To the Editor,

Why is it that a bad situation always gets worse? The Hiawatha City Commission’s termination of Ryan Shockley as Fire chief, following a teenage fatality car wreck is a heavy boot heel placed on the throat of any already badly wounded community.

My family, unfortunately, has far too much personal experience with situations similar to the recent accident. My brother, Nate, and his girlfriend, Sheila, were only 19 years old when they were hit and killed by a drunk driver who had been their former schoolmate. The wreck left my sister, Martha, in a coma at KU Med for a month.

A year before that wreck my wife, Michelle, broke her neck and ruptured her spllen in a car accident right before staring her senior year in high school. Wrecks like this involving young people rock our community to the bottom of its very soul. Like so many other students, my son Nathan, is painfully struggling with the sudden loss of a classmate and has been anxiously awaiting promising news from the recovery of the other kids hurt in the wreck.

At a time of grieving and despair, the Hiawatha City Commission decides to terminate the responsibilities of a first responder who is one of the finest people to ever wear a Hiawatha Fire Department badge. Sheriff John Merchant publicly stated following the wreck, “In our rural community we are truly blessed to have these dedicated volunteers responding.” Yes Sheriff John, we are blessed, but it appears that those of us who have experienced and benefited from our first responders’ dedication are more appreciative of it than the Hiawatha City Commission.

I know others will step up in support of Ryan’s integrity, but here’s a fresh example. On the afternoon following the wreck, Ryan showed up at the Corn Picker Day that Nathan was putting on at the Ag Museum. He appeared to be completely wrung-out and the events of the previous night were clearly still weighing heavy on his shoulders. Yet, there he was to support Nathan just like he supports and lifts up so many, many others.

Administrative protocol in the event of legitimate concerns about Ryan would start with a suspension to allow for an investigation of events. the fact that ryan was suddenly terminated with no specific explanation or opportunity to submit a resignation certainly gives the appearance of a political hatchet job. If nothing else, it sends a chilling ripple through our first responder community.

It seems more than just coincidence that Ryan’s discipline and public humiliation were dished out only a few hours after a hospital sales tax he opposed failed to pass. Has the unholy alliance between Hiawatha Community Hospital and the Hiawatha City Commission reared its ugly head once again?


John D. Wright

White Cloud

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