. That plan was unceremoniously derailed by an 8-2 city council rejection of Diaz.
Square One is where the selection process now stands. I'm confident that the politically chastened Kooiker has learned to respect the process and I look forward to a new Police Chief who will undergo some rigorous consideration by a collection of qualified and experienced public officials who will put experience over politics during their deliberations. This should do Sam Kooiker some good, now that he's had the experience of standing before the public with green eggs and ham all over his face.