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Hancock mayor resigns, citing health reasons

Kali Katerberg/For the Gazette Former Hancock mayor John Haeussler poses for a picture for the Daily Mining Gazette in this file photo from shortly after accepting the position. Haeussler stepped down from the position Wednesday due to health concerns.

HANCOCK — Hancock Mayor John Haeussler resigned from the City Council for health reasons at Wednesday’s meeting.

“I wanted to resign in person so everyone could see me so I could say thanks,” he said Thursday. “We had a nice crowd and a lot of people turned out. It was heartwarming. I made it through.”

In his resignation letter, Haeussler said he was stepping down after multiple heart attacks over the past month. He had two surgeries this month, including one the day before the council meeting.

Due to his “all-in” personality, he was working 15 to 20 hours a week in his role as mayor, Haeussler said in his letter.

“I don’t feel that a reduced role with the city in deference to my current condition is a good fit for my temperament or in the best interests of the city,” he said in the letter. “It’s time for me to be selfish, clear my schedule, and approach my health and time with my family with the same zeal I’ve pursued other interests.”

Haeussler has been on the council for six years. At or near the top of his achievements was the passage of the city’s recreation millage in 2016, which has yielded improvements such as the new dock at the city beach. He’s also proud of the city’s sesquicentennial celebration in 2018, which included 17 presentations and the release of a commemorative book.

“That was a tremendous group effort I was fortunate enough to take the lead on,” he said.

His final meeting also saw the council pass a budget that incorporated extra payments into the city’s retirement account.

“We’re not going to get our retirement account funded overnight, but over the course of many years, by paying back a little more than we have to every year,” he said. “We’re turning in the right direction.”

To replace Haeussler, former Mayor Pro Tem Paul LaBine was chosen as mayor, with Will Lytle becoming mayor pro tem.

Wednesday’s sendoff for Haeussler was emotional, with many community members coming to show thier support, LaBine said. He called Haeussler’s contributions to the city “almost immeasurable.”

“He’s been in the community pretty much untiringly for many years in the realms of the school district, recreation,” he said. “He’s one of our best historians of the city … for not being from the area originally, the way he’s adopted it and made it a big part of his life’s work recently, it’s impressive.”

LaBine said prior to Haeussler’s health problems, he had planned to step down as mayor and return to being a regular council member at the November organizational meeting. So becoming mayor had been anticipated, but this moved up the timetable.

“My priorities are working with (City Manager) Barry (Givens), making sure his job is as streamlined and as productive as possible, working on business development downtown, recreation, code enforcement, all the things we’ve been working on already,” LaBine said.

Haeussler said what he’ll miss most is the people with whom he got to work — staff, council and active residents.

“We forged a lot of friendships over the common goal of improving our community, and those are going to last forever,” he said.

Though he’s stepping away from city government, Haeussler isn’t done with civic life. He’s kicking off a series of history presentations at the Hancock Public Library on July 24. The talk “Fire, Miners, Elephants: Hancock in Pictures and Words 1860-1940” will include historical images along with text from contemporary sources such as newspapers.

“I encourage everyone to come out and check out the library, talk a little Hancock history together,” he said.

Under the city’s charter, vacancies must be filled by the next regular council meeting. Because Haeussler’s seat was at-large, the city will accept letters of interest from any eligible person who lives in the city.

Residents must submit the letters at City Hall at 399 Quincy St. by July 12. The partial term runs through November 2020.

At the moment, Haeussler views leaving the council as permanent.

“I certainly would never say no, but I don’t see it in the foreseeable future,” he said. “It is a stress reducer and heavy relaxation on my schedule to step down from this commitment, and that’s what I need right now.”

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