Don't Worry. Mayor Leppert's No-Show at Kunkle's Goodbye Wasn't a Slight. Just Turns Out He Had Somewhere Else to Be. Or Not.

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flickr member: Angela Hunt
Heinbaugh and Leppert at the Death Star
Something was missing from Dallas Police Chief David Kunkle's retirement press conference this morning. OK, maybe not something so much as someone. More than a hundred folks found their way to DPD headquarters this morning to hear Kunkle's farewell, but Mayor Tom Leppert was not one of them.

Kinda strange. After all, we're talking about our 24-7 mayor here. This guy is all over the place. If there is a ribbon to be cut (real, outta-town or otherwise), a press conference or a photo op, Leppert's nearly always on hand. But not today. Not when the city's wildly successful police chief announces his surprise retirement.

Surely there's an explanation, I thought when I got back to Unfair Park headquarters, so I e-mailed Leppert's chief of staff, Chris Heinbaugh. He told me the mayor "had a schedule conflict with a taping." Of course, I had his schedule handy and saw that he did in fact have an 8 a.m. taping for the University of North Texas in the Flag Room at City Hall. Leppert's next item on today's agenda? An 11:30 a.m. luncheon.

I wrote back: "The UNT video taping at 8 a.m.? That lasted more than two hours?"

"No. Another was added earlier this week," he replied.

Then I asked what the other taping was, and Heinbaugh was kind enough to give me a call to sort out this mess. Join our conversation after the jump. Totally worth it.

Heinbaugh explained that the other taping was for the Perot Museum of Nature & Science, which is having its groundbreaking next week, and Leppert won't be able to attend. However, he said the taping "ended up finishing early." (And, as evidenced by this just-posted YoungLife tribute, the mayor will, if nothing else, offer a taped how-do if he can't show himself.)

"We probably could have gone, but my thing was it's the chief's deal," he told me. "There wasn't any reason to go or not go. It was kind of his thing. We didn't want to step on his toes. In fact, last night when people were calling, we just said we were going to wait for him out of respect for him -- let him do his announcement, then we'd be available for comment. That was my recommendation to the mayor -- kind of let him have his moment and you be available."

So it was intentional not to be there?

Well, I guess. I wouldn't read anything more into it. The mayor clearly likes the chief and respects the chief. It wasn't meant to be a slight or anything like that. It was really just meant to let the chief has his moment.

It was just odd. You have the police chief resigning, and with a lot of the council members being gone, there just didn't seem to be a big city presence there aside from the officers and whatnot. Ryan Evans was there, but Mary Suhm wasn't. There just seemed to be a void.

It wasn't because of any negative feelings we had for the chief. My thing was I kinda didn't want to step on his toes, and to be honest, I didn't know who all was going to be there either. We literally found out about it yesterday that they were having this press conference, and we had the other stuff set up. Like I said, it finished early as it was ... If I misjudged and miscalculated, it's my fault, but I was trying to be respectful of the chief and not step all over him.

It's not like Kunkle said anything to me. Just from my point of view, it seemed like there was a void.

Well, it wasn't intentional. There was no slight meant to the chief by not being there. There really wasn't. I hope nobody read it that way.

It's just odd. Laura Miller's there and ...

She was there?

Yeah. She gave a speech and everything.

I had no idea she was going to be there.

In that sense, she gets up there and gives a speech and everything...

Well, I can see why you probably feel that way now. We had no idea that Mayor Miller was going to be there.

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Patrick Michels

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