Friday, February 25, 2011

TOP STORY >> Mayor Fletcher roasted

Leader staff writer

Jacksonville Mayor Gary Fletcher was flame-broiled Thursday night in front of a packed house during the Jacksonville Senior Center’s 16th annual Roast and Toast fundraiser.

About 350 people laughed as Fletcher was put on the hot seat by his sister Jennifer Wintz, state Sen. Eddie Joe Williams, Jacksonville Second Baptist Church Pastor Steve Walter and attorney Jon Johnson.

The roasters went after Fletcher’s lean physique and his likeness to Mayberry sheriff’s deputy Barney Fife.

Williams, a former Cabot mayor, opened his skewering of Fletcher by saying, “Has anyone seen the show ‘What about Earl?’ That’s him today.”

He said his phone rang a couple months back. He saw the call was from the mayor of Jacksonville. Williams thought to himself, Fletcher had tried to annex Gravel Ridge and northern Pulaski County, and now he’s trying to annex Cabot. Fletcher was actually calling to invite Williams to be a roaster.

“There’s not enough of you to roast. He weighs 90 pounds. You should see him without clothes. It’s an ugly sight,” Williams said.

He said when Fletcher gets out on the dance floor, he looks like a spaghetti noodle.

The senator said the day after the Jacksonville mayoral election, his wife said to him, “I didn’t know Don Knotts moved to Jacksonville, but he’s been elected mayor.”

Williams presented Fletcher with one bullet—just in case. Then he said to the crowd, “After the annexations, I’m going to give him the whole box. You need it, buddy.”

The former Cabot mayor said he gave Fletcher some mayoral advice.

“Gary, don’t annex anything now and don’t fool with the garbage pickup,” Williams said.

“I hope that’s working out for you,” he added.

Williams eased up and said Fletcher always treats people with respect. “It’s an honor to call him a friend.”

Fletcher’s sister, Jennifer Wintz, told the story about needing a ride to the airport. She said Gary was running late and he needed to take a shower. Her plane was scheduled to leave in an hour. She said when they left they had 20 minutes to get to the airport. When they were in the airport parking lot, Fletcher had them pray.

She heard, “Dear heavenly Father–yada, yada, yada, Jennifer, yada, pilots, yada, if the plane crashes, yada, her soul go to heaven, Amen.”

“I was the last one to get on the plane and the plane took off,” she said.

“Gary has a compassionate heart, a love for people and loves the Lord,” Wintz said.

Pastor Steve Walter told the story Fletcher shared with him when they were eating at Cody’s CafĂ©. He wanted to tell Walter about a situation that occurred in the mayor’s office.

Fletcher told him, “I was in a mayor’s meeting and everybody had got up and left. I was sitting there with an uneasiness in my stomach, feeling gas. I noticed music that was loud and on the right beat I could let out a little gas. After five or ten minutes people were looking at me. I saw everyone was smiling and laughing. And then it hit me, I had my iPod on.”

As church pastor, Walter said Fletcher strives to love Jesus.

Walter ended by saying, “Don’t mess with my trash and I’ll vote for you next time.”

Attorney Joe Johnson, a friend of the mayor, said, “He is Elvis Presley, the Bee Gees and Don Knotts all rolled up in one. We are truly blessed.

“He can out talk an echo. Before he was elected mayor, he had a full head of hair, now look at him. Being mayor is a stressful job,” Johnson said.

“He is really thin. He can tread water in a water hose,” Johnson continued.

He ended by saying Fletcher is a good man and he is honored Fletcher is mayor of Jacksonville.

Fletcher spoke to the crowd and said he is optimistic about the schools and the economic future of the city.

“Tough times either define you or defeat you,” Fletcher said.

He looked at Col. Mike Minihan, 19th Airlift Wing commander, and said, “We don’t realize what we have with Little Rock Air Force Base. The cream of the crop is on the other side of that gate.”

The mayor said he almost cried when Col. Gregory Otey left the base. Otey told Fletcher “Minihan is like me, but on steroids.”

After the heat died down, Fletcher said, “It was fun. You’ve got to laugh at yourself. I enjoyed it.”

“This is the best roast I’ve been to in a long time,” Barbara Kehler said.