Bill May’s health ultimately forced his hand, ending — or at least suspending — three decades of faithful elected service to his hometown. Frankfort’s mayor, who was diagnosed with cancer in March, chose wisely to focus on his physical well-being rather than the rigors of a 2020 political campaign that would have consumed him from January to November.

In the end, hopefully with cancer far in the rearview mirror, May will be remembered and appreciated for putting his responsibilities as a husband, father and grandfather ahead of a distinguished political career in which he never lost an election.  

May’s absence from the ballot for the first time in 30 years is timely for reasons beyond his health. The truth is that politics has passed him by — more an indictment of modern politics than of the mayor.

When May entered the political arena in his early 30s, municipal politics were nonpartisan not just in statute but in spirit. One offered himself for elected service out of duty to community — to keeping streets paved, taxes low, government services running smoothly and to improving citizens’ quality of life. May was a pragmatist in an era when pragmatism was appreciated, the art of compromise valued.

Flash forward to a modern era of hyperpartisanship, even in community affairs, and incivility, amplified by social media — dynamics that have taken the enjoyment and reward out of elected service. Today’s arena of municipal politics has little space for centrists like May, who would have faced his toughest reelection battle yet had he sought a sixth term in 2020.

Now, Frankfort looks forward, which is not a bad thing for a city at a crossroads. As May himself would likely acknowledge, fresh perspectives are healthy for a community. Voters, who already have two choices for mayor and surely will have more by the time the Jan. 10 qualifying deadline passes, get the chance to elect a new leader who reflects their vision of what they want their community to be.

Let us resolve as a community to make the campaign a civil conversation about Frankfort’s way forward.

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