Don Reimal thinks long-term.
What will happen April 21 is an example.
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That will be Reimal’s last day as Independence mayor, the same day the winner of Tuesday’s election is sworn in.
The ceremony will end Reimal’s eight years as mayor, as well as 20 years of public service. Voters first elected him to represent the First District — northwest Independence — on the City Council in 1994.
Reimal, 72, did not seek a third term.
“It’s time,” he said.
But that’s not the only change for him and his wife, Jo.
They’ve sold the home on North Delaware Avenue where they have lived for some 35 years and reared two daughters.
But they are not leaving northwest Independence, where Reimal grew up, attending Van Horn High School.
Instead, they are moving within the First District to the 1500 block of South Ash Avenue, to the early 20th century home that Jo Reimal grew up in.
If it’s a sentimental decision, it’s also a financial one.
One of his daughters recently moved out of the home, Reimal said, and his family would take a significant financial hit in capital gains taxes if they sold it.
So Reimal has been renovating the house. He and his wife expect to move in soon.
They have made a financial decision, but so have more young families who have bought properties in northwest Independence and invested in the area’s future. The revitalization of northwest Independence has been a constant theme for Reimal, and he has supported several city policy decisions that he believes have strengthened the district.
“I’m putting my money where my mouth is,” he said.
He and his wife also will be participating in the 353 tax abatement program that Reimal has championed for many years. The program, available in many northwest Independence neighborhoods, grants tax abatement to property owners who upgrade their properties to certain standards and then maintain them.
Reimal long has credited the program for revitalizing the sometimes distressed residential districts of northwest Independence, including those around the Truman Home at North Delaware Avenue and Truman Road.
“We will be treated like everybody else,” said Reimal.
“We will have to spend a certain amount of money to qualify and then be re-inspected every five years. We are John Q. Public in this.”
Reimal’s tenure was relatively peaceful politically.
Former Mayor Barbara Potts said she appreciated how City Council meetings have not included much obvious animosity. Reimal more than once has commented upon the importance of decorum at meetings and respect among council members.
“Things have seemed to run smoothly with his leadership,” said Potts. “Not everybody is going to think alike but there is a way of discussing different points of view without becoming irritable,” she said.
One achievement that pleases Reimal was the voter-approved transfer of schools in northwest Independence and Sugar Creek to the Independence School District. Until 2007, they were in the Kansas City school district.
Area residents long had lost confidence in the Kansas City district, Reimal said.
“We were passing around petitions 40 years ago,” he said. “Even back then the district had begun to fail and kids were not getting good educations.”
But the years passed and the northwest end continued to deteriorate as longtime employers shut down and families bought homes elsewhere and sent their children to other schools.
While the switch was led by Reimal and several others, chiefly former State Sen. Victor Callahan, many grassroots leaders made a crucial difference, Reimal said.
“There was a meeting in my office with the school district and many pastors from around the area,” he said.
Those pastors, Reimal said, convinced residents that consolidation could work.
“Today Korte (Elementary) is bursting at the seams,” he said.
He’s also pleased to see the rebirth of Independence Regional Health Center.
The protests were loud and long in 2007 when HCA Midwest opened Centerpoint Medical Center in southeast Independence and then, on the same day, shut down two older Independence hospitals.
Those were the Medical Center of Independence and Independence Regional.
The latter had served as an economic and emotional anchor of northwest Independence since 1909. Many residents were upset that they would be without easy access to health care.
But today the old hospital is home to the Ennovation Center, a business incubator. Entrepreneurs operate approximately 30 businesses, many of them food-related.
Meanwhile, Truman Medical Center-Lakewood and Swope Health Services are planning new health facilities in northwest Independence, Reimal added.
Reimal remains frustrated, though, that Crackerneck Creek retail district still needs tenants.
In 2004 city officials approved a tax increment financing district for the new center anchored by a Bass Pro Shops store.
That opened in 2008, but the many new restaurants and stores that were expected never showed up.
Sales tax revenue from those businesses was supposed to help pay off the general-obligation bonds used to build the center. Now the city has spent millions meeting those obligations.
“That project was vetted through the city, the county and two state administrations,” he said last week. “Everyone agreed that it was a good project, and nobody foresaw that the economy would be going down the tubes.”
Reimal believes the Stoney Creek Inn, expected to open later this year, will attract new tenants to the district.
“I have no doubt in my mind,” he said, adding “but it’s taken longer than we wanted.”
But, then again, Reimal thinks long-term.
Reimal, for years a contractor and carpenter, has done much of the renovation work on the South Ash Avenue house himself.
That includes the oak trim in the windowsills.
Some 47 years ago, Reimal and his young family were living in a three-story farmhouse not far from the home on South Ash.
About 35 years ago, well before he was elected to the City Council, the Reimal family sold the house to the city, which wanted to clear the lot to expand a fire station.
As part of the deal, he saved many antique items, among them light fixtures, wood trim, even a staircase.
He reused a lot of that material — the staircase went into his North Delaware residence — and stored much of the wood trim for 35 years.
“I knew I couldn’t throw it away,” he said.
“I figured it had to be mature oak, anywhere from 50 to 75 years old, maybe a little older.
“And that house had been there for about 100 years. So figuring the wood is about 175 years old, and then adding the 35 years I had it in storage, that means that oak is possibly 200 years old.”
There’s a moral in there somewhere.
“Waste not, want not,” Reimal said.