Friday, September 02, 2016

TOP STORY >> Mushrush kept eye on spending

Leader staff writer

Former Jacksonville Finance Director Paul Wayne Mushrush, 71, died Wednesday night after collapsing at his home.

For many, it was a shock as he was at Walmart just that afternoon where he ran into former Mayor Tommy Swaim, and they spent an enjoyable amount of time chatting about government. It was Swaim who hired Mushrush to become the city’s finance director.

He retired from that position in 2011, but still came by city hall to visit and was called in to review the city’s financials from time to time.

“He was a walking encyclopedia,” said Mayor Gary Fletcher. “You can never replace someone like that.”

Many joked that Mushrush was a sesquipedalian, a user of long words, and it was a term he endeared. Nikki Wilmoth, with the finance department, said Mushrush loved to find and use enigmatic words.

Cheryl Erkel, who was promoted to finance director when Mushrush retired, added, “Every day we would find a new uncommon word and work it into conversation and even his financial reports just make other stop and think.”

Under his watch, the city’s budget grew from $4 million to about $20 million and his department won the international Certificate of Excellence award every year in a row since 1997, one of the longest streaks in the nation.

Wilmoth said Mushrush was a wonderful person and a great boss. “He was well respected, and I was blessed to have worked under his leadership,” Willmoth said.

Erkel said all the employees in the financial department looked to Mushrush as a “father figure. We were his second family. He was a great man and a very good mentor.”

She added that even after his retirement he would help if needed. “He never gave us the answer, that wasn’t his leadership style, but he directed us to it.”

Tonja Gilbert, accounting services assistant with the finance department, said, “He was a brilliant man with a lot of neat life adventure stories. He truly loved his family. He was a good mentor. He will be missed more than words can describe. I am so blessed to have known him.”

Debbie Jernigan, accounts payable specialist, said, “Paul was such an inspiration to work with at city hall. His knowledge and dedication as finance director earned him many awards and designations. But what amazed me most about Paul was his overwhelming love and devotion to his wife Karin, daughter Sam and his grandchildren. They were always his first priority.

“I also remember listening to stories about his ‘escapades’ with his brother Grant, and Paul laughing like a mischievous little boy! ‘Good times,’ he would say. Paul’s legacy will always be a part of our office.”

Mushrush began working for Jacksonville in 1988 and became the finance director in 1992.

He was a longtime member of the Arkansas Government Finance Officers Association. Mushrush was elected secretary/treasurer in 1998 and became president in 1999 (skipping first and second vice president positions). He received the Arkansas Government Finance Officer of the Year award in 2003.

He was active in Jacksonville’s Historical Society, which promotes the Reed’s Bridge Civil War Battlefield. He was also involved in the Jacksonville Education Foundation, which helped create the new Jacksonville school district.

Mushrush was born on Aug. 14, 1945, in Stuebenville, Ohio.

He is survived by Karin Dooley Mushrush, his wife of 37 years; his daughter, Samantha Jones and her husband Bruce of Jacksonville; two grandchildren, Cadence Jones and Brooks Jones, and one brother, Grant Mushrush, of California.

A celebration of his life will be held from 2 to 3 p.m. Monday at A Natural State Funeral Service, 2620 W. Main St.

Additional arrangements are pending.