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Tim Walker is walking into a new role with new responsibilities in January, but the process feels familiar.
Serving 14 years as a member of Elizabethtown City Council, Walker, 51, soundly retained his seat in the government’s inner circle as a perennial top vote-getter, and he said he has worked to absorb knowledge and build relationships during his time in office.
He will be sworn in later this month as the first new mayor of Elizabethtown in 12 years after defeating incumbent David Willmoth, Councilman Steve Atcher, driving instructor Tommy Ard and small business owner Clyde Polk.
“I’m excited,” Walker said. “In some ways, it feels like I’ve already started.”
His actions indicate he already holds the office, meeting with department heads in preparation for a transitional leap.
Walker assured his supporters during his campaign he would be a full-time mayor once in office, vowing to turn over daily operations of his small business to his staff.
To Walker, there will not be time for both.
“To me, the mayor is (active) 24 hours a day, seven days a week,” Walker said. “You’re on call even on the days you’re off. And I’ll treat it that way.”
Walker has experience with such a taxing schedule. He was a member of the Elizabethtown Fire Department for several years before entering politics.
Walker said he never appeared to be headed for public office as he stepped away from the department in 1996 because of the grind the job was placing on his family life. He lost his first wife tragically just a few years before and the long shifts were pulling him away from his children, he said.
But the hunger pangs to serve the city did not go quietly, and the encouraging words of family and friends led him to consider a run at public office.
Don Brandenburg, a longtime friend and Walker’s former business partner, said the decision to enter politics was not taken lightly.
“He just had a dedication to help people and wanted to be involved with the city,” Brandenburg said.
Once elected, people started calling Walker for help when an issue materialized, Brandenburg said. If residents were having trouble making headway with the city formally, Walker would meet with them and serve as a liaison.
Brandenburg said the dedication to the city is mimicked in his personal life, where he is dutifully loyal to his family, his friends, his customers, his church and God.
Ultimately, Walker said, he tries to approach his service to the city like he approaches his business — treat people the way you want to be treated.
“It’s two-sided,” he said. “If you want to lead, you must be willing to serve.”
He plans to bring the same customer-friendly approach to city government and its employees in an effort to build on and improve customer relations and change attitudes.
Walker also said city employees will have the opportunity to prove themselves under his administration.
In combination, Walker said he knows he will have to develop a thick skin as mayor, with the barbs and complaints expected to come his way.
He has faced down those complaints as a councilman, but said it is much more productive to calmly discuss matters with residents and try to make a friend out of the complainer rather than grow defensive and further widen the disconnect.
“If it’s important enough for them to call, then it’s important enough for the city to respond,” he said.
Walker announced his plan to run for mayor after Willmoth launched his re-election campaign, but Walker said he has nothing but respect for his colleague and said Willmoth deserves to be commended for the work he has accomplished during his 37 years in office.
When Walker first joined the council, Willmoth was one of the few to serve as Walker’s mentor, he said, and he considers Willmoth a key player in his political education.
Now, he wants to build on Willmoth’s success by creating more jobs and forging stronger partnerships with local governments and Fort Knox.
Walker also has expressed an interest in preserving history and revitalizing downtown. An avid history buff, Walker has been intimately involved with the Hardin County History Museum and equated the fire at the Lincoln Heritage House to the loss of a loved one.
Walker said his love of history blossomed in school, and his appreciation for local history deepened as he befriended fellow buffs including historian Mary Jo Jones, who recently died, and Hardin County Clerk Kenny Tabb.
Outside of work and his family, it’s one of the few personal hobbies Walker has time for anymore, he said. He used to dabble in metal detecting, but that fell by the wayside as his responsibilities grew.
His lack of extracurricular activities has led some to jokingly deem his life boring, urging him to “find a hobby or something,” he said with a laugh.
But no one can accuse him of not being a team player, said Councilman Kenny Lewis, a colleague who has known Walker for years.
“He can agree to disagree,” Lewis said.
If a decision is made he disagrees with, “he doesn’t take his ball and go home. He works well with others,” Lewis added. “That’s a good quality to have.”
Lewis also said Walker’s word is his bond, and he will follow through on whatever commitments he makes.
Walker, meanwhile, wants to approach the mayor’s position as a student constantly learning.
“The day you stop learning is the day you stop being successful,” he said.
Marty Finley can be reached at (270) 505-1762 or at email@example.com.