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Filling vacancy on council agenda
Couch appeal hearing likely later this month
new deh wayne henneke mug shot
Wayne Henneke

On Tuesday, the Great Bend City Council will deal with the vacancy created with the resignation Ward 2 Councilman Wayne Henneke. This calls for a reminder about the upcoming Nov. 7 general election.

According to the city’s website, the governing body is made up of the mayor, who is elected by the city at large, and eight council members, two elected from each ward of the city. All serve two-year terms. Only one council member from each ward is elected at a time.

After Henneke’s resignation, Joel Jackson is only other Ward 2 council member and this seat is not on the ballot this year.  

Currently, Vicki Berryman and Mike Boys represent the First Ward, Jackson the Second Ward, Allene Owen and Cory Zimmerman the Third Ward, and Dana Dawson and Brock McPherson the Fourth Ward.

As of the June 1 filing deadline, the positions on the Nov. 7 ballot include the mayor and four council positions. Those who filed were:

• Mayor: (Mike Allison is not seeking reelection) – Brock R. McPherson, Allene Owen and Joe Andrasek.

• Council Ward 1: (Seat currently held by Boys) Dan Heath and Boys.

• Council Ward 2: (Seat held by Henneke who was not seeking reelection) Rachel E. Mawhirter, Matt Suchy and Jolene Biggs.

• Council Ward 3: (Seat currently held by Owen who is running for mayor) Stacy Dougherty, Thomas Boor and Cory Urban.

• Council Ward 4: (Seat currently held by Dawson who is not running) Andrew Scott Erb. 

On the agenda for the Great Bend City Council meeting Tuesday night is the vacancy created by the Aug. 15 resignation of Second Ward Councilman Wayne Henneke in the wake of the ongoing controversy engulfing the city and suspended Police Chief Cliff Couch. Also on the to-do list is the election of a new council president since Henneke had served in that capacity.

Due to the Labor Day holiday, the council will not meet Monday night. Instead, it will meet at 7:30 p.m. Tuesday at the Great Bend Events Center, 3111 10th St.

However, not on the agenda is the Couch’s hearing before the council to appeal his suspension, Acting City Administrator Bob Suelter said. The hearing will likely take place the week of Sept. 11.

As for the council opening, the mayor has traditionally appointed a committee of two council members to join him and reviewing applications and interviewing candidates, Suelter said. The three make a recommendation for full council approval with the mayor voting as well.

Suelter said the city has 60 days to fill the vacancy and the clock started ticking when Henneke resigned, and there have already been a handful of applications. But the official notice of the opening won’t go out until after the council signs off on it and that will probably be Tuesday night.

Suelter said this is the way the way it was done in the past and this is what he is recommending. The council may opt for a different approach Tuesday.

Henneke’s seat on the council was up for reelection this November, but he was not running. Candidates for the seat include Rachel E. Mawhirter, Matt Suchy and Jolene Biggs.

Henneke released the following statement the day following his resignation: “I have had the privilege to work in City Government from 1974–2012. With the last job with the City of Great Bend as finance director/city clerk from 1996-2012. I have been on the City Council since 2013.

“With the turmoil in the city such as it is, and the city administrator resigning. I do not need or want the stress. I am resigning my position effective immediately.”

On that same Wednesday, long-time City Administrator Howard Partington announced his retirement, citing stress caused by the situation. 

“I have dedicated the past nearly 36 years to serving this community and looked forward to retirement early next year,” Partington said in a statement. “However, the recent actions of a loud and malicious minority including bullying, relentless harassment, threats, and untrue comments made about me have caused great pain to my family.”

The conflict has roiled for months and has included allegations by Couch of unethical behavior at the city level and harassment by city officials. Partington has countered that Couch has been insubordinate.

There have been numerous City Council executive sessions and special council meetings since early June. Since Couch’s suspension on July 24, there has been a citizens’ campaign to install blue signs supporting Couch around town, and a crowd of 400-plus residents attended the Aug. 7 council meeting.