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Lake City mayor still believes in public service even after 37 years in office
by Bill Baldowski
October 31, 2012 03:40 PM | 1284 views | 0 0 comments | 20 20 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Sitting under a photo of Abraham Lincoln which hangs prominently in his office, Lake City Mayor Willie Oswalt believes public service is a public trust
Sitting under a photo of Abraham Lincoln which hangs prominently in his office, Lake City Mayor Willie Oswalt believes public service is a public trust
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When Willie Oswalt first took his seat as mayor of Lake City in 1975, the cost of a gallon of gas was 44 cents, the average income was $14,100, the cost of a new home was $39,100 and the cost of a new car, $4,250.

Prices may have changed considerably but one thing hasn’t changed for Oswalt — the way he approaches serving his constituents as Clayton County’s longest-tenured mayor.

In the more than 3.5 decades he has served as the city’s chief executive, the 72-year-old father of two and grandfather to eight, who moved to Lake City in 1964, has had the same philosophy regarding public service.

“Public service is a public trust and a public commitment,” he said, a philosophy which has seen him as Lake City’s only mayoral candidate in all but two municipal elections during his tenure. He won both contested elections handedly.

“As mayor of Lake City, I see each and every citizen of our great city as my boss who put me into this office with their vote and the people I answer to,” Oswalt said.

He added that, even as mayor, he is not adverse to taking his truck and personally removing trash, limbs or other debris from the yard of a constituent.

“I am not afraid to get my hands dirty to help one of our citizens,” Oswalt said. “It’s just how I was brought up.”

The mayor traces his public service philosophy back to his days as a fourth grader living on a farm with his family in his native Mississippi.

“I don’t mind saying we were dirt poor growing up,” Oswalt said. “However, it was at a time when neighbors in a community looked after each other and were always there to chip in to help our neighbors.”

That neighborhood camaraderie spirit of the early 1940s hit close to home for Oswalt’s family.

“Our entire family was working in our field one day when I was home from school and our home burned to the ground,” he said.

Although the home in which Oswalt spent most of his young life was a total loss, with the help of his neighbors, his family moved into a new home within 27 days.

“It’s that spirit of pitching in to help one another which I carried into the mayor’s office and will always be one of my guidelines as an elected official,” he said.

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