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Life as a Small Town Mayor Was Interesting
Part 3 of a 4-part short story
posted December 10, 2007
CARL LANGLEY – Being a small town mayor in
most places is not a very exciting job, so a mayor’s main job is
finding something interesting enough in town to grab and keep his
attention. You can only watch so many haircuts at the town’s one-chair
barber shop or watch so many oil changes and tire repairs at the corner
gas station before dullness sets in on a grand scale.
Not that it was all dull for me. I am the mayor I wrote about in the
first three parts of this series and the miracle is that I survived the
last two years, the most dreadful times in my life.
For at least six years into my two terms as mayor of New Ellenton I had
to deal with the usual complaints about dogs in garbage cans, claims
about speed traps and Saturday night drunks, but there came an awful
day when I had to face an event that would test anyone’s spirit and
The month of truth came with the killing of young Wally Slayton, a
monstrous act that never would have happened but for the vanity of a
young woman who developed a blood lust and gained a following of the
town‘s worst idiots.
In the end, we all were able to say goodbye to her and the four jerks
who followed her down the path of criminality. I hope that the horror
they inflicted on my town will follow them to the grave. They will
never deserve my sympathy or that of anyone else who loves and honors
his fellow man.
The death of Wally Slayton was the low point of my tenure as mayor of
New Ellenton, during which time I took pride in building a new town
hall, renovating a civic center and paving a lot of streets. I also
obtained funding for fencing at the local athletic field and to build a
set of stands for the fans.
The young woman who masterminded the murder of the teen-aged boy was
given a chance at a good life by a kind and gentle couple. Her adoptive
mother and father attended the same church I did, and they were there
every Sunday and were better churchgoers than me. Being good parents,
they stood behind this murderess to the bitter end. I don’t fault them
because at least they tried, unlike some of the parents of some of the
As I write this final part in my series of articles the young woman who
chose a life of crime and murder is still behind bars after being sent
to prison in late 1981, six months before I left office. I hope she
stays there the rest of her life because this is one case where the
justice system worked.
I, Carl Langley, entered the office of mayor after serving two years on
the town council and I often wondered how I lasted. During my eight
years as mayor my wife left me and I pleaded guilty to a drunk driving
charge. There were moments when I felt like taking to the road and
disappearing but I couldn’t shame my parents or those who believed in
me. I survived some awful setbacks in my life, but I must confess they
had a terrible impact on my pride and confidence. Today, I am fully
recovered and have a wonderful life with a great, intelligent lady. I
haven’t had a drink in 25 years and have spent the last 20 years trying
to help others, with my primary focus on saving the unfortunate dogs
and cats who mean so much to our lives if we show them love and
In looking back over the years, I must confess that I didn’t go out of
office in a blaze of glory but with spasms of relief. If ever a man
waited anxiously for his last day in public office it was me. I counted
down the days. I also knew that I would be turning the town over to one
of the most decent, honest and caring people it was my good fortune to
call a friend.
Gene Whitman, a country boy from Alabama who came to New Ellenton
several years before me, took over as mayor after I left office on the
last day of April 1982. The voters made a wise choice when they elected
my good friend Gene. He was a civic servant in the truest sense of the
Gene had served eight years on council during my time as mayor and
always was an advocate for doing the right thing. He took money from
his own pocket to furnish needed items when the town treasury was
short. He was one of the most honest men I have ever known, and I was
proud to call him my friend.
On Memorial Day of 1985 I received word that Gene had taken ill on a
trip to Charleston with his lovely wife, Peggy, a former president of
the state Jaycettes. She brought him home and two days later he was
diagnosed with the most virulent of all the dreaded blood cancers. The
town would suffer after he died with a year left on his first term.
In the days following Gene's death I thought of how he stood by me in
the hours after my car was burned, speaking out against the violence
that had erupted in the town. His reward two nights after the car
burning was to have his house shot into by night riders who could have
killed his son.
The shotgun pellets ripped through a window on New Year's Eve 1980 and
struck a wall across the room, but thankfully Gene's son was not in the
room at the time. "These people are going to keep it up until they kill
someone," Gene said at a meeting of the town council. His words were
prophetic and turned into reality five months later.
During my time as mayor I met many people who could have done a better
job of running the town than I did, but not one of them ever sought or
held office. and most became offended when it was suggested that they
I once was told by a man who had served on council before me that
everyone should have to spend at least one term on council or one term
as mayor. “That would teach them a lesson,” the former councilman
remarked. He had been a tank gunner in George Patton’s army during
World War II and observed that it was an easier job than being a
I really respected that man and after two years on council and eight
years as mayor I found what he had told me was true. Serving in public
office in a small town, where you have to wear many hats, would be
fitting punishment for some people, especially those critics who openly
hint that they could do a better job.
With my departure and Gene’s death, New Ellenton fell into disgrace. A
succeeding mayor obtained state funding for a sewer system, then ran
roughshod over property owners while converting a lot of the taxpayer
money to his personal use.
He was indicted for abusing the public trust, pleaded guilty and was
sentenced to jail. He served only about two years and moved away from
town. He should have been jailed for at least 10 years. I don’t think
the town has ever fully recovered from the shambles he created.
I have often thought of my friend Gene and will maintain to my dying
day that if he had lived New Ellenton would have seen all its promise
come to fruition. Gene had great visions for his adopted town and he
loved it with a passion. Not many who have lived there can make or
justify by their deeds such a claim.
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