Archive for Thursday, June 30, 2011

Former Baldwin City mayor remembered by peers

June 30, 2011

Gary Walbridge was a problem solver.

While working both as the director of physical plant at Baker University and being the mayor of Baldwin City, Walbridge did what needed to be done.

This is one quality Connie Deel, who knew Walbridge and whose husband is related to Walbridge’s wife, will remember of him.

“If something needed to be done, he was very direct about what he thought the best way for things to be done and lots of times those are hard conversations to have, you know, because they are a lot of times things people don’t want to hear,” Deel said. “But I think he was very straightforward. … Even though it’s hard to hear sometimes, being direct and doing what needs to be done for the best of the majority is something that Gary’s very good at.”

Walbridge died Thursday at Lawrence Memorial Hospital at the age of 59. Walbridge worked at Baker for eight years before retiring at the end of April, and before that, he worked for the chemical plant FMC Corporation in Lawrence. He also was deeply involved in local politics, serving on the Baldwin City Council for eight years, 1989-1997, and being the Baldwin City mayor from 2005-2009.

“I know that being part of the city council and being mayor was something that was important to him that he felt strongly about,” Deel said.

Baker Chief Operation Officer Susan Lindahl said Walbridge’s death is a substantial loss for the Baker community. Although Walbridge did not attend Baker, his wife’s, Margi, grandfather is in the Baker Faculty Hall of Fame and her mother was a nurse on campus. He also had many family members attend the university.

“The thing I remember is just that he was so professional. You know, he just always kept a very calm demeanor,” Lindahl said. “And I think probably, I don’t know this because I don’t live in Baldwin, but I would say that probably served him well as mayor, too, because he was always a problem solver.”

Although being the mayor of a city puts that person in the spotlight, Walbridge was much happier getting the work done without getting all the attention, Deel said.

“He would prefer to just do his work and do what will make things the best around him in his environment,” Deel said. “He was not by any means seeking to be in the limelight.”

Lindahl said Walbridge mentioned after retirement he was most looking forward to spending time with his three young grandchildren, as well as fishing.

“I’m just sorry that he didn’t have more time for both his grandchildren, his family and fishing,” Lindahl said.

Walbridge graduated from Baldwin High School and lived in Baldwin most of his life, leaving an impression on many aspects of the city.

“He’s just kind of a fixture in town and will be sorely missed,” Deel said.

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