When Keefer is gone, we’ll see the hole he leaves.

I only missed one meeting.

I’ve been covering Augusta’s City Council for more than 18 months. I don’t remember ever missing a meeting – although there might have been one.

My mom plans one vacation for our entire family on Spring Break and the whole thing falls apart.

I don’t think City Manager Bill Keefer resigned Monday night just because I was absent. Maybe. But I doubt it.

I know one thing. When Keefer is gone, we’ll see the hole he leaves.

For more than 16 years he has been leading the city through good times and bad. When about a third of the city was underwater on Halloween of 1998, he was here making sure the city did all it could to help the displaced residents get back in their homes. Keefer will be gone a few months before the new levee is finished. For most of his 16 years, he worked with other city, state and federal officials to get the project approved. For the past year, he has worked to make sure the project is funded and completed.

He has overseen major projects such as draining the lake and renovating the dam and spillway. He was also an important part of the city proposing and passing a sales tax to put a new waterline between Augusta and El Dorado Lake.

I haven’t had a chance to speak to Mr. Keefer since he made his announcement. So I can only speculate about why he is leaving Augusta. But I know that his last round of contract negotiations certainly didn’t do anything to encourage him to stay. Contentious negotiations and uncertain futures don’t keep top executives around very long.

For 16 years Keefer has done the work of a handful of executives. He runs the city government and budget like many city managers. But unlike other city administrators, he also runs a sanitation company, an electric company and a water utility.

I doubt the city can hire a replacement for the same salary Keefer was making. I wonder if the city can afford the city manager they want. I also wonder if we can afford to hire one who isn’t the same caliber of person Keefer is.

I know this, Keefer worked hard and he cared about the city – especially the employees who he managed.

He couldn’t make everyone happy, but I hope that’s not in the job description of the next person to fill his office.

Keefer is a great city manager. Beyond that, he is a great person.

Someone will fill his office, but it will be very difficult to fill his shoes.

Kent Bush is the publisher of the Augusta Gazette, the El Dorado Times, and the Andover American newspapers. He can be contacted at: publisher@augustagazette.com