Mayors of Farmington

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Only 20 men have served
The Daily Journal, Flat River, Mo., Monday, March 19, 1979

               Farmington’s first century of political life gave 20 men the opportunity to serve as mayor.  And each public servant did much more than just add a footnote to the city’s illustrious history. 

            The leaders who all shared the common interest of serving the public represented various walks of life.  While some occupied the mayor’s chair between stints in other elective offices, most were businessmen who chose to take their unique community interests one step further into the political arena. 

            Shortly after Farmington became a fourth class city in 1879, voters selected John A. Weber to be the city’s first mayor.  It marked the dawn of a period that would see the dusty settlement grow into a thriving center for farming, commerce and transportation. 

John A. Weber was city’s first elected mayor

              The early shapers of the city’s growth shared a fancy for wearing their hair in the styles of the day.  Weber’s successor, Edward Zeller, sported a flowing white mustache in a portrait taken during the eight years he headed city government.  Zeller’s reign covered four terms from 1883-91.

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              George Herzog occupied the city’s top spot from 1891-93, yielding to Peter Schmitt, whose three terms as mayor covered the years 1893-99.

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              The final year of the 19th century was a unique one for Farmington politics because it saw the mayor’s role filled by three men over the 12-month period.

              Schmitt yielded the reins to Kossuth W. Weber.  But the new mayor died shortly after taking office and G.M. Wilson was tapped to fill out the remaining portion of Weber’s term.  It marked the beginning of a long period of public service on the part of Wilson.

              The years would see him spend three different periods at the helm of municipal affairs.  Weber spent six years as mayor during the first stint, coming back to win two-year terms in 1907 and 1911.   he is one of the only three men ever to have served non-consecutive terms as mayor of Farmington.

            Furniture store owner John T. Burks moved in as mayor in 1907.  Burks (1857-1930) was one of the county’s most active Democrats.  He won election as county treasurer after his stint as mayor.

              Wilson’s second term preceded the two years that William R. Taylor, Jr. spent in the mayor’s chair.  The city was headed by six different men over the 12-year period between 1905 and 1917.  Taylor’s term from 1909-11 was the third in the unbroken string of two-year stints.

              The distinguished Barton H. Boyer spent from 1913-15 as Farmington mayor.  The previous four years, the lean attorney presided over the county’s legal affairs as prosecuting attorney.

              Jones E. McKinney, the proprietor of a downtown Farmington café for 40 years, served as mayor from 1915-17.  Quick to follow was C.H. Giessing, whose two-year term closed out the second decade of the current century.

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Charles H. Giessing

              The year 1919 commenced the 15-year mayorship of Dr. Clarence A. Tetley, the man whose tenure in office far surpassed that of any other who held the honor.  Tetley perhaps did as much for the community as any of his comrades.  The accolades tossed his way upon death indicated how much he was endeared city residents.

            The Farmington News of May 24, 1934 provided the following account of the services conducted for the departed mayor:

            “A stream of sorrowing citizens passed in and out of the building (city hall), having come to pause for a moment at the bier of their much loved friend and faithful public servant.”  The body was in state and a sizable crowd was drawn to the services, the newspaper wrote.

              Following the death of Tetley, former mayor Giessing was appointed to the post for a short time.  The same year, B.T. Gentges was elected by city residents.  He served as mayor until 1939.

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B. T. Gentges

              Shelton T. Horn, the man who up until 1940 was the only county politician ever to  

Three mayors fill post in just one year

 succeed himself on the county court, was elected Farmington mayor in 1939.  This came after eight years as presiding judge.  By all accounts, Horn commanded attention.

              Horn cut a distinguished figure, accented by commanding height and grayish locks.  His goatee-type beard added a fitting touch to his appearance.  He reportedly never married but accounts from the era he served as mayor purport Horn to have been something of a ladies man.

              It’s said that during Horn’s eight years as mayor, city crews trimmed plenty of trees on property owned by widows in Farmington.  Those who knew Horn remember him as a fine politician and an even better friend.

              James C. Morris, a local clothier, was the people’s choice for mayor in 1947.  The retired businessman served two more terms before the election of 1953 was held. 

              In April of that year, Orville Woodard was selected to the first of five terms, placing his 10 years  as mayor second only to Dr. Tetley for length of mayoral service to the community.

              Woodard is reportedly the only Farmington mayor ever to have won election to the state legislature.  Born in 1901, he operated a heating store on Potosi Street in addition to winning mayoral elections in 1953, ‘55, ‘57, ‘61 and ‘63.  The long-time mayor died Oct. 6, 1973.

              Fred L. Revoir, a Farmington grocery store proprietor, interrupted the service of Woodard by posting a victory in 1959.  Revoir served two years as mayor before Woodard won another two consecutive terms.

              Newspaper publisher W.K. Giessing stepped from the news business and into the mayor’s role in 1965.  The popular editor of the Farmington News was re-elected to terms in 1967 and 69.

              The first mayoral election of the present decade saw Dr. Douglas K. Ross, a Farmington dentist, post a victory in 1971.  Ross would run and win again in 1973 but he resigned the post a short time later because of health reasons.

              Incumbent Floyd Hager, known by a generation of Farmington residents who attended the local high school, won a special election in July 1973 to fill out the remainder of Ross’s term.

              Hager toiled for several years as the vocational agriculture instructor on the campus before entering politics.  He went on to win re-election in 1975 and 1977 but recently opted against running for a fourth term.

            Any further paragraphs on the mayors of Farmington will have to wait for another writing.  Already, three men await the decision day April 3 to see who the people add to the list of city mayors.

              The community counted many achievements during its first century.  And from the title of “City of Tradition and Progress,” adequate credit should be directed to the men who came out of the ranks of the citizenry to lead their community into the future.

Many thanks to Jeanne (Hunt) Nassaney for transcribing this article for us!  This article was originally published by The Daily Journal in 1979.

UPDATE:   The following information is added to supplement the above article which was published in 1979.  Witten Ledbetter was elected Mayor of Farmington in 1977 and died in office in 1979.  Floyd Hager finished Witten Ledbetter's term by serving 1979 to 1981.  In 1981 Ron Stevens was elected mayor and served until 1989.  Mike O'Brien served 1989-1993; Gay Wilkinson served 1993 until 1997; and Kevin Engler served from 1997 until  2002.  Engler resigned his position in November 2002 when he was elected to serve as a State Representative.   The City Council selected Scott Semar, Mayor pro tem, to serve as Mayor until the City elected a new Mayor in April of  2003.  On April 8, 2003, Charles Rorex, a sitting councilman,   was elected Mayor and is presently serving.