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Editorial:Bridge symbol of Stewart’s ability to get people involved

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FORMER Columbus Mayor

Robert N. Stewart was one of many individuals who played key roles in bringing to fruition one of the city’s best known treasures, the cabled bridge over the East Fork of the White River that serves as a welcome to the community.

For decades it and a predecessor were known simply as the Second Street Bridge. Today, it bears the name of Robert N. Stewart.

The renaming of the span, which was formalized in ceremonies earlier this month, was not so much a recognition of Stewart’s involvement with an important element in the Front Door project but his role in serving as a catalyst for revolutionary changes in the community during his 12 years as mayor.

As the Bartholomew County native has repeatedly observed over the years, the changes brought about from 1984 to 1996 were the result of many individuals coming together in a variety of ways to make marked improvements in numerous facets of community life.

Those improvements and their related projects covered an array of subjects: economic development, downtown improvements, cultural awareness, quality of life and health care, to mention a few. A virtual cornucopia of individuals and groups were involved, many breaking off into individual projects, a few participating in a number of projects.

The unifying bond in all these undertakings was Stewart.

As one key participant in several of the projects that fell under a steering committee known as Focus 2000 observed, Stewart had a rare ability to bring people together, help them establish workable goals and then give them the freedom to accomplish their missions.

As was evident when he left office, many of those missions were, indeed,


The lifelong Republican also proved that individuals and groups of different political persuasions can find commonality in efforts to improve their


Stewart demonstrated that throughout his administration, especially in the first few years when he had to work with a Democratic majority on the City Council. It was often difficult to discern any political differences as the mayor and most members of the City Council left their party labels at the door. He often observed that there were few differences in political philosophy when it came to local government.

Indeed, one of his closest allies on numerous projects was Democrat Ab Schumaker, who served 32 years on the City Council.

Great things were achieved during Bob Stewart’s 12 years in office, but they came about because one man empowered scores of others.

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