Wanda

In regard to local pop quizzes, my favorite subjects can be summarized in one word: People. One of my favorite news beats as a Sun reporter was city government – mainly because I enjoyed getting to know the people who worked for the city. They weren’t just news sources for The Sun. They were interesting personalities who contributed a lot to our town with their skills and knowledge.

I could continue with the tributes, but – as John Wayne would say – “daylight’s burning.” Let’s get started.

1.Who was Odis Muennink?

2. Who served as city finance director, then city manager and finally returned to his first job as finance director?

3. Who was Bill Cornelius?

4. What was Terry Dopson’s position with the city?

5. Who was Bob Forche?

6. A former deputy constable once served as police chief.  Name that chief.

7. Who was the city manager who resigned to become a state official in Austin and later returned to Baytown as city manager, second time around.

8. Who was the Baytown City Council member who opposed the construction of serpentine-shaped streets on downtown Texas Avenue, a project nicknamed The Snake?

9. Who was Edna Oliver?

10. What was Bobby Rountree’s position with the city?

Answers:

1. Odis Muennink was the city health director, also known as city sanitarian. “Health educator” would be an appropriate job title, too, because Odis was a teaching man. For example, he felt that restaurant managers, when they understood why food-safety rules had to be followed, would cooperate more fully. It was his job, Odis believed, to explain why.

2. J.B. LeFevre mainly liked to deal with financial matters and didn’t enjoy all aspects of city management. That’s why he asked to go back to his work as finance director. Request approved.

3. Bill Cornelius was director of city planning. In addition to employees, he worked with the City Planning Commission, consisting of appointed members. 

4. Terry Dopson was the director of the Parks and Recreation Department during its formative years. He multiplied the number of parks and was especially skilled in grant applications.

5. They called him “Bingo Bob” after he – Police Chief Bob Forche – busted Bayshore Rod, Reel and Gun Club members for gambling. What they did was play bingo.    

6. Blair Mann served as a deputy constable before he became a Baytown police chief. Blair was the uncle of a future Sun sports editor, Michael Mann.

7. Fritz Lanham was city manager when Gov. Preston Smith picked him as executive director of the Department of Community Affairs in Austin. After the governor left office, Fritz returned to Baytown as city manager. Fritz was popular with the press because he believed in – and practiced -- transparency in government.

8. Charlie Pool, a supervisor at Exxon, opposed the proposal to turn Texas Avenue into The Snake.  During his last meeting, a resolution was read and passed, praising his service on the council and naming things the city accomplished during his tenure. One of those things was The Snake. When that part of the resolution was read, Charlie briefly removed the pipe he was smoking but said nary a word.

9. Edna Oliver served as city clerk but preferred the title of city secretary. By whatever title,  she was the custodian of city records. She kept minutes at council meetings and traditionally said the opening prayer. Eileen Hall took Edna’s place when she retired. Eileen previously had served as City Attorney Neel Richardson’s secretary.

10. Bobby Rountree is a former city manager who was mentored by the master in city government, Fritz Lanham. Bobby started out in the Parks and Recreation Department as Terry Dopson’s assistant and succeeded him as director of the department when Terry resigned.

 

Wanda Orton is a retired managing editor of The Sun. She can be reached at viewpoints@baytownsun.com, Attention: Wanda Orton.

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