Richard A Stevenson, Wayne Township Trustee, announced his retirement at a press conference held at his office on Superior Street on Friday, December 6, 2019. First elected in 2006, Trustee Stevenson served for 13 years as the leader of one of the most populous townships in the state of Indiana.
Taking office in 2007, Stevenson oversaw the duties of trustee (which entail providing emergency financial assistance to needy Wayne Township residents) through the 2008-2009 Great Recession, the most significant economic downturn since the 1929 Depression. High unemployment brought a record number of families to the township office, many who had to ask for assistance for the first time in their lives. Soon after, property tax caps meant that less money was available to provide the needed assistance. Stevenson would often talk to his staff about growing up during difficult financial times, “They always made sure we children were fed, but sometimes the peanut butter had to be spread pretty thin.”
During the recession, when other offices were laying workers off, Wayne Township staff members had to accept reduced working hours, but no one lost their job. And sometimes clients may have received less assistance than they needed, but everyone who was eligible got help.
Stevenson cared for the people and the people appreciated him. One constituent, Vicki Jacobs, wrote to wish the trustee well in his retirement, “My Dad often told the story of growing up on his family’s struggling Wells County farm during the Depression, and at one point he accompanied his very ill father by horse & buggy to the local trustee’s office to see if there might be any assistance available; and the trustee wept as he stated that it literally broke his heart to have to tell them that he had no money left. It is because of that story that those such as you who hold the position of trustee have always held a special place in my heart and in my prayers.”
Stevenson said at the press conference, “I have always strived to treat everyone with dignity and respect. Here at the township we worked together to do what the voters elected me to do, that is giving people a hand up, and we never forgot whose money we were spending.”
The Waynedale community has had a special place in Trustee Stevenson’s heart. He said, “I will carry with me the fond memories I have of walking (and riding) in the annual Waynedale Parade where I met so many wonderful people like the ladies of the Waynedale Baptist Church. I also enjoyed attending the Waynedale picnic and the annual Taste of Waynedale, and working with Billie Rykard and Karen Walker to help save the Waynedale post office. I have also enjoyed being able to communicate with my constituents through my Voice of the Township column in The Waynedale News.”
A new trustee will be selected by a caucus of the Democratic precinct chairs of Wayne Township in the next several weeks. In the meantime, Deputy Austin Knox will run the office as interim trustee. Knox has worked alongside Stevenson for the last two years and has been with the township since 2015 as an investigator and then as director of support services before becoming deputy trustee. He will be on the ballot at the caucus and hopes to be selected to continue Rick Stevenson’s mission of helping people move from assistance to independence.
Article by SuzAnne Runge, Director of Communications, Wayne Township Trustee Office.
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