Jan. 22, 2007

Mayor for a decade, teacher for life

By Jennifer Gallus
Staff Writer

A sign that reads “Stupidity is not a handicap,” is posted on the outside of an English teacher’s classroom who not only has been teaching for 36 years, but was also the mayor of Waverly for a decade.

That Howard Lake-Waverly-Winsted High School teacher and past mayor is Charlie Bush of Waverly.

Upon entering his classroom, Bush can be seen across the room visiting with a sea of students, minutes before the hour bell rings.

An old-style barbershop chair, fully functional, sits on a rubber mat in the front of the room, and is obviously a student favorite.

The hour bell rings, and some of the outgoing students hop in the chair one more time before leaving. A new set of students arrive, and hop in the chair as well.

During this time, Bush is joking with his outgoing and incoming students. He is obviously in his element.

The hour bell rings, senior study hall begins, and Bush is ready to be interviewed.

“I got the barbershop chair at an auction. I just had to have one,” Bush laughed.

Regarding being a long-time teacher, Bush said, “I’m still enjoying it. People keep asking when I’m going to retire, and I tell them I have another 20 years in me.”

“In fact, I taught the current mayor of Waverly; he was in my class,” Bush said.

“I’m like a grandpa to these kids. I am a grandpa, and for a lot of these kids, I am. At least that’s how I treat them,” Bush said.

“I’ll teach as long as it’s still fun. Someone told me that you’ll know when it’s your last year,” he added.

Mayoral days

When Bush moved to Waverly in 1994, he disagreed with the way the mayor was doing things at that time, particularly in reference to welcoming and assisting new residents.

After running into some roadblocks as a new resident that took time and frustration to iron out, Bush thought about running for mayor.

After he was elected mayor in 1997, a work session he attended stated that most people run for office because they’re upset with something.

“I’ve found that true of a lot of people who run for office,” Bush said.

“Being a mayor or council person, like Jesse Ventura said, ‘it’s a free education.’ You learn how local government works. You learn about people. There’s no perfect city with perfect residents,” Bush explained.

“The city has changed a great deal. We spent a lot of money designing the infrastructure. The sewer, water, streets, sidewalks, and water tower are all new,” Bush said.

“We have a joint sewer system with Montrose, which is what everybody wishes they could have because you share the cost rather than having your own,” Bush added.

“Something that is unique to Waverly, although I think Howard Lake recently adopted it, is we do not assess people for improvements individually. If you get new streets and sidewalks in front of your house the entire city pays for it. Hopefully it’s a policy that they never change,” Bush explained.

“As a government official, you learn what you can and cannot do. There’s almost more can’ts than cans,” Bush said.

“For example, there’s an open meeting law. Three council members talking counts as an open meeting. Three out of five council members can’t get in a car and travel somewhere together because that would be considered a meeting. If I met one council member on the street and another one came along, then there’s a meeting, so it’s a ticklish situation,” Bush explained.

“I enjoyed the 10 years as mayor. I would hope that more people take the opportunity, and maybe some new residents, rather than the same people. Only three people filed for two open seats. I’d like to see six or more. It just makes for better government,” he said.

“I wasn’t a visionary and I wasn’t running the place. I think I got a total of four phone calls during my time as mayor. I credit that to the fact that we had such good full-time employees who took care of things. We were just part-time,” Bush said.

“I look back and don’t feel shameful or regretful about anything we did. I think we collectively did a good job – I’m happy about it,” Bush noted.

“Of course I would’ve liked to win (the mayoral seat), but that’s their choice (the residents), that’s acceptable, and that’s the way it’s supposed to be,” he said.

Future plans

“My wife, Pam, said now every night I would’ve spent at a council meeting, we should do something. I think it’s a good idea,” Bush said.

“I think I only missed one council meeting in those 10 years. That’s 120 council meetings plus work sessions, planning and zoning meetings, and special meetings,” he explained.

“Now it’s, gee, I don’t have to go to that meeting. There were times when I had to be three places at once, and I couldn’t do it,” he said.

Bush will also have more time to enjoy his children and grandchildren now.

“My daughter and her son just built a house next to us, and my oldest daughter and her family live in Annandale,” Bush said.

“I’m always busy doing something. I have to be busy. My wife would like to see me slow down. Now maybe I’ll spend more time around the house,” he explained.

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