County Christmas tree becomes main complaint on McCulloch’s first day

Darrell Todd Maurina

County Christmas tree becomes main complaint on McCulloch’s first day

Don McCulloch said this tree has become his major cause of complaints on his first day in office as Pulaski County Presiding Commissioner.
WAYNESVILLE, Mo. (Dec. 2, 2009) — The new Pulaski County Presiding Commissioner, Don McCulloch, knows that his most problematic agenda item in coming months will be the dire state of the county’s budget, but that’s not what people want to talk to him about right now.

Even during interviews with media following his swearing-in ceremony Wednesday morning, McCulloch’s cell phone was buzzing with calls from area residents concerned about an evergreen on the southwest side of the courthouse square, commonly known as the “Courthouse Christmas Tree.” Responding to concerns about overgrowth, the county’s landscaper aggressively trimmed the tree during the weekend, leading to concerns at Monday morning’s county commission meeting and complaints by the Old Courthouse Museum curator, Marge Scott, that the tree had been destroyed by improper trimming.

“I don’t mind saying that the main question I’ve had today, especially in my first day as presiding commissioner, has been the Christmas tree in the square on which the branches have been raised,” McCulloch said. “It doesn’t look like there’s any way to salvage it, from my point of view.”

The tree has had many of the lower branches removed and the top has been trimmed as well. McCulloch said he didn’t yet know what solution he’ll propose to the tree problem, or to prevent similar problems in the future.

The presiding commissioner’s duties focus on courthouse issues, not road work, and McCulloch said he won’t try to interfere in the designated duties of Eastern District Commissioner Bill Farnham or Western District Commissioner Ricky Zweerink.

“I want to reiterate that the presiding commissioner has no authority over the roads,” McCulloch said. “There is an eastern and a western side, they have a (road) crew. The presiding commissioner has no crew, does not do roads, however people can contact me if they can’t get a hold of one of the others and I’ll pass the word on.”

However, unlike the practice of former Presiding Commissioner Bill Ransdall, McCulloch said he will be casting a vote on most issues unless there is a conflict of interest or some other reason he can’t vote. Ransdall’s position was that he voted only when he needed to break a tie between the other two commissioners.

“Right or wrong, I think people should know where I stand,” McCulloch said.

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