The ‘Mayor of Corydon’ looks at 32 years straight in office
When Fred Keller Cammack, 64, was reelected last week to four more years on the Corydon Town Council, his amazing run as a public servant got even more amazing.
He has been on the town council since 1975. That’s 28 years. Twenty-eight years as town council president, which means, unofficially, he’s been the mayor of Corydon for 28 straight years. Assuming ‘hizzoner’ serves out his next term as president, which starts in January, he will have been mayor of Corydon for 32 years. That’s probably some kind of record in Indiana.
Andrea Johnson, vice director of the Indiana Association of Cities and Towns, said her organization doesn’t keep records on such things, but the only mayor she knows who’s in Cammack’s longevity league is Robert Pastrick of East Chicago.
Cammack is a full-time council president, a legal position. He makes about $31,000 a year and earns every bit of it. He’s on the town council, the town planning and zoning commission, Harrison County Solid Waste Management Board, the River Hills Regional Planning Commission, and the Chamber of Commerce of Harrison County’s board of directors. An Army vet, he’s a loyal supporter of the American Legion, plus the Falls of the Ohio State Park (he took a big interest in all the recent Lewis and Clark activities), and he can be found, usually in khaki slacks and an L.L. Bean shirt, at every festival, parade, ribbon-cutting ceremony and any other special event on the town square. Every time there’s a new waterwell dug, water pipe installed, road paved, brick laid, concrete poured or sewer pipe cleared, you’ll see Cammack there to make sure everything is done right. Everytime he gets a call from a constituent with a ‘reasonable problem,’ he often gets one of his department heads and they personally assess the situation. He thinks the citizens appreciate that, and, at the same time, he said, it often solves the problem.
‘The mayor’ was born near the intersection of Water and Poplar streets, in the house in which his mother, the late Grace Keller Cammack, was born. He said he decided to run for the town council after the late Neva Hess, a local Democratic Party activist, asked him and the late Denny Evans to run, and they both said yes only if the other would. Besides, Cammack said, he wanted to pay back the town for any mischief he and his brother, Ronald, might have committed when they were kids. Cammack’s wife, Regina, encouraged him, saying it was his civic duty to at least give it a shot. Regina, a well-loved teacher at Corydon Elementary School, died of cancer in 1989 at age 47.
The town board met in the old Town Hall, which was so thick with cigarette, cigar and pipe smoke that you could get emphysema by attending the meetings. Cammack and the other new trustees knew they had to do some things right away: repair and rebuild an ancient water treatment and distribution system that screamed for attention during a couple of droughts, and replace the rickety old Town Hall with a beautiful new brick building that Corydon is proud of, one that would be a good place for meetings and record storage. The council boldly dug wells on the Ohio River in Mauckport and laid lines all the way up S.R. 135 to Corydon. They replaced the water tank at Cedar Hill Cemetery and all the fire hydrants that had been in place since the 1920 or ’30s.
Cammack is proud that the council set high standards for town employees, expecting them to be dedicated, conscientious and ‘willing to get the job done, whatever it takes.’ In return, the employees get decent pay, benefits and equipment. The town always looks spic and span, thanks to those employees.
Cammack said he has tried hard to ‘keep politics out of local government,’ if that’s possible, and he tries to treat everybody fairly and equally. He’s relieved that the town and Harrison Township volunteer fire departments finally merged this year. As a former cost accountant at International Harvester in Louisville for 20 years, controlling spending comes naturally to him.
Cammack said he is glad to say that, thanks to the broad-minded David Whittington, the town has an excellent working relationship with Tyson Foods, which operates a big chicken processing plant in town. The town was never able to say that with past chicken plant administrators.
The mayor of Corydon is not one to rest on his laurels. There’s plenty to do: Updating the town planning and zoning ordinances, expanding the wastewater system and installing a satellite plant in the north part of town; upgrading the sewer capacity in that area to handle all the anticipated growth, and continuing to look at ‘ perhaps with a jaundiced eye ‘ more annexation. Cammack says he may sound old-fashioned but he believes in controlled growth, not ‘annexing everything in sight. Bigger is not always financially better.’ In the back of his mind, he’s always striving for better quality of life for the citizens of Corydon.
Cammack may know more people in Corydon than anyone else, and one of his newest acquaintances is Morgan Whooley, 64, who moved here from New York City after retiring from a career in equity trading with Salomon Brothers and then J.P. Morgan. At Salomon Brothers, Whooley worked with a fellow named Michael Bloomberg, who moved on to bigger and better things, made a ton of money, and was recently elected mayor of New York City. Whooley feels special. He says there aren’t too many people around who are on a first-name basis with the mayor of New York City and the mayor of Corydon, Ind.