The city of Elizabethtown on Wednesday dedicated the dock at Freeman Lake Park in Elizabethtown to former councilman Ron Thomas, affectionately dubbed by many as the “mayor of the lake.”
Thomas ended his service as a member of the Elizabethtown City Council in 2018. At the time, he was the longest serving council member in the city’s history with more than 30 years of elected service.
“An avid fisherman, Freeman Lake Park was a special place for Ron. This dock is dedicated to Ron as a thank you for his many years of service to the city,” the newly erected plaque reads.
Several people were in attendance for the dedication including Mayor Jeff Gregory and former mayors Edna Berger, David Willmoth, and Pat Durbin.
“He’s been very special to me all my life,” Gregory said. “As matter of fact, when I got elected a year-and-a-half ago, the first person to give me a city pin that I still wear today on my coat was Ron Thomas. It meant a lot to me.”
In March, when COVID-19 hit, a lot of things changed with city government. Gregory said one of things the city was able to do, because of fiscal conservative leadership, was take care of its employees and a lot of the business owners and others in the community.
“That was because of leadership that we’ve had over the years from people like Ron Thomas and our former mayors and former council people and our current council people,” Gregory said. “I’m very proud to be in the position I am and to be able to build upon the foundation that was laid for us. He was a big part of that.”
Councilman Marty Fulkerson touted Thomas’s passion for the city.
“It was an honor to be able to serve with him. Ron and I didn’t agree on everything but Ron’s love for this city has shown through time and time again,” he said.
Fulkerson said they had several names for Thomas over the years, but one in particular was “mayor of the lake.”
“When we decided to honor his service here to the community it was obvious what we were going to do,” he said.
After unveiling the plaque Wednesday, Thomas said he was at a loss for words.
“This is certainly an awesome award in my honor. Totally unexpected,” he said. “I appreciate very much the kind remarks that all of you made. Rarely I am at a loss of words, but I can’t thank you enough for what this means to me and to my family.”
Thomas said he truly loves the lake.
“I think many times during the years people in town thought that I worked out here rather than at the college or a member of the council,” he said with a laugh. “I truly love this place.”
He said the lake also is bittersweet because of the all the time he spent there with the late Dexter Pepper, a former councilman.
“We go way back and we were fishing buddies and spent many hours out here,” he said.
“It is truly a very special place to me. ... If I wanted to be remembered in a certain way by Elizabethtown, the lake is one of the things that obviously is very dear to me and I am truly honored to have my name associated with what I think is one of the greatest assets of the city of Elizabethtown. ... From the bottom of my heart, thank you very much.”