December 4, 2013

KITCHELL: One Merlyn had wit, wisdom, no magic

In the annals of Cass County government, no one has ever served as county council president longer than a man from Walton who passed away last week.

Merlyn Raikes was the first candidate from either party to serve five four-year terms on the council. Most of the time he spent leading the council. Unlike many of those who served before, during and after him, Merlyn left on his own terms from a job that does not have term limits. His council tenure locally has only been surpassed by one person, Dan Kitchel, who served a portion of a term longer than his own five elected terms.

What Raikes brought to county government was a name associated with magic, even though it wasn’t spelled the same as the magician of far greater legend than his own. What he did bring to the oblong council table when he served was the wit and wisdom of a salesman, a father, a husband, a grandfather and a rural Cass County resident who knew what it was like to participate in what were once known as congenial clubs. In times when rural areas had more schools but fewer activities, congenial clubs were gatherings for young people, and to some extent, even coming out parties for people who spent much of their time either working or living on a farm with their families.

While Merlyn wasn’t a farmer, he never gave up his connection with the Walton area and the people surrounding it. He and his wife Ruby could be seen at Lewis Cass basketball games. He frequently bragged about her apple pies, and almost genuflected to her when she arrived annually at county budget hearings with a freshly-baked, latticed masterpiece. That was often the highlight of six-hour budget hearings that burned the midnight oil to midnight and often produced some hurt feelings, mad county emplolyees and perplexed local officials who sought fairness and equity in the funding process.

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