After the Great Bend City Council adjourned its regular meeting Monday night to the disapproving shouts and jeers from supporters of suspended Police Chief Cliff Couch gathered at the Great Bend Events Center, Bryan Harris stepped to the podium and addressed the restless crowd.
“Now it is time for our meeting,” he said, meeting with cheers and applause from the throng.
“This is business as usual,” he said. “That is why they call it politics.’
He was referring to the council ending its meeting after allowing only one person to speak on the Couch matter, retired police officer Terry Millard.
They were also upset that the council didn’t address other issues pertaining to the turmoil embroiling the Couch and the city, except to appoint City Attorney Bob Suelter as the short-term interim city administrator to replace the retired Howard Partington.
The meeting had been moved to the Events Center due to an expected large audience. Couch supporters were given permission to meet for a short time after the council’s adjournment.
“I didn’t wear my boots,” Harris said about the mess those gathered feel was created by city officials.
But, “we have our big boy pants and big girl panties on,” he said. “We are all adults here.”
Great Bend residents get up, go to work and do their jobs to support their families, he said. “The people of Great Bend are great. Look how many of you showed up.”
He said he is proud to be from Great Bend and proud of the city, city employees, the Great Bend Police and Fire departments, and the Barton County Sheriff’s Office.
“Don’t back off,” he said, adding that everyone needs to vote. “When we get a council that works for the people of Great Bend, then the work begins.”
He called for honesty, transparency and cameras in the council chambers.
Joe Trimmer took the podium, urging everyone to be respectful of the process. “Write into the city and get on the agenda,” he said.
This met with resistance from some present who said they’ve tried and been rejected.
But, Trimmer said it does work.
“We all can be leaders in our community,” said Laura Miller, whose husband is a police officer. “Continue to speak up. But we need to do it positively. No more threats. Stay positive and work together.”
She said they must press for an investigation to ensure both sides of the story are exposed. “We just want to know the truth.”
Voting is important, but “we need to be informed voters,” Miller said.
On another unrelated issue, Harris brought up a loan the city made to the organizers of the My Town project, an effort by local business people a few years ago to bring new business to the downtown. Some claim this money has never been paid back.
Mark Bitter, one of My Town’s founders spoke. “These are questions I’ve heard over and over.”
The loan is being paid and is current, he said. “There is a lot of misinformation out there. My Town was a great thing for this community.”
The crowd jeered Bitter. City officials still present told the audience this information was in the city’s audit report that was available free on the city’s website.