EATON — On Monday, Nov. 16, current mayor Gary Wagner served his last meeting on council.
The motion to adjourn passed 4-1 that night, the four votes in favor coming with a “reluctantly, yes,” response. The single no vote came from Wagner, who was greeted with an abundance of handshakes and “thank yous’ after the meeting came to a close.
It closed out a long career of city work for Wagner, who has been a part of the Eaton workforce since he signed his first application in 1964. He was just 18 years old at the time but has served the community in some capacity ever since.
More specifically, he was voted into city council in 2003 where, during his first night in office, he was elected the vice-mayor.
Wagner was re-elected to the same role in 2007 before stepping into the mayor’s role in 2009 after Bob Stonecash stepped down to be a county commissioner.
“I’ve always been concerned about the city of Eaton and its people. Any organization I’m in, I find myself being the leader in some fashion,” said Wagner.
His history and track record with Eaton certainly echoes that claim as well.
In 1966, one year after he wed his now wife of 50 years, Patty, he joined the fire department. He resigned in ‘79 before being rehired by the city in ’82, retiring once again in ’99. Just one year after his second retirement, he was brought back on to do contract work.
“I’ve always had a hard time saying no, so I said yes,” joked Wagner on why he came back after retiring.
“I guess it’s in my family background. My father was my mentor when I was younger and he was always doing public service work of some kind or another. When it came time for me to have the opportunity to do that, I did it.”
The city’s people have always recognized him as a leader too, with Wagner always taking a healthy share of the votes in each election he was a part of.
In 2003, with six candidates up for election, he took 27.25 percent of the votes. In ‘07 it was 54.92 percent and in ’11 it was 55.17.
And he has not let the people down during those 12 years of service – only missing seven (out of 200) meetings during his time in elected office.
With he and the rest of the council members, they have developed the north side of the city into what it is today, bringing in the construction of Walmart, the YMCA, Sinclair Community College, and the medical center.
“The increase in services and decrease in funding, we’ve been able to manage it fairly well,” he said.
In his retirement, Wagner will still have his consulting business and his love of hot rods to keep him busy. But he also plans on traveling a little more with his family – who, of course, also has a history with the city of Eaton.
His wife served as a temporary hire in 1988 and as a part-time employee from ’90 through ’98, while his son, Randy, also worked seasonally from ’88 through ’96.
“It’s been a career,” he said.
“It’s been a life for me and my family.”
Jeremy can be reached at 937-683-4061 or on Twitter @jerskine_RH.