City commissioners balance roles as instructor, politician

Natalie Hayden

Instructors Melinda Hill and Bill Waltrip do more than just teach to be involved with WKU — they are also Bowling Green city commissioners.

“[Commissioners] try to benefit both. Of course we can’t give Western something that’s going to hurt the city in the long run, and Western is not going to do something to harm the city,” said Hill, a computer informations system instructor, about the relationship between WKU and the city.

The commission resides over the district and zoning board, creates the city budget and gives grants to the city.

Although Hill has been teaching at WKU for four years, she has only been a commissioner since March.

“Balancing between the two is hard, but it’s worth it,” Hill said. “I’m fortunate enough not to have class on Tuesdays and Thursdays, so Tuesday is kind of my designated city day.”

Waltrip, a part-time faculty member in the sociology department, agrees. He said that while it is difficult, he likes being busy.

“I do love it. The teaching part also affords me the opportunity to stay fairly current with law enforcement issues,” said Waltrip, who was Bowling Green chief of police from 2002-2006.

Waltrip said he enjoys the feedback he receives from students on how they think the BGPD is doing.

Waltrip also enjoys student contributions to the city.

“WKU adds so much not only to our economy, but also to the cultural aspect of Bowling Green. Our quality of life is better because WKU is here,” he said. “I sometimes walk around campus and see how beautiful it is, and how vibrant. The energy that the students bring is something that other cities would literally die for.”

Hill agrees.

“Citizens need to realize is what a vital part Western plays in the Bowling Green community,” she said. “Just think of what students spend, even on limited student budgets. Bowling Green would be in a world of hurt if WKU decided to just up and move.”

Hill believes that her being involved with city government is beneficial to her students because it allows her to bring “real-world experience into the classroom.”

“I’ve always said that I try to bring my corporate business experience into the classroom. Now I have another piece of experience, and that is city government,” she said. “And who knows, maybe someday it will make [students] decide that they want to do that.”