Having met and spent time with President Bush days after the tornado that virtually wiped out his town last May, Greensburg City Administrator Steve Hewitt will now get a chance to meet the President’s better half.


    Having met and spent time with President Bush days after the tornado that virtually wiped out his town last May, Greensburg City Administrator Steve Hewitt will now get a chance to meet the President’s better half.
   Hewitt received an invitation a week ago Thursday from the White House to sit next to first lady Laura Bush when her husband delivers the State of the Union address to a national television audience Monday night.
   The President is expected to point out and praise Hewitt for the leadership he’s shown in moving his town through an environmentally friendly rebuilding process.
   Aware some of the past individuals who’ve been singled out for similar recognition have ranged from heroes pulling victims from plane crashes to foreign leaders, Hewitt said his initial reaction to the invitation was that of feeling “very humbled.”
   Having referred in the past to Bush’s personable and empathetic presence when he spent nearly three hours viewing damage and consoling survivors five days after the tornado’s carnage, Hewitt sounded uncertain when asked if the brief but warm relationship he established with the President that day may have played a part in his invitation to Washington.
   “I don’t know about that, but I do think everyone’s looking for a good story to show some positives in dealing with disasters, especially with the negative press there’s been over the Katrina situation,” Hewitt said.  “This is an opportunity to find some positive press in regard to how we’re recovering here, in a place the President visited last spring.”
   Hewitt and wife Kim will head toward Washington on a flight from Wichita Friday afternoon, and plan to be back in Greensburg by Tuesday afternoon.  Hewitt said he plans on meeting with as many members of the congressional delegation of Kansas over the weekend as possible, while also finding time for some sightseeing in a city he’s never before visited.
   “I know I can meet with Senator (Pat) Roberts Saturday, but will have to meet with the staff of Senator Brownback and Representative (Jerry) Moran,” Hewitt said.
   “I expect we’ll talk about our recovery progress, about projects we’re developing, gap funding, and maybe about funding for the freeway project.  It would be nice to see the new highway go in sooner rather than later.”
    Though Hewitt also plans on meeting with congressional staff Monday he’ll need to be finished in time to attend a reception at the White House in advance of traveling to Capitol Hill for the presidential speech.  He and Kim will than attend a post-speech reception, again at the White House.
  Saying he was “honored” by the opportunity to make the trip to Washington, Hewitt pointed out his visit is less about him than the people back home he represents.
   “The President could have invited a hundred different people from Greensburg and Kiowa County that have had just as much to do with the recovery as I have,” Hewitt said.
   “This is a great opportunity to keep our city and county in the nation’s thoughts, and a reminder that this could happen to a lot of towns in rural America—a disaster like this, and an opportunity to revitalize a community.
   “And let’s face it.  This is also a chance to keep us in the public eye and give us future opportunities for funding and donations.  For me to be the person going there to help do that is a very high honor and something I don’t take lightly.  How could I?”
   Also excited at the opportunity afforded their daughter and son-in-law are Hewitt’s in-laws, Robert and Elva Whitfield of Pratt, who’ll be keeping the couple’s two-year-old son during their trip to D.C.
     “We were overjoyed,” Robert Whitfield said when asked his reaction to the news last week.  “It’s a great opportunity for them.”