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Beloved city manager dies at 73

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By LPR Staff
Editor/POST-REGISTER

For more than four decades, Joe Michie watched Lockhart. Through times of calm and chaos, thriving and turmoil, Michie gave to the community through public service, serving twice as Lockhart City manager, and through caring as a volunteer in a variety of civic organizations. Even in recent years as his health began to fail, Mi

chie was a constant presence in Lockhart, attending functions with the Lockhart Chamber of Commerce and the Kiwanis Club.

Though his professional path led him away from Lockhart, where he accepted his first position as a city manager in 1965, Michie’s heart was never far from his home.

“Lockhart is a great town,” he wrote in a farewell letter to the community after his retirement in 1995. “Julie and I love the people here, and even when we lived out of state, we considered Lockhart home.”

Much in Lockhart has changed since Michie arrived in 1965. At that time, businesses were bustling around the Courthouse Square, and the Lockhart Municipal Airport was little more than a gravel runway. Over the years, the Michies raised not only a family, but a community.

“Joe cared about people as reflected in his lengthy tenure as a public servant in the profession of city manager,” former Lockhart mayor Warren Kirksey said on Monday. “Joe made many mayors, council members and employees successful. Our community and, in fact, the world, is better today for his caring about people.”

In addition to his love for serving his community, Michie also had a passion for restoring cars, bagpipe music and Scottish lore, Kirksey said.

A graduate of the University of Arizona, Michie served in the United States Army until September 1960. On the day of his release from the military, he married his high school sweetheart, Juliana Hawkins, and the pair struck out to find new beginnings together. Within five years, their path led them to Lockhart.

“Green as a gourd,” Michie wrote in 1995. “This is what this 29-year-old was on July 1, 1965 [his first day as City Manager in Lockhart]. I was fresh from three years as an administrative assistant in Little Rock, Ark., and two years at the Texas Municipal League in Austin.”

Having just earned a Master’s of Public Administration, Michie said he didn’t know much about managing a city of 6,500 with a hospital, electrical system and gravel runway at the airport.

“I learned quickly, thanks to the great people in Lockhart and an understanding city commission,” he said.

In July 1968, Michie moved on, holding positions as City Manager in Mineral Wells, New Braunfels and Poplar Bluff, Mo., before returning to Lockhart in 1989 for another six-year tenure as City Manager.

In the 20 years since his return, many of the things Michie worked for before his retirement materialized. Street and drain improvement bonds that once failed have been passed, as has a half-cent sales tax initiative for economic development. He noted in 1995 that creation of an industrial park was needed. Today, two phases of the Lockhart Industrial Park have been sold, and are developing quickly.

Asked upon his retirement in 1995 what the future held for Lockhart, Michie said he wouldn’t dare try to predict. However, many of his hopes were willed into reality. Others still have a way to go.

“The day will come in the near future when a new central fire station is needed or a branch station on the north side of town,” he wrote. Discussions about building such a fire station are ongoing, and are among the Lockhart City Council’s priorities for the near future.

Michie left his community behind on Wednesday, Jan. 28, 2009, after battling illness for several years. His impact, however, will be felt not only by his family and friends, but by the community at large for years to come.

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