The Mayor from Missouri with a photographic memory

When I was a teenager I remember stories about my neighbor across the street, an elderly gentleman who was able to remember and repeat everyone railroad car number as the train traveled by on the railroad track. Well I have a real story that tops that one.

When I was city attorney in Cape Girardeau in the early 1970’s the City intervened in a case before the Public Service Commission to oppose a request by the water company for a 5% rate increase. After the staff of the Public Service Commission completed their review they issued a report and recommended the  5% increase requested by the water company. A few days later after examining the voluminous report prepared by the PSC staff Mayor Howard Tooke and I had a conference call with the PSC staff. As the call progressed I noticed that Mayor, Tooke did not have in front of him any notes or documents. Mayor Tooke then pointed out to the PSC staff that on page 20, in column number five, line number 22 the staff added the number on that line to another number on a different page (again citing the page, column and  the  line on the other page) stating that the staff should have subtracted this number.  As a consequence the staff report overstated the amount of money needed for a fair return by 50% and the rate increase should have been 2 1/2 % instead of 5%.

After the phone call ended I asked Mayor Tooke how he did that and he explained he had a photographic memory for balance sheets. I was dumbfounded. I had never met anyone with a memory like this. Have you? Well the PSC issued an order giving the water company a 2 1/2% rate increase resulting in a tremendous victory for the City all due to the photographic memory of Mayor Tooke. The newspaper story screamed that the water company only got half of the 5% they requested. This was totally amazing!

Of course, I have other fond memories of Mayor Tooke, who served on the City Council from 1968 to 1986 and as Mayor for 13 years,  but this was certainly one of the best. Mayor Tooke died in 1996  leaving a legacy as a dedicated public servant for good government.

(©) 2011 Howard Wright

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