Standing ovations are rare at City Hall, but outgoing Commissioner Mike Amyx received two of them Monday night.
Amyx first joined the City Commission in 1983 — at the age of 29 — and has spent more than 20 years in public office, including six terms as mayor. As the last meeting of Amyx’s term got underway Monday at City Hall, his fellow commissioners had much to say.
Commissioner Matthew Herbert said Amyx’s years of service showed a level of dedication to the community that had never been seen before. Herbert, who two years ago was among four newcomers to the five-member commission, said Amyx’s presence was reassuring. Most importantly, he said that was the case no matter the vote.
“Whether we agreed or not, every single Tuesday we’d leave this room and we’d walk to the parking garage together,” Herbert said. “And that also is an unbelievably reassuring feeling, that when you’re sitting up here with people — and tensions run pretty high pretty regularly — it’s really comforting to know that at the end of the day, even when you take a left-hand turn and they take a right, that you’re both going to meet up at the same place.”
Mayor Stuart Boley agreed, saying that Amyx has been “the glue that’s held us together.” Likewise, Vice Mayor Lisa Larsen said that when she was first seated on the commission that he was her crutch.
“I didn’t know anybody except for Mike, so it was quite daunting,” Larsen said. “But I knew that Mike Amyx presented something that was more solid than anything in Lawrence that I’ve ever known.”
Amyx, turning to his fellow commissioners on the dais, thanked them for their kindness, but said the body is not about him but about “our great city.” Still, Amyx, who comes from a family of downtown Lawrence barbers, said that he's grateful for the opportunity to serve on the commission.
“For a kid to grow up in Lawrence, Kansas, and ultimately end up in the center chair of this commission is truly something to be proud of,” Amyx said.
Amyx talked about representing Lawrence on a visit to one of its sister cities, Eutin, Germany, and getting to meet President Barack Obama. Of his visit to Germany, he recalled looking out to see the Lawrence flag flying outside Eutin's City Hall and said the photo of him and Obama shaking hands hangs in his house.
After also thanking his wife, family and members of city staff, Amyx had some parting words for his fellow commissioners, three of whom were sworn into new terms Monday.
“As you take the oath, take that oath very seriously,” Amyx said. “You’re protecting the public health, safety and welfare of the citizens of our community, and it’s something that is so important to do.”
To begin the meeting, Commissioner Leslie Soden presented Amyx with a key to the city and a plaque marking his years of service, bringing attendees to their feet in applause. As remarks concluded, Amyx received his second standing ovation. And once the newly sworn-in commissioners took their oaths, Amyx, with the key on a blue ribbon around his neck, literally stepped down from his long-held seat and took a chair among the public.