Louise Gardner dies at 82; only woman to serve as JC mayor
Tuesday, January 14, 2014
Louise Gardner is the only woman among 60 people who have served as Jefferson City’s mayor since 1839, according to the list posted on the city’s website, www.jeffcitymo.org.
Gardner, 82, died Sunday.
She served eight years as the city’s top elected executive, from April 1987-April 1995.
A visitation is planned for Saturday, from 4-7 p.m., at the Houser-Millard funeral home, 2613 W. Main St.
Services will be at 1 p.m. Sunday at the funeral home.
“I first got to know Louise when we, jointly, served on the Police Personnel Board, years and years before either she, or I, ever considered running for mayor,” former Mayor Duane Schreimann recalled Monday afternoon. “She was a delightful person, easy to get along with.”
He succeeded Gardner in 1995.
“I was kind of surprised when she indicated she was running for mayor — we thought she was just kidding,” Schreimann said. “I respect anyone who was willing to serve in the position of mayor, because it’s a difficult job.
“I think she did a good job while she was there.”
Former 4th Ward Councilwoman Carolyn McDowell said Gardner began her city politics involvement with that police board.
“We had to have three Republicans and three Democrats,” McDowell explained. “Mayor (Robert) Hyder asked if I knew of anybody who would like to serve, and I mentioned a Republican woman, because I thought women should be represented on the board.
“And he appointed her.”
City elections still were partisan political contests when Gardner, a Republican, beat former Highway Department Chief Engineer Bob Hunter, a Democrat, for the post.
Her two terms as mayor included some very public disagreements with council members and some community leaders.
“She served two terms, so I think (hers) were the opinions of the majority of the people,” McDowell said.
Former 5th Ward Councilman Randy Halsey, a Democrat, was involved in some of those public battles.
“That’s the way government runs,” he said Monday. “Yes, we did have some disagreements — but we also had some agreements.”
He said Gardner “was a very nice lady (who) did what she thought was right — and that may not always have been what I thought.
“But that’s what government’s about, also.”
After serving on the City Council, John Landwehr became mayor eight years after Gardner left the office.
“Our (official) paths did not cross,” he said Monday. “Personally, I always found her to be a very engaging, pleasant and cordial person.”
Schreimann called Gardner “a hands-on mayor.”
Landwehr called Gardner “an example of a very pro-active, strong leader. That quality was required during the (1993) flooding that occurred during her tenure.
“As I recall, the community came out of that crisis without any serious problems.”
Schreimann, who became mayor less than two years after the record-setting floods — and would experience another major flood during his first year in office, said Gardner had “handled (the flood situation) well, and it was not any kind of problem when I was in.”
Halsey thought Gardner’s lack of political experience may have hurt her some during the disaster’s aftermath.
But, he said: “I can’t blame her for the way she handled it.”
Halsey also remembered Gardner for another time — when she agreed to parachute from an airplane.
“Louise wasn’t afraid,” he said. “It takes a pretty bold, hard-level person to get on somebody’s back and jump out of an airplane. … That takes a lot of nerve.”
All offered condolences for the family.
“They will miss her, I’m sure,” Halsey said. “And so will the city.”
Gardner’s complete obituary will be published later this week.
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