During the April 19 City Council meeting on police use-of-force Mayor Sean VanGordon stated, “progress is different than perfection.” Implied in VanGordon’s statement is: 1. Perfection starts with progress. 2. Striving for perfection (excellence) is a worthy and real goal for Springfield.

Longtime observers of the Springfield Council will note incredible transformation within just the past few months, with the promise of more change for the better.

A few examples follow:

In filling a Council vacancy, the Council appointed Damien Pitts, the first African-American to serve on the Council in decades. With the courage of the combat veteran he is, the lessons of the Eagle Scout that he is, and with humility Councilor Pitts is firmly and respectfully inviting his Council colleagues to examine issues through a different lens. 

During the April 19 meeting, leadership of the Springfield Police Department made no excuses for mistakes and made genuine commitments to reform the department through implementation of modern professional standards, training, and modern policing tools that will permit more detailed and accurate reporting and tracking of incidents.

Council listened with intense interest to use-of-force expert Michael Gennaco. City Manager Nancy Newton committed to ensuring changes are made.

Instead of discouraging public engagement and responding defensively to public testimony, Council is expressing appreciation for the engagement of the public.

Council meetings have a new and refreshing tone of collaboration and civility. This not only makes the Council more productive, it gives the public confidence that City leaders are more interested in solving problems than in bickering.

Although Newton has been on the job only one year, she has faced an entire career’s worth of crises and problems during that year. She has handled them with calm professionalism and an obvious commitment to getting things right.

Council seems to have discontinued a prior practice of treating “head nod” agreements as Council decisions. Council decisions are increasingly made through a formal vote, on the record, with the public having an opportunity to weigh in prior to the final vote. Transparency is an effective tool in building public confidence.

Council has learned that it was misled when it was told by prior elected leadership that private developers had no interest in Glenwood. Council was told after the fact that the City turned away private developers interested in Glenwood and discontinued a city contract with a respected consultant to promote private development, in order to preserve the site for an ill-fated project favored by elected leadership. This kind of deceptive practice is over.

Transparency, civility, accountability, inclusivity, social justice, productivity, commitment to improvement, confident humility, and maximizing Springfield’s potential are becoming the watchwords of City leadership.

This new approach is not only refreshing, it is essential to the effective exercise of democracy in our community and the restoration of vitality to Springfield. Kudos to our city leadership.

Mike Eyster serves on public boards and was a Springfield mayoral candidate in 2020.