Losing Hartmann is tough for the city

As you’ll see in the Custer City Council story on page one of this week’s issue of the Custer County Chronicle, the City of Custer is about to lose its planning administrator, Tim Hartmann. Actually, as you’re reading this, Hartmann has already left city hall for all intents and purposes. His last day at city hall was last Friday. His official last day is this Oct. 7.
Hartmann didn’t go into a whole lot of detail about why he was leaving when we contacted him for our story other than to say he was going into the private sector. So, any discussion as to what led to him leaving city hall would be pure speculation. I guess that’s what we are about to do is speculate. None of this is the gospel or hard facts, but it doesn’t take a rocket scientist to draw a line from one place to the other on some of this.
If you’ve been to a city council meeting in the last year or so, you’ve seen that Hartmann was frequently a punching bag, usually for nothing more than doing his job and enforcing the city’s ordinances. One particular meeting he was dressed down by a few members of the audience over a few issues. It would have been nice if someone would have jumped in to support him, but that didn’t happen. To his credit, he always kept his composure and explained why things were done the way they were. He remained professional when I’m sure it was difficult.
People are increasingly hostile when they don’t get their way immediately. It seems to be tolerated, and even encouraged. We see it in our line of work. You probably do, too. Hartmann was often the bearer of bad news, or more specifically, city ordinances, which inevitably led to conflict. If you don’t like a city ordinance, however, your beef is with the council, not with the person enforcing the ordinances. If you think something is too cumbersome at the city, go to a council meeting and ask for the ordinance to be changed. Don’t shoot the messenger. We could all stand to be a lot more kind to each other, even when we’re frustrated. Yelling and screaming and making threats does nothing to improve the situation. By the way, making threats isn’t only way out of bounds, it’s often illegal.
Inevitably, people who feel they were wronged by Hartmann will read this and roll their eyes. They’ll be glad he is gone. They are certainly entitled to that opinion. But, be careful what you wish for. The next person may be even more of a stickler for the rules. The ordinances are still going to be enforced no matter who is in that seat. They have to be. If we want the Wild West where anything goes and all planning is willy-nilly, that won’t work out very well.
We would like to thank Hartmann for his service to the City of Custer. From our perspective, he was the best planning administrator the city has had in quite some time. No, he wasn’t perfect. Nobody is. Yes, he was young and had to learn on the job. But he’s a Custer resident who grew into the job and could have made it a career. Now it’s on to the next person in a job that has far too much turnover.
We can’t help but feel that this time the turnover is due in part to the way he was treated, and that’s a shame.

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