By Frank Lewis
It was the only description I could think of Saturday after hearing of the death of long time friend New Boston Mayor Jim Warren, but here it goes – “one of the good guys.” That is so inadequate and yet I can’t think of another way to describe him.
In my business from time to time we write about well known political leaders passing away and we find the best words possible to write about them, but this time it is different. Jim Warren was a personal friend. But then again, I would imagine everyone who knew him considered him a personal friend.
How fortunate it must be to be liked by everyone. Jim Warren was, first of all, an education pioneer. Another friend, Steve Hamilton, village administrator for New Boston, related a story to me on Monday about being a kid with a bad stuttering problem, who was made fun of by other kids, but Jim Warren went to bat for him and got him a speech therapist, then became almost a lifelong mentor. I can tell you, Steve, like may others, is brokenhearted. We all are.
Jim Warren had an ability not found in the political realm today. He was able to communicate with all different types of people including political opposites. He always set all of the partisanship aside and worked for the good of the people.
Another thing about Jim Warren was that he was genuine. If anything he was a throwback to a different time in this country when a man’s word was his bond and when public service was really that, public service and whether it was his career in education or his second career as Mayor, he was truly a public servant. I don’t know how many conversations we had about how things have changed in America and I can tell you he was disappointed in how partisan politics has created gridlock and kept things from getting done.
I believe New Boston to be probably the most effective government in the region, and, since he was at the helm, that arguably puts him into the category of being the most effective and important leader in the area. While his leadership will be missed considerably, his friendship will be missed even more.
It’s funny how we remember where we were when important things occur in our lives. My wife Joyce was reminding me Sunday the last conversation she had with Jim. The power was out and he was in the middle of a busy intersection directing traffic. She rolled down her window and said “don’t quit your day job.” He loved it and it gave him a chance to laugh during a very trying time.
The last conversation I had was the day he honored me by making me an honorary citizen of New Boston. He knew how much I love that community and the extraordinary people who had to reinvent themselves when the mill closed down. He was instrumental, along with Bob Walton and Mick Sturgill, in helping to make New Boston the retail center of the region. Talk about turning lemons into lemonade.
So as I say goodbye to my friend Jim Warren I want to remind everyone who will listen that a great man passed through our lives, maybe unnoticed. He loved New Boston and he loved the United States of America. He was our finest leader at a time when we needed one in the worst way. I will never forget Jim Warren and I hope you won’t either.
Vince Gill said it better than I can so here it is.
“Go rest high on that mountain
Son, your work on earth is done
Go to heaven a shoutin’
Love for the Father and Son.”
Reach Frank Lewis at 740-353-3101, ext. 1928, or on Twitter @franklewis.