Beaman leaves park board

The Richmond Parks and Recreation Board of Directors is down one board member today after Deanna Beaman resigned last week.

Beaman had served on the board for two years, but some in the community had questioned her park board role versus her role as part owner of the group that owned first the Richmond River Rats baseball team and now the Richmond Jazz.

The Roosters, as you might remember, used McBride Stadium, which is owned by the parks department and controlled of the park board, under a facilities use agreement. The team played at McBride for several years before dissolving last year.

And now the Jazz is contracting with the city and parks department to use McBride for baseball this summer.

Beaman said she has always avoided any potential conflict of interest while conducting park board business.

In her resignation letter to the board Thursday, said “I have always recused myself and abstained from voting on any measure involving my work with one of the baseball teams or any related facility.”

Snow said that he had discussed the issue with Beaman recently but did not ask her to step down.

“I am tremendously supportive of the work Deanna has done for our community, especially as a member of the park board,” he said. “The decision to resign was all hers. But as a matter of transparency, I think it was a good decision.”

In her letter, Beaman said:

“I have had a passion for outdoor recreation for most of my life, which spurred me into a career of working with and supporting baseball teams for our community to enjoy. I have spent many years working to create an atmosphere in which our community members can come and enjoy “America’s favorite past time.”

In her letter Beaman called this is a “transformative time” for the parks department and for McBride Stadium.

“Given this transformation, I do not want to create any misconceptions of a conflict of interest in my serving on the board. My departure from the board will also give me more time to partner with the city and the parks department in order to assist in the revitalization of the future as it pertains to athletic facilities in our community.”

Park board president Mike Foley praised Beaman’s contribution during Thursday’s meeting.

“She has done a tremendous job for the parks department and for our community. It’s been an honor to serve with her on this board and she will be missed,” he said.

Beaman’s seat on the park board is by mayoral appointment, and Snow said he will begin the search for a replacement this week.

Foley is board president, Beaman was vice president and Tiuana Washington is secretary. I am the fourth member and Clay Miller is a non-voting member representing the Richmond Common Council.

Beaman has agreed to serve on the new McBride Stadium Advisory Committee that will assist park officials with short and longterm planning for McBride.

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Happy Trails in Richmond

It’s a good day in Richmond for those who continue the work to build hiking and biking trails in the community.
Richmond Mayor Dave Snow today announced that the city has received a $250,000 grant from the Federal Highway Administration to help with the creation of a new trail leg on the city’s north side.
The grant, which comes from the FHA’s Recreational Trail Program and comes to the city through the Indiana Department of Natural Resources, is a big deal because it’s the start of the effort to build the trail east to the Ohio line.
The money will be used to pave a 10-foot-wide trail from North 12th Street to North 24th along the East Fork of the Whitewater River. The trail is to be called the National Road Heritage Trail.
The grant is the result of an unique partnership between the city and Richmond’s Society for the Preservation and Use of Resources (SPUR).
You remember the SPUR folks. They are the ones who, in the 1960s, acquired the land along the Whitewater River, from Test Road north, that 30 years later became the Whitewater Gorge Trail.
For full disclosure purposes, I am a member of the SPUR board of directors.
SPUR board members will continue the effort to take the trail east to Ohio, west to a hookup with the Cardinal Greenway Trail and (hopefully someday) north to the Indiana University East, Ivy Tech and Reid Hospital campus.
The grant requires a 20 percent local match, which will come from a $50,000 donation of land and material from SPUR.
The city has also pledged to make $14,250 worth of improvements as part of the project.
Snow said the proposed project is the first phase of a multi-year effort to extend the National Road Heritage Trail across eastern Wayne County.
SPUR board members first met Sept. 26, 1966. They acquired the northside land between 1990 and 2004.
SPUR’s stated goal is preserving natural areas, soil conservation, beautification, promoting recycling and recreation and educating the leaders of tomorrow on important conservation legislation.
SPUR board president Joe Hellrung said the grant comes at a perfect time.
“This is truly exciting news,” Hellrung said. “This being our 50th year, it’s just such a great coincidence that we are able to get this grant.”
SPUR worked with former Mayor Sally Hutton and city staff for two years on the project, submitting the application April 30, 2015.
“Sally went to bat for us several times and really came through,” Hellrung said. “This is the first step to get us to the next steps of getting a trail to Hayes Arboretum, Glen Miller Park and beyond.”
Richmond City Planner Sarah Mitchell said the announcement fits in well with the city’s plan to be a destination for entrepreneurs and young professionals, and to coincide with its development of a bicycle and pedestrian master plan.
“We are expanding the trail system that will eventually travel through Richmond and across the county, and someday across the state,” Mitchell said.
Snow said one of the city’s biggest accomplishments in this time of economic downturn is to continue to promote the improvement of bicycle and pedestrian amenities.
“The proposed project is to be the first phase of a multi-year effort to extend the National Road Heritage Trail across eastern Wayne County,” Snow said.

A chance to honor Sally

For those looking for a way to honor the memory of former Richmond Mayor Sally Hutton, the Richmond Art Museum might just have the plan.
RAM recently announced the Sally Hutton Children’s Art Fund, a fund to provide scholarships for students attending RAM’s summer art camps.
The fund was established by the Richmond High School Alumni Association after that organization selected Hutton as its Distinguished Alumni in March.
Hutton never lived to receive the honor. She died April 8, seven days before she was to be feted at RHS’ annual Academic Excellence Awards dinner.
“She was my hero,” said alumni association executive director Mary Lou Griffey. “Sally was such a proud and strong woman and always supported young people. She loved the young people of this community.”
Griffey said that when Hutton died, Wayne County Convention and Tourism Bureau executive director Mary Walker suggested that the fund be established.
“It was perfect,” Griffey said. “We all really wanted something to have Sally’s name on it. She was so kind to me and was always willing to support the alumni association and Richmond schools.”
Griffey said the alumni award is given annually to someone who represents the school well, excels in their field and gives back to the community.
“That fit Sally to a tee,” she said.
Hutton, a 1966 RHS graduate, was a three-term Richmond mayor and served in city government for 30 years.
The RAM summer camps host about 30 Wayne County students in June and July.
“The award is to honor Sally’s commitment to youth in the community,” said RAM executive director Shaun Dingwerth. “Sally always helped us with our murals and in any other way could.
“This is a sad time for our community, but it’s a time to remember her love of Richmond and the people here,” he said.
The art camps are for ages 5 through eighth grade and allow students to explore drawing, painting and sculpture.
Anyone wishing to donate can send contributions to the Richmond Art Museum, 350 Hub Etchison Blvd., Richmond, IN 47375 or by stopping at the art museum during business hours
Contributions can also be made on line at the museum’s Website, http://richmondartmuseum.org/join-give/donations-2/.
For more information, call the art museum at (765) 966-0256.

My time with Sally

Mayor Sally HuttonThey say the first blog is always the toughest.
This one’s about my friend Sally Hutton.
For fear of repeating everything that has so eloquently been written by Palladium-Item reporter Rachel Shelley and dozens of others about Richmond’s former mayor, I will celebrate her with my recollections of her time in office.
We had a funny, warm, weird, sarcastic relationship, much like Madam Mayor’s effervescent personality.
Within a month of her taking office, she became embroiled in the contentious battle over the rezoning of 33 acres of Hayes Arboretum land for commercial development.
I’ll bet most people have forgotten that fight, especially those searching for sales at Kohl’s, trying on yoga pants at Dick’s, munching burritos at Chipotle or sipping lattes at Starbucks.
But there was Sally in the eye of the storm. Republicans and Democrats screaming at each other. Business leaders screaming at tree huggers, neighbors screaming at council members and the mayor.
And people screaming just because they were unhappy.
If you remember, council approved the rezoning, Sally vetoed the vote and the Hayes folks filed an $8.25 million lawsuit against the city and the mayor.
Council failed to override the veto but Sally relented and the zoning went through.
Through it all, Sally stood tall, but her path forward was set.

We had a warm relationship, at the beginning. We were always friends because that’s the way Sally was.
I’m guesstimating that I called her more than 2,000 times in her 12 years in office. I called her in the office, at home, while she was driving, picking up the grandkids, cleaning alleys, out to dinner, just about everywhere she went.
At first, she answered with “Well, how are you?” with a heavy emphasis on the “you.”
In the proceeding years, she would answer with “What do you want?” or “I just talked to you!”
Still I knew she had not lost her sense of humor and the sarcasm was good natured.
Once, we were talking family and I told her my oldest sister was a department head in one of the biggest law firms in Chicago, and my other sister worked in the University of California library system and played a key role in digitizing the university’s entire library system.
Without missing a beat, Sally said “Well, what happened to you?”
I grew to know Sally during her years on Common Council and grew to love and respect her during her terms as mayor.
She was always the voice of the underdog, speaking up for the people who had little say in their governance. She was the champion of neighborhood associations, loved kids, visited the elderly and infirmed and was fiercely protective of those who worked for her, especially her department heads.
And she was great company, confirmed during hours of discussions when I featured her in 2005 in my Fifty Weeks of Success series and again in 2010 when I spent a day as mayor.

But she was not a great interview because her philosophy of government was too simple.
“You have to bring people together. Everyone has to have a voice. They have to have seat at that table. That’s how you get things done, by working together.”
I think she really believed that.
Still, she stayed too long in the mayor’s office. Even she would admit that. The final years were a grind. Some time around year nine or 10, things soured. The economy went south, businesses closed or left town, wages stagnated and drugs and crime began to spread like weeds around an abandoned house.
Critics blamed her for trash, lost jobs, pot holes, abandoned houses, weeds, drugs, the old Reid Hospital mess, low student test scores, stray cats, the inability to attract “high-paying jobs” (I heard it a million times) and traffic lights not in sync.
But she never backed down, never shirked her responsibility, nor swayed from her belief that Richmond is grand and wonderful place full of nice people.
Even the knuckleheads.
We spent a lot of time together in those 12 years and what I found was a wonderfully kind and caring person.
I got my first glimpse of her humor on election night, Nov. 4, 2003, when she walked into the Kuhlman Center and was ushered up to the stand where the final election results were posted. She leaned in and stared at the results, nodding and smiling, while her supporters cheered.
Later, she told me, “I didn’t have my glasses on. I honestly couldn’t see a thing. But I knew something good had happened.”
Of the almost 8,000 votes cast, Sally had won by 141 votes.
“I’m amazed. I can’t believe it’s true,” she said over and over again.

She had a way with people that few others have. People loved her. That was Sally.
When I did my day-as-mayor feature, we sat through a dozen meetings, talked to politicos and Average Joes. We also rode in the RHS homecoming parade, me up top in the convertible, her beside me in the passenger seat.
People were puzzled. Nobody knew me but everybody knew Sally, from the youngest kids to the oldest grandmas.
And Sally loved it. “He’s the mayor and from now on you can direct all your complaints to him. He’s dying to hear from you,” she shouted a dozen times during the parade.
What bothered her most was the pettiness and divisiveness that drove some in governance and every day life.
“If we had some money this would be a whole lot easier,” she told me for a piece I wrote in 2008.
“The thing I want people to know is we can’t do this by ourselves,” she said. “I can’t do this by myself. Citizens of this community have to be involved. That’s the only way it will work.”
Today, Richmond is a quieter, sadder place.
My last memory of her is Veterans Day 2015 when she managed to make an appearance in Veterans Park. She couldn’t last through the entire ceremony and retreated to a waiting vehicle.
I went to say hello and was interrupted by veteran after veteran who came up to the car to say “Take care, Sally,” “Be well, Sally,” “God bless you, Sally.”
When I got near her I saw tears in her eyes.
And felt the tears in mine.