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About-face: new
downtown leaders quit

Wilson back in line to be MSPA chairman

by Ivan Foley
Landmark editor

An about-face.

The new officers for the Main Street Parkville Association (MSPA) who were elected in what some members alleged was a “coup” led by Mayor Nan Johnston have already resigned their positions.

Now a new slate of officers has been nominated for an election to be held Jan. 20. That new slate proposes Troy Wilson, the chairman who was ousted two weeks ago, be elected chairman.

The new officers had been voted in at what turned into a controversial meeting held Dec. 9. The activity and disagreement among the voting membership led to a state organization pulling a $40,000 grant that had been approved for the MSPA.

Elected as the new chairman on Dec. 9 was Alisha Blackwelder, who works for Park University in university relations and development.

Under the new slate to be voted upon Jan. 20, Blackwelder is nominated as vice chairman.

Blackwelder throughout the past two weeks has declined the chance to comment on the situation.

Johnston has denied that the ousting of Wilson as chair was a move of hers orchestrated behind the scenes.

Reached this week for comment now that appears Wilson will soon be back in the role of chairman, Johnston said:

“I think it’s great that everybody is working together. I’m happy. I think it will probably help save the grant.”

Asked why she feels the new officers have resigned, Johnston said: “Probably because of the uproar it caused.”

Tom Hutsler, a past chairman of the MSPA and still an active member, said the four newly elected officers requested a meeting on Friday with the former officers. Hutsler said he and Wilson met with all four of them.

“They said they wanted to resign and have a new election,” Hutsler said.

Asked why he thought the new officers were already stepping down, Hutsler said: “I think with all the controversy they got a lot of pressure from the companies they work for.”

Hutsler said he feels that Blackwelder was “an innocent pawn in the mayor’s game of chess.”

Hutsler reiterated that he feels Marsha VanDever, executive director of the Parkville Chamber of Commerce who asked Blackwelder at the Dec. 9 meeting if she would rather be chairman than vice chairman, was pressured to initiate the move by the mayor.

VanDever denied in an interview with The Landmark last week that she had any advance discussion about the situation with Johnston. VanDever also said she did not feel it was inappropriate for her, as a paid employee of one civic organization, to be heavily involved in discussions of officers for the downtown organization MSPA.

Chris Collins, a vice president of Capital Federal Savings, who had been elected treasurer in the uproar on Dec. 9, has now resigned and has said he has no interest in serving as an officer.

The activity at the Dec. 9 meeting was witnessed by a representative of the Missouri Main Street Connection, which had already given verbal approval to the MSPA for a $40,000 grant.

Two days after the Dec. 9 meeting, the agency notified MSPA it had lost the grant. The notification letter came from Gayla Roten, executive director of the Missouri Main Street Connection, who said the grant was being recalled because “the community is struggling with coming together to be able to put in appropriate time and energy into carrying out the goals and objectives for a united community revitalization plan.”

The grant, which would have included a match of $9600 in local money split three ways among the MSPA, the Parkville Old Towne Community Improvement District (CID) and the City of Parkville, would have brought in the Missouri Main Street Connection Inc. as a major asset to the local organization.

“We’ve lost out on all the insight and training that they can bring to the table,” Wilson said last week. He said areas that have been awarded those grants in the past have shown economic growth despite strains in the economy.

Hutsler said that “maybe in about 60 days” the MSPA will approach the Missouri Main Street Association about re-acquiring a grant. Hutsler said it has been suggested that the next time MSPA should come up with the matching money all on its own and forget including the City of Parkville and the CID in the grant process.

“That way you keep the politics out of it,” Hutsler said.

“I’ve been in the MSPA since its inception and I’ve never seen politics infiltrate the organization more than it did this year,” he added.