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Column: Augie was voice of blue collar workers

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A number of people had a lot of nice things to say about Augie Tindell following the death of the former city councilman who represented the first district for 20 years.

I suspect, however, that Augie would have liked best the accolade paid him by Hutch Schumaker.

Hutch, a Columbus businessman whose family roots in local Democratic Party politics go back several generations, had this to say about the fellow Democrat who spent 35 years of his adult life working at the old Reliance Reeves plant on Seventh Street:

“Augie was such a stabilizing force because he kept City Council people grounded in the fact that Columbus was predominantly a blue-collar town. He reminded us that the blue-collar families have needs, concerns and issues.”

Augie was proud of his blue-collar roots. They helped him get elected five times because most of the voters in his first district were blue-collar like him.

On the City Council, he was often in the minority. A number of those who served with him were either business executives or owners. Several lived in comfortable circumstances.

Not that there is anything wrong with those backgrounds, but that kind of status can insulate people who often find themselves associating principally with others in similar circumstances.

It was often left to Augie to describe for them what life on the other side of the street was like.

Sometimes Augie’s blue-collar viewpoints got lost in the shuffle of visionary projects. No one was putting him down or dismissing his perspective, but the “big picture” usually won out in the end.

Hutch’s description of Augie rang a bell with me.

One piece of advice that has stayed with me over the years was pronounced by Ned Bradley, who was general manager of Home News Enterprises (the parent company of The Republic) when I came here from our sister paper in Franklin in 1966.

Columbus was the big time in my eyes. I envisioned dealing with movers and shakers, etc. After all, the city was home to two Fortune 500 companies (Cummins Engine Co. and Arvin Industries).

Ned brought me down to earth in an introductory meeting when I asked how he would describe the typical reader of what was then The Evening Republican.

I expected “corporate executive,” “Rotary Club member” or “entrepreneur” in response.

Instead I got, “the fellow who works the second shift at Arvin.”

Indeed, I came to understand what Ned had been telling me. I adjusted my perspective accordingly. I didn’t write about the big picture around the world but the things that took place in and affected the people of Columbus.

There have been times, especially in recent years, when I thought the pendulum might be swinging, that Columbus might be transitioning into a white-

collar town.

Certainly the city has gained a lot of “professional” workers as Cummins Inc. has created more than 1,500 engineering and administrative positions in an expansion of its downtown office complex.

Even the plant floors of the city have taken on a new look as job requirements have been escalated to demand greater education and skills.

The downtown has taken on a cultural atmosphere in its entertainment district with a special appeal to young professionals.

But even with all that, Columbus still has a lot of blue around its collar.

That was brought home to me last week when I was researching an editorial and looking for the number of workers employed in manufacturing positions at Woodside Industrial Park.

Pat Wilson, of the Columbus Economic Development Board, puts that number at 5,525, which dwarfs the number of people who work in downtown offices.

Those are only a fraction of the manufacturing employees in the city. Thousands more work at plants and operations scattered around the rest of Columbus. I advanced past manufacturing to think about the service sector — sales clerks, restaurant workers, grocery baggers, etc. — and could only guess at numbers that also have to be in the thousands.

I have no idea what the total number of “blue-collars” might be. I’ll leave that to some statistician.

I do know one thing. Augie Tindell represented a lot of blue-collar people, and he spent a good part of his life reminding a lot of other people that they needed to pay attention to them.

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