By Susan Reeves
It came as quite a shock last week when Mayor J. D. Baumgardner abruptly resigned. I knew that he was having health issues, but did not realize that it had escalated to this point. A lot of people are irritated with him for voting to give City Administrator Lee Elliott severance, and it is a shame that Mr. Baumgardner is leaving with that as his final action.
Mayor Baumgardner has served the City of Mount Vernon well and represented us well also. During his five years as mayor, he and the council have made many positive strides forward. They have made several steps to the side and a few backwards, but overall they have done a good job.
During his time in office, the city has installed new water lines, a severe weather warning system, and new fire hydrants; quarterly clean ups were instituted, two new fire trucks and six new police cars were purchased. two new home programs were initiated, and utilizing the downtown square for events was increased.
Since moving to Mount Vernon in 2000, he has been one of the most dedicated volunteers I have ever known. He has given of his time to groups and organizations in town and worked to promote tourism for our community. Through the Franklin County Historical Association, he is a past president of the association, has conducted tours of the town, and served as a step docent for bus tours. He volunteers regularly at the museums and has filled so many roles it is difficult to list them all. He has also been a member and volunteered for the Franklin County Arts Alliance, Franklin County Genealogical Society, Mount Vernon Rotary Club, American Legion, and VFW.
Mr. Baumgardner deserves the lion’s share of the credit for turning the Franklin County Chamber of Commerce around. He served as president for the organization in 2008 and 2009 and literally took them from being in a financial hole to showing a nice operating margin. He boosted membership and encouraged donations for chamber events. He spearheaded the Chamber concerts on the downtown plaza and reinstituted the Rodeo parade and festival.
Don’t get me wrong. I am not nominating Mr. Baumgardner for sainthood. We all have our warts. He and I have bumped heads a few times. Even when he could not bend me to his will, he has always been a gentleman.
Mr. Baumgardner, thank you for your service to our community, and I hope that your health will allow you to remain involved in whatever activities you choose.