Audience members were not the only attendees surprised by the drama that played out at Monday night’s meeting of the Portsmouth City Council.
During his Mayor’s report, 4th Ward Councilman and Council President Jim Kalb announced in a passionate prepared speech that he was fed up with those seeking to tear down the city leadership, and put an exclamation point on his announcement when he abruptly quit his position on council and strode out of the meeting.
“Why did you believe the propaganda of an internet forum written by people who you probably don’t know, and probably a lot of who don’t even live inside the city over people you have known for years and elected to represent you?” Kalb asked during his report. “Why do many of you feel you know the former city manager better than the people that hired him and worked with him on a daily basis? These are just a few of the questions you should be asking instead of, ‘How do we get even with City Council?’
“I’ve served the citizens of Portsmouth for nearly 20 years. Most of you have known me for at least that long, and many a lot longer. Ask yourself, and your friends, have you ever known Jim Kalb to lie?” Kalb posed. When a spectator laughed in response to the comment, Kalb’s wife Allison, who was in the audience, stood up to defend her husband, leading the mayor to stray from his prepared speech in attempts to console his wife. City Solicitor John Haas, visibly concerned by the altercation occurring between Mrs. Kalb and the audience member, called for Portsmouth City Police Chief Rob Ware to step in.
Mrs. Kalb returned to her seat, and her husband continued to read from his written statement.
“Ask if Jim Kalb has ever cheated anyone. It does hurt to look out there and see so many people I considered friends turned against me over this. Not one of you, besides Terry Ockerman, ever contacted me to ask what was going on. You just took it upon yourself that you had all the information. The one person that has also sided with me, stood with me through the good times and the bad, has been my wife Allison. She’s put up with 20 years of me trying to improve our city; 20 years I could have been spending with my family. Allison always supported me, defended me, consoled me and has always loved me.
“So tonight, right here, right now, this is for you Allison,” Kalb said, as he stood up from his seat, pulled his microphone from its stand and dropped it onto the table, stating, “I quit.”
The announcement drew a brief cheer from at least one person in the audience, while fellow council members sat dumbfounded.
Before leaving the Sodexo Ballroom at Shawnee State University where the meeting was held, Kalb nudged the microphone to Vice President Kevin E. Johnson and addressed him as “Mister Mayor.” Kalb shook hands with council members before exiting the venue with his wife.
Johnson, who claims Kalb’s resignation took him by complete surprise, stepped in as meeting head, and carried out the rest of the meeting’s agenda.
“I had no idea whatsoever (about Kalb’s resignation),” Johnson said after the meeting. “This is an ordinary day become extraordinary.”
When asked if Kalb’s statements were correct that Johnson, in fact, is now the president of council and Mayor of the city, Johnson said he had to check with the city solicitor.
“I’m going to have to talk to our city solicitor to make sure this isn’t something that just happened in the heat of the moment,” Johnson said. “Most importantly, I’m going to pray about it, and then I’m going to ask my wife. So that’s kind of the order I’m going to go in. I’m going to make sure this is legal, and then I’m going to pray about it and then I’m going to ask my wife. I’m very serious about that, that’s how I’m going to do it.”
Although startled by the evening’s events, Johnson said that if the resignation was, in fact, valid, he would step up to do his best as Portsmouth Mayor.
“It’s a drastic change,” Johnson acknowledged. “I never foreseen this, I never foreseen myself as a councilman. I never foreseen the position of vice president, and I definitely never in my wildest dreams considered myself to be the Mayor of the city I love. But if I am, indeed, in that role, I will do my very best of my ability to serve my city and to keep honor to my city and do my very best.”
Following the meeting, Haas addressed the turn of events and what they mean for council.
“Once he (Kalb) resigns, the vice president becomes the president of council. There is no one that replaces the vice president, it just stays this way,” Haas said. “They’ll have to advertise for someone in the 4th Ward to put in applications so they can appoint somebody to fill his vacancy.”
When asked if Kalb’s statement at the meeting are to be taken as a resignation, or if Kalb must formally submit his resignation, Haas said he believes the resignation at the meeting to be legitimate since it was part of the Mayor’s report.
“I would think that tonight might have done it since it was in his report,” Haas said of Kalb’s surprise resignation.
Reach Ivy Potter at 740-353-3101 ext. 1932