Follow The Republic:
Former Columbus Mayor Robert Stewart has been selected as the recipient of the 10th annual Richard L. Johnson Leadership Award. The award will be presented to the Bartholomew County native and three-term mayor at 6 p.m. Oct. 10 at a March of Dimes dinner at the Harrison Lake Country Club.
“What better way to honor a community icon and enjoy an elegant evening than by supporting the March of Dimes efforts for stronger, healthier babies, right here in Columbus,” said Blake Trobaugh, community director of the March of Dimes organization.
Funds raised by the dinner and auction support lifesaving research and educational programs.
Premature birth has been identified as the most serious infant health problem in the United States today, affecting more than a half-million babies each year. The March of Dimes is partnering with Columbus Regional Health Birthing Center to reduce the number of pre-term births in the community.
To purchase tables/tickets for the event or to make a “Fund the Mission” donation in honor of former mayor, call 371-2364. Donations of sponsorships and auction items have been made by SIHO, MainSource Bank, Dora Hotel Co. and other local companies.
Former mayor’s accomplishments
Here are some of the accomplishments of Mayor Bob Stewart during his three terms in office, from 1984 to 1996.
Ethnic Expo: The annual celebration of the diverse Columbus community was the idea of first lady Barbara Stewart and was launched with the mayor’s backing early in his first administration.
Economic Development: The city’s economic development program had been launched in the 1970s, but Stewart became its chief advocate in the mid-’80s. He became personally involved in the effort to bring new business to the community. By the end of his third term, 28 international companies had established operations in the city and the community’s workforce had grown by more than 10,000.
All-America City: Columbus was named an All-America City at a 1994 national conference in Oakland, Calif. The original effort to earn that honor began as a Leadership Bartholomew County Class project and singled out the city’s successes in economic development, fighting substance abuse and Project Self-Sufficiency. After Columbus was selected as a finalist, Stewart and other community leaders lent their considerable efforts to developing a presentation to the judges that resulted in the recognition.
Diversity training: Concerns about treatment of minority residents in the community by Columbus police drew an immediate response from Stewart in 1992, including development of a massive diversity-training program for all employees of the city and creation of a commission charged with investigating complaints against police.
Mill Race Park Expansion: The enhancement and expansion of Mill Race Park was a project undertaken to celebrate in 1992 the 500th anniversary of Christopher Columbus’ historic voyage to the New World. It represented one of this community’s most important collaborations of the private and public sectors. Stewart took on the role of cheerleader and lobbyist, persuading the Indiana Legislature and the U.S. Congress to allocate significant funds for the project.
Donner Center Renovation: Stewart lobbied strongly for a $1 million bond issue to renovate Donner Center and its adjoining pool in 1986. One of the features added to the pool was a new water slide. While much of the funding came from the bond issue, Stewart also raised funds from the private sector, including $50,000 from the daughter of William Donner, whom he visited on a trip to California.
Renaming of Hamilton Center: In one of his last acts as mayor in 1995, Stewart directed that the name of Lincoln Center be changed to Hamilton Center as a tribute to the Columbus family that had donated the original ice skating facility to the city.
Focus 2000 Committee: A strong working relationship between the public and private sectors was one of the hallmarks in Stewart’s philosophy. To that end, he persuaded Jim Baker and Henry Schacht, chairmen respectively of Arvin Industries and Cummins Engine Co., to put together a group of community leaders to champion and facilitate major initiatives that would benefit the community.
Lincoln-Central Neighborhood Family Center: The downtown neighborhood center sprang from the Children, Youth and Families Initiative, which was developed through the Focus 2000 Council. It was seen as a vehicle to address the needs of low-income residents in the downtown neighborhood.
Project Self-Sufficiency: This grass-roots effort was launched in 1986 to provide low-income individuals and families with practical assistance in attaining independence from welfare assistance. Again, the public and private sectors were instrumental in seeing that clients received assistance in such areas as child care, transportation and education. Eventually, the program was folded into the Columbus Housing Authority.
Focus 2000 Substance Abuse Council: Responding to a human-needs assessment, which identified substance abuse as the community’s No. 1 problem, a group was formed in 1990 to craft a comprehensive approach to the problem that involved a number of organizations. Some of the major accomplishments included construction of a meeting facility for substance-abuse support groups such as Alcoholics Anonymous and Al-Anon, a school counseling program and support-group meetings for inmates at the Bartholomew County Jail.
Farm Progress Show: Tens of thousands of people, including then-Vice President Dan Quayle, descended on Columbus for the 1992 Farm Progress Show. Columbus was selected as the site for the agricultural showcase largely through the efforts of former national Farm Bureau President George Doup, the Focus 2000 committee and Stewart.
Front Door Project: This was arguably the crowning jewel of Stewart’s mayoral administration. He personally led the effort to dramatically transform the State Road 46 western entrance into the city as the Front Door, which would be attractive to both visitors and developers. Working closely with private entrepreneurs such as Dick Johnson of Johnson Oil, the Indiana General Assembly and U.S. Congress, Stewart was able to obtain millions of dollars in funds for the development. One of the final pieces to be put into place for the project was the Second Street Bridge, which will now bear his name.
Think your friends should see this? Share it with them!
Note: All comments left on our sites are first reviewed by an automated comment moderation system. Your comment may take up to 5 minutes to appear. If for any reason your comment can not be approved you will receive an email from this system with a detailed explanation.
All content copyright ©2013 The Republic, a division of Home News Enterprises unless otherwise noted.