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Community needs more people like Coggeshall

We need more people like Mike Coggeshall. For the past 30 years, Coggeshall (it’s English, the name of a town in County Essex, northeast of London) has been tramping around the woods of Harrison, Crawford and Floyd counties, assisting private landowners who have questions about their woods. He’s a one-man ‘consulting service provided by the taxpayers.’ He gives advice on woodland preservation and improvement, tree planting, classified forests, federal cost-share programs, as well as marketing trees.
Coggeshall is also well-known among local historical re-enactors. He was a charter member of the Yellow Jacket militia here. More recently, he dressed up for the many Lewis and Clark events in Clarksville that culminated in the bicentennial celebration of the beginning of the Corps of Discovery’s journey throughout the Northwest Territory in the fall of 1803.
Less well known is Mike Coggeshall’s work on the Corydon Planning and Zoning Commission. He was a volunteer member of that nine-person board for 12 years. He felt qualified to serve on the board because he has a professional educational background in resource management: He earned his bachelor’s degree in forest management at Purdue University in 1970. (He also got a master’s there, in aerial photography and remote sensing.)
He said his time on the planning board was always interesting and he enjoyed it. He recommends public service to others who might feel the urge, or the call, to do something for his or her community. He said the few hours that he put in each month was a good experience that allowed him to interact with some of the major players in the local development scene. He got to see things before they happened and had the chance for ‘input.’ Just about all the big changes on the north side of town over the past few years first passed through the local planning board.
Coggeshall, 56, didn’t have many opportunities to apply his forest management expertise to town planning and zoning issues, but he felt that, on the whole, many developments have been good for the local economy. He does worry, however, about the good productive farm and forestland that’s routinely being converted to residential areas throughout Harrison County. What makes Harrison County attractive is disappearing, and it seems inevitable, he said.
Coggeshall remembers one nettlesome issue, when a New Albany lawyer threatened to take the plan commission to court unless it ruled in his client’s favor. It’s a disturbing tactic seen elsewhere. However, nothing happened, and Coggeshall figures the board called the attorney’s bluff.
Coggeshall was asked to serve by town council president Fred Cammack, who, over the years, has enlisted many citizens for public service. Coggeshall said he enjoyed working with his other volunteer colleagues on the board, particularly Dr. Leonard Waite, the razor-sharp chairman who ‘keeps everything on track and in order. He is very good at keeping things under control, even when the exchange of views gets heated.’
Cammack said Coggeshall brought ‘all-around really good judgment and common sense to the board. He always thought everything through, and he was very good at separating the wheat from the chaff.’ He rarely if ever missed a meeting.
Les Rhoads will succeed Coggeshall.
Just for the record, here’s how the law says the nine-person board is formed. Cammack, as town council president, appoints four people, two Republicans and two Democrats. Three members are from the town council, and two, who must live within the two-mile fringe, are appointed by the county commissioners.