Jahnz bids farewell to Lincoln Town Council

Jahnz bids farewell to Lincoln Town Council

The Lincoln Town Council says a bittersweet goodbye to Councilman James Jahnz during their Dec. 18 meeting. From left: Councilors Kenneth Pichette, Keith Macksoud, Jahnz, Bruce Ogni, Arthur Russo and Town Administrator Joseph Almond. (Breeze photos by Nicole Dotzenrod)

LINCOLN – When James Jahnz was first elected to the Lincoln Town Council 12 years ago, the political culture in town was generally “divisive,” in the words of Councilor Arthur Russo. Council President Keith Macksoud described it as a “period of less-than-cordial discourse.”

After Jahnz was elected, it only took a couple of meetings for the atmosphere to change, Macksoud said.

Addressing attendees of the meeting, Rep. Jeremiah T. O’Grady, who served on the Council from 2005 to 2009, said, “there were some pretty ugly times in this building … there were lousy headlines and a lot of instability in this room prior to this council and administrator. Stability took hold and flourished during Jim’s tenure here.”

“Jim brought an intense thought process, the highest character and respect back to the District 4 seat,” said Russo. “He was the last piece of the ‘political puzzle’ to return the council to the people’s work.”

Stepping down after 12 years, Jahnz said a bittersweet goodbye on Jan. 18 as he prepared to pass the baton to Democrat Pamela Azar, who won her campaign for election in September. Jahnz, who represents District 4 and serves as council vice president, said he’s looking forward to being able to devote more time to his family.

Jahnz was elected at age 33. “Not the youngest in town history, but I think I’m in the top five,” he said. Among his list of accomplishments, he said his biggest job on the council was constituent work.

“I’ve tried to be respectful to each request,” he said. “In 12 years there was never a call or email I didn’t return.”

He’s proud to have put a resolution forward to help save a group home on Southwick Drive and of keeping his campaign promise to return public comment to all subcommittee meetings.

He’s also proud of the work done with his co-councilors to allocate excess gambling revenues from Twin River Casino toward capital improvements even in an economic downturn, which eventually led to significant investment in the high school.

Jahnz said he is most proud to have overcome the divisive times of the past to come together as a council for the betterment of the community.

Macksoud said Jahnz’s ability to negotiate contracts, resolve disputes, introduce resolutions and ordinances to benefit the community and add valuable insight to discussions was beyond reproach. He was “a true public servant,” and would always vote his conscience without compromising his values.

All of his fellow councilors mentioned Jahnz’s unique sense of humor and dry wit, “which at some very tense times was very much welcomed,” Macksoud said.

Russo recalled the council’s approval of Mixed Martial Arts events at Twin River as an example of the new professionalism.

“While neither Jim nor I are fans of Mixed Martial Arts completions, I vote in favor of allowing the event, while Jim votes against it. Rather than making this an issue each month, whenever an MMA event is requested, I make two motions and Jim quietly votes nay on the MMA,” Russo said. As a parting gift, he gave Jahnz a framed MMA ticket for live cage fighting.

Councilor Bruce Ogni called Jahnz “one of the few great statesmen left in the political arena.” He thanked Jahnz for his mentorship, taking him under his wing when Ogni joined the council four years ago.

“He is loaded with integrity, intelligence, compassion and knowledge,” he said. “He is a great family man, a great public servant, a great leader and a tremendously high-quality person.”

Councilor Kenneth Pichette described Jahnz as “the most sincere and genuine people I’ve ever met. We’ve all become friends, brothers and a respectable council here in Lincoln. Jim has been a huge part of that.”

Pichette gave Jahnz an Albion Beacon hard hat that he made as a keepsake, telling the outgoing councilman he’s “consistently been a beacon of what it means to do what you believe in.” He said Jahnz was a strong advocate for bringing the yellow beacon back to Albion after it was destroyed by a car accident.

Town Clerk Karen Allen gave Jahnz a sold-out Albion Beacon ornament, one of the most sought-after ornaments the town has made.

“I made a few phone calls and when people realized who was going to get it I think I could have gotten five,” she said.

Jahnz said it’s been an “absolute pleasure of a time working with the current council and administration. It’s been a privilege to work with them.”

Asked what advice he’d give to his successor as she takes the seat in January, Jahnz said, “your constituents come first, always. They’re the people you’re here to serve. That’s why I always return calls. Your residents put their trust in you to represent them.”

In closing, Jahnz said “it’s been an honor to serve the people of District 4 for so long. It’s been a blessing.”

Outgoing District 4 Councilman and Vice President James Jahnz poses with the Albion Beacon hardhat that Councilman Kenneth Pichette made him. All members of the Town Council said they’d miss Jahnz’s witty humor when he leaves the council in January.