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Those who have worked with Elizabethtown Mayor David Willmoth over the years say he has little need for fanfare.
“David has never been one that looked for someone to sing his praises,” said Councilman Ron Thomas, a lifelong friend and colleague for more than 20 years.
Often, Willmoth faced the exact opposite reaction from residents, specifically in recent years concerning controversial topics such as the Elizabethtown Sports Park and implementation of a restaurant tax.
In both circumstances, Willmoth confronted criticism with a calm demeanor and never wavered in his reasoning for supporting both the park and the tax as economic drivers.
“He is the same day in and day out,” Thomas said. “He’s never let his emotions take over.”
Willmoth walks away from the mayor’s office at the end of this month after 12 years as mayor, ceding the position to Councilman Tim Walker, who bested Willmoth and three others to capture the office in November.
But Willmoth’s tenure as mayor is just one piece of his career in Elizabethtown — he served 25 years as a member of city council prior to that.
Throughout, Thomas said, Willmoth maintained a love for the city and a determination to see it progress.
“He’s been very dedicated,” Thomas said. “His priority has been the city.”
Willmoth declined to be interviewed for this story.
“I have nothing to say,” he said.
When interviewed, Thomas said he had not spoken one-on-one with Willmoth about the election, but he expects the mayor is disappointed he will not be in office to see the completion of the sports park.
City Attorney D. Dee Shaw said she loves Willmoth and treasures the time they worked together.
“I have had the great privilege of working for and with Mayor Willmoth for 14 years,” Shaw said in a written statement. “He is an elegant, intelligent, caring man. (He) has always had the best interest of this great city in his heart and has carried us forward during challenging times.”
Shaw’s words were echoed by Willmoth’s executive assistant, Charlie Bryant. Willmoth was a member of the council when Bryant was hired.
“Even as a councilman, he always maintained a personal interest in the operation of the city and its success,” Bryant said in a statement. “And, although he has been even more involved as mayor, he expects people to do their job and does not interfere with them doing it. He has been a very good mayor and I appreciate our time working together.”
Councilman Marty Fulkerson said the city has exploded (with growth) under Willmoth’s watch with construction of a new police station, fire stations and the advent of a sports park. Retail and restaurants have grown, and new jobs have been created in different sectors of the economy, Fulkerson said.
“He always understood that you can’t sit still,” Fulkerson said, “because if you sit still, you get left behind.”
Fulkerson said Willmoth also understood that you can’t say yes to everything, as doing so would be a detriment to the city.
“You can’t be all things to all people,” Fulkerson added.
Fulkerson said he often disagreed with Willmoth on issues, but they could discuss the matter professionally and sort out their differences without personal pride tarnished or bad feelings forming.
If Willmoth’s viewpoint succeeded, Fulkerson added, it was less a personal accomplishment and more a gain for the city.
“Dave didn’t toot his horn about it,” he said. “It was about the city.”
Fulkerson said he respects the outgoing mayor tremendously and believes his years have been invaluable to Elizabethtown’s progression.
“I think the city is much better off after Willmoth’s service,” he said.
Pat Durbin, former mayor of Elizabethtown, said Willmoth came from a good family and had a strong grasp of the city’s needs.
Durbin served several years on the council with Willmoth before she was elected mayor. During that time, she said, Willmoth thoroughly researched each issue and wanted results.
“It was just, ‘get the job done,’” Durbin said.
Durbin said she walked away from her work with the city once she retired, but she could not ignore the city’s growth during Willmoth’s tenure. In addition to improving public safety, she noted the increase in infrastructure and expansion of the wastewater treatment plants as positive stamps Willmoth leaves behind.
Now, she said, she hopes he immerses himself in a well-deserved retirement from city service and a new chapter in life.
“I’ve enjoyed mine,” she said.
While Willmoth was a man of few words in his final days in office, Thomas said listeners always know where he stands when he does speak.
“He’s been very methodical,” Thomas said. “No pretense with Mayor Willmoth. What you see is what you get.”
Marty Finley can be reached at (270) 505-1762 or at email@example.com.
COMING MONDAY: Elizabethtown incoming mayor Tim Walker