Tuesday, June 04, 2013

EDITORIAL >> Allman’s all right

I admire Joe Allman but not necessarily for anything I recall him doing while he was mayor of Cabot.

Sure, he did some things to try to keep up with the unprecedented growth Cabot was experiencing 15 years ago. What choice did he have? It was there and he had to react.

“Growth is good,” he told me years ago when I asked if Cabot was ready for what was coming. I had my doubts but whether it was good or not, he did what he could with limited funds to supply the needs of a growing population.

A softball complex, a bridge here and there, a grant to straighten Main Street, where it jogged like a dog leg in front of city hall and a one-cent sales tax that paid for several water wells, a treatment plant and the lines to get the water into town were a few of the accomplishments of his administration.

But that was then and this is now and what I admire about Joe Allman is how he appears to thrive in retirement.

I saw him in April, on the evening the votes were counted for the second extension of his sales tax. He looked better than when I last saw him. He was thinner and, (if it’s even possible) more relaxed, and he seemed to have aged hardly at all. He was there because he supported the tax extension that will build another park and improve sewer so that the city can continue to grow because growth is good.

But what we talked about was his garden.

This spring has been the worst I’ve seen for gardens. I didn’t get anything planted until mid-May, but Joe had it all — the early vegetables that have to be in the ground while it’s still officially winter and hundreds of tomato plants that his wife Theta uses for homemade salsa.

Gardening is a pastime that requires dedication and a lot of forethought and preparation. But while I waited for the rain to stop and the temperature to rise, Joe was planting in beds he prepared last fall.

He told me when he lost his bid for a third term in office that he intended to travel some. And for a while he was active as a volunteer. But now, more than 10 years out of politics, it’s his home and family, his garden and long coffee breaks with his neighbor that take up most of his time.

And talking with him, I could tell he loved the freedom of it all.

Maybe because I’m nearing retirement age, I’ve had to listen to a lot of woeful tales lately about people who have been eager to retire only to die before they could enjoy it. Or they retire only to realize their work was their life.

My dad was a farmer. My brothers all worked construction at one time or another. My sisters are nurses except for the one who raises cattle and paints houses. Your job is one of the first things others ask about. And to a certain extent the answer does give some insight into the person you are. But Joe is proof that it’s not the whole picture.

In his 70-plus years, he’s been known as a country boy in Texas, a postmaster and a mayor. Now he is retired and in my opinion he’s doing a great job at it.

— Joan McCoy