Mike Sanders' Inaugural Address
January 2, 2007
Thank you all for joining us here today.
I am deeply humbled and honored to be entrusted with the stewardship of this office.
An election is about much more than just the selection of new leadership. It is about the endorsement of the policies and principles offered by an administration for a new direction, a change in course. It is a responsibility and a challenge that I, and the members of the legislature, face with great enthusiasm.
This great county covering over 600 square miles and home to more than 650,000 residents is a place filled with immense beauty and great people. We boast some of the nation’s best parks and attractions, as well as great homes, neighborhoods, and businesses – large and small. My wife Georgia and I feel truly privileged to live here with you.
I’m able to stand before you because of the work and sacrifices of those who came before me.
Whether it’s my father’s parents who struggled as orphans during the Great Depression, or my mother’s great grandparents that came to Missouri with only what they could haul in a covered wagon, all shared one ideal: the optimism that their struggle and sacrifice would make life better for future generations. My parents never shied away from hard work. The lessons I learned from them have prepared me to face the job ahead with optimism and the belief that by working together we can overcome any obstacle.
We are all here because of those who came before us. Who we are, and what we have become as a people flows directly from those past generations that toiled and sacrificed in the name of a better tomorrow.
Our democratic system relies upon each succeeding generation making a sacrifice in the name of service and a better tomorrow. This is the legacy we have been handed. Our time to act is today, but the impact of our actions will be felt by our children.
As we meet here today, I am mindful of the monument that rests just above us. It reminds us that it is one thing to live or govern during periods of tranquility, when coffers are overflowing, and everything is running smoothly. Ralph Applebaum who designed this wonderful museum said, “What it really brings alive are the voices, thoughts and ideas of everyday soldiers and citizens. And so you end up in a certain way hearing voices from the past that resonate so much with the voices we hear today.” This monument helps to remind us that the crucible that forges and reveals great people, is how they respond during moments of trial, testing and challenge.
One man whose voice rose to the challenge at just such a time, and was a decorated veteran of the war this monument honors, was President Harry S. Truman. In recognition of the legacy that our history bestows us, he said:
“America was not built on fear. America was built on courage, on imagination, and an unbeatable determination to do the job at hand.”
Today, we gather to formally begin to accomplish the job at hand. And, Harry was right – it will require courage, imagination and determination. But, working together I know we can rise to the challenge and achieve our goals.
We cannot allow ourselves to forget the invaluable lessons of our past. Our nation, this state, our great county was built by a people that risked everything, and ventured eagerly into an uncertain new frontier, all in pursuit of a better future. This same spirit must define our new administration. We will not fear change, but rather will embrace the great opportunities that lay before us.
There are those that say that high ideals and Jackson County government can never go hand-in-hand. They, however, underestimate our resolve.
Today, it is truly time for change. It is time for a new beginning.
Last fall a clear message was sent through our county, and throughout our entire nation. We must change how our government does business. We will usher in that change, because it is the right thing to do and the public should expect nothing less of us.
At just such a time of needed change for our nation, President Teddy Roosevelt said at his inauguration in 1905.
“Much has been given us, and much will be rightfully expected from us. We have duties to others and duties to ourselves; and we can shirk from neither.”
Today, let’s pledge together that we will expect nothing less than excellence from ourselves, and from our county government. Anything less will be unacceptable.
It is no longer acceptable that we have a county government that spends more than it makes and relies on quick one-time budget fixes just to get through the year.
It is no longer acceptable that we have operated without a rigorous code of ethics.
It is no longer acceptable that a veil of secrecy has existed around how our government operates and spends our money.
And, it is no longer acceptable that some families in our community sit in their homes afraid to venture out for fear of violence. Also, we must act so that senior citizens no longer have to fear being forced from their homes because of the rising property tax burden.
To address these issues, today, I am announcing the following initiatives.
The time has come to get our fiscal house in order. It is time to balance the books, and to implement policies that will ensure the fiscal integrity of our great county. To do so, in the weeks ahead we must critically examine every program, measure its performance, and demand more from ourselves with less. We must do all of this without falling back to the old quick fix of raising taxes to avoid making the necessary touch choices. Raising taxes stifles county businesses, and takes money out of the pockets of working families. We will balance our books with sound policies, accountability and fiscal integrity.
Today, I am announcing that we will establish a Code of Ethics that will be presented to the County Legislature within the first 60 days of my administration. Our new code will apply to everyone who serves you, the citizens of this great county. And it will apply to me as your County Executive. You have the right to expect that this new standard of excellence will help restore your confidence in every aspect of Jackson County government.
I pledge to do everything in my power to lift the veil of secrecy surrounding business practices at the Courthouse. I will work to limit any and all no bid personal service contracts that were entered into without legislative input or oversight. By limiting my power I hope to send a clear message that from this day forward, Jackson County is open for business – but all of the people’s business will be open for public scrutiny.
I pledge to make public safety a priority throughout our county and ensure that all of our residents, no matter where they live, can be certain that government is fulfilling its key priority of keeping them safe.
To address this challenge, today, I am announcing that by the end of our first week, we will file a motion in Federal Court to end the “jail matrix.” This action will ensure that prosecutors, judges and law enforcement officers will decide who remains in our jail, and who does not.
We not only need to be safe in our homes we must be able to afford to stay in our homes. Therefore, I am announcing the creation of a bipartisan task force to examine the assessment and appraisal process so that all of us can feel confident in the way our most valuable asset is being taxed. Further, the task force will examine new strategies to ensure that our seniors are not forced from their homes. I promise you that I will work with all of my skills and energy to bring about the changes the voters resoundingly asked of us.
We must – you must – expect more from your elected officials. We must raise the bar of expectations about how your government operates, and I will do everything in my power to live up to those new expectations.
It is time to start planning for the next generation. All we need to do is to look into the eyes of our children, to remind us what our purpose must be. The people give us these offices not for the sole purpose of exercising power, but to aspire to and honor the highest ideals of our forbearers, to whom we owe so much.
Few American voices are as clear as the Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. when he said:
“The ultimate measure of a man is not where he stands in moments of comfort and convenience, but where he stands at times of challenge and controversy.”
So, ladies and gentlemen, when our work is done, let those who come after us say that we chose to do what was right over what was easy but wrong, and that today truly was a new beginning.
And finally I want each of you to know that I am confident that I possess the energy and the hope not to compromise the vision we have created here today.
Now, let us begin our journey together asking that God bless our work, protect our County and our beloved Country, and asking God the giver of every good gift to give us the grace to serve you all with honor, dignity and justice.