From today's TIMES and NEWS-STAR
The mayor of Texarkana, Ark., will retire from politics and accept an offer so good he couldn’t refuse it: he’ll manage his local golf course.
“Mayor Wayne Smith said Monday at City Hall that he would have run for a second term if he hadn't gotten the golf job. He announced he has taken a job as operational manager of the New Haven Golf Course,” the Associated Press reported. “…Smith said he's a golfer and called the new job ‘an ideal situation.’ He added that he'd like to get his golf game (he’s a 14 handicapper) into single digits.”
A couple of friends noticed the same story. “All mayors should have such aspirations!,” one said.
“I’d recommend our mayor for golf course duty,” said another out-of-stater. “Then again, you’re supposed to be honest on the golf course, right?”
Yes! Yes you are. And too many of our golf courses are losing those core values. There’s a foot wedge here, a pencil whipping there. Astronomical greens fees. Too much liberalism! Or maybe it’s the conservatives who are behind unfair pin placement and unraked traps.
Probably all the fault of the media.
Regardless, it’s time we get back to our roots: a par in every driveway, a birdie in every pot. So I called Mayor-Until-December Smith to ask him if this is what he had in mind.
And guess what? The city manager’s office said he “doesn’t keep regular business hours.” Of COURSE not…because he’s on the golf course!
That proved to be wrong. The mayor answered an anonymous call – mine – on his cell, even though he was heading to a meeting. And if you know anything about Texarkana, you know that a job at a golf course – or anywhere – would mean a raise for the mayor, who, Smith said, “makes – let me think – nothing. Mayor doesn’t get paid anything, so yes, I’m getting a raise.”
Smith, age 65, had already retired from several jobs – 28 years with the Federal Bureau of Prisons, managing a distribution warehouse, managing apartments, even a year of teaching kindergarten – before what he calls his “first venture into the political arena.” Since becoming mayor nearly four years ago, “I’ve seen the ugly side of politics,” he said in a cheerful voice.
“But I’ll miss a lot of it too, sure,” he said. “I enjoyed being involved in the direction the city was headed and needed to go. I enjoyed helping citizens, and a great part of what I’ll be doing come the first of the year is that I’ll still be very active in the community.”
He’s involved in the local chamber, serves on several advisory boards, and New Haven is home to the area’s First Tee program. So it turns out he’s not leaving the mayoral office in disgrace or running from the hot-stove-league of politics. He didn’t even use a smear campaign to get his new gig.
“The former course manager’s a friend of mine who’s moving to Colorado to go into private business,” Smith said.
His platform at New Haven, a 25-year-old layout that’s already been updated with grooming and sand and turf improvements, is to increase membership and, he said, “put into place the plans we have for some new activities. Have you seen the new clubhouse?”
This is, after all, how it used to be in politics. A person would serve, not make a secret obscene amount of money, not develop political connections they could abuse for personal favors, then leave the office and duty for someone else and move on to serve in a private but useful capacity. What Smith’s doing is not entirely par for today’s modern course.
Maybe he’d have been beaten in the fall election. Maybe there have been better mayors. Either way, there’s a ton to be said for serving your community as it relaxes at, say, a golf course.
In some ways, golf isn’t that different from politics. Take the long No. 2 par-5 at New Haven, its No. 1-handicap hole. Off the tee, left (liberal) is woods, right (conservative) is street. On the approach, left is water, right is road again. Success comes through accuracy and a bit of compromise.
“It’s the only hole out there,” he said, “I haven’t parred.”