Leaves legacy of loving people
After three terms, Mayor Stein Baughman, Jr. will step down as mayor of Farmerville. The changes his exit represents, will, in essence, usher out an old era, and bring in a new one.
Baughman was born July 16, 1936. Some Farmerville residents will remember 1930s Farmerville, but most will not. It was a much simpler time with no cell phones, social media, or technology. An era when being a lady or a gentleman was a requirement and not an option. It was in this idyllic time that Baughman grew up with his brother and two sisters.
The Baughmans lived, worked, worshipped and socialized in Farmerville and around Union Parish.
“I had wonderful grammar and high school teachers. Farmerville has always been blessed with great teachers,” said Baughman. One of his favorite memories from school came when the Baughmans were the first family in Farmerville to get a telephone in their home. The whole class went to the Baughman’s home and was able to see and use the new-fangled telephone.
Above all, Baughman remembers that his father was exceptionally good with people and politics. His mother was known for her kindness in making sure that the needy in the community had what they needed. “We couldn’t have Christmas until my mother had taken care of the needs of other families,” Baughman said. Watching his parents and how they communicated with and took care of the community would shape young Stein and give him the tools and skills he would need in the future.
September 29, 1950 proved to be a fateful day for Baughman. That is the first time he remembers laying eyes on Miss Ann Gillum. His team had won a ballgame against Lake Providence and as a reward, the coach allowed them to ride home on the cheerleader bus. Eight years later, on June 5, 1958, Baughman married Gillum and 62 years later, he still says, “it’s the best thing I ever did.”
Baughman received his degree in pharmacy from Ole Miss in 1959. “I never thought about entering a profession that would take me away from Farmerville,” he said. Farmerville was a part of him, and he was a part of Farmerville. Baughman immersed himself and his family into life in Farmerville. “We have wonderful churches in Farmerville. They do a great deal for our community, for our state, our country and the world.
The people of Farmerville work hard to understand one another. They are caring people who help one another and pull together to overcome adversity,” Baughman said.
Baughman and his wife have three children, seven grandchildren, and four great-grandchildren. None of those children or grandchildren live in Farmerville but they all still love to visit and reconnect with their Union Parish roots.
In 2008, Baughman had been retired for six or eight years and had been feeling the need to, in some way, give back to the community that he loved. After several people approached him about running for mayor, he decided to give it some serious thought. “It took me a long time to decide. I had several people asking me to run,” Baughman said, “but my main concern was could I accept defeat?” As it turns out, that was a question that did not have to be answered. “I had capable opposition, but I won,” he said.
Baughman credits his parents’ legacy with helping him in his run for mayor. “My mom and dad had been deceased several years, but they had a lot to do with me winning that election,” Baughman said. He remembers one lady walking up to him in the grocery store and telling him that as a child she never would have had a Christmas without Ms. Mary D. And with that legacy of love for community and people, Baughman began his service to Farmerville as Mayor.
During his 12-year tenure, Baughman has collected many memories and a great deal of wisdom. “All those years of standing up in that pharmacy I wondered what it might be like to sit behind a desk and having an assistant might feel like,” Baughman said, “I loved it.” Baughman’s assistant, Nell Wayne has been instrumental in helping him to get things done in an efficient manner for the city of Farmerville. “She has been wonderful. If I needed her to get Putin on the phone, it might take her about 15 minutes but I believe she could get it done,“ chuckled Baughman.
As he reminisced about his time and service as mayor, one thing stood out among all the others. Baughman loves the people of Farmerville. “Listening to people and their concerns helps me to really understand what is going on in and around Farmerville. I want people to know that I care about their needs and their desires,” said Baughman.
Being mayor is not an easy job. Decisions must be made, budgets must be balanced, the city must be run effectively and efficiently. “When I came into office, crews were cutting right of ways with weed eaters. My administration brought in tractors and equipment and we gave our crews the things they needed to get their work done,” Baughman said.
He has only good things to say about his leaders in the community and other elected officials who were responsible for helping him make decisions. “I’ve had a really good town council for 12 years. They have been congenial and helpful. Our supervisors in the community have also been instrumental in helping to get things done. We won clean city for about five years in a row,” Baughman said.
Baughman has been blessed with a good council, leaders, and support staff. However, there is one person who has been his right hand, Gay Nell Pepper. Pepper who serves as the Town Clerk has been working for and helping the citizens of Farmerville for almost 38 years. “Gay Nell hasmeant a great deal. She has been my right hand and I can depend on her to be there in any circumstance,” Baughman said.
Likewise, Pepper has only the highest praise for Baughman. “Mayor Baughman has a passion for his citizens like I have never seen. He treats everyone with dignity and respect. I have witnessed him treat a homeless man who came into town hall with the same respect as a senator that came to visit,” said Pepper.
When questioned as to what he would like to improve in Farmerville, Baughman confessed concern for the alarming drug statistics for the town. “When I first started working in 1959, I thought drug abuse in Farmerville would never be a big issue, and I was wrong about that.”
His other concern was the unprecedented trash and litter problem that the city and parish are dealing with. “I would like to apologize to those citizens who do not litter and issue a harsh criticism for those who litter and with no regard for the impact on their town and fellow citizens,” Baughman said.
On May 30, 2018, Baughman was doing some city clean up when a truck struck him in the utility vehicle he was driving. When he came to, he was 30-40 feet from the point of impact. Thankfully, Baughman survived the horrible collision, but his recovery was long and painful. Baughman expressed his deepest gratitude for those who kept the city running during his absence. “I appreciate how everyone pulled together and carried the load while I was out,” he said.
Overall, Baughman has thoroughly enjoyed his 12 years as the mayor of Farmerville. “I am going to miss being mayor,” he said.
He expressed his gratitude for the support of his wife and family. He also commended the Town, the Union Parish Sheriff’s Office, and the Union Parish Police Jury on their willingness to compromise, work together, and accomplish things for the citizens of Farmerville and Union Parish. “The relationship between these entities is as good as it has been in a long time and I am grateful for their willingness to work together,” Baughman said.
While he will miss being mayor, the support staff and citizens will miss him as well. “I have known him all my life but working with him the last 12 years, I have witnessed a man that loves all people and tries to help anyone that asks and some that do not ask… and he can tell a really good joke,” laughs Pepper.
“No matter how small or large the problem, whether I could fix it or not, I cared about each and every one,” Baughman said.