Although often used interchangeably, there’s a difference between a politician and public servant. A public servant can be involved in politics, but a politician’s focus isn’t necessarily to serve the public.
Bob Page was a public servant in the true sense of the word, and his passing at age 87 leaves a void in our community.
I first met Bob and his wife, Julie, more than 25 years ago. I can’t remember where; as a novice reporter, whatever event I covered in town – city council meeting, ice cream social, planning commission or Christmas in the Park – Bob was there, and he always had a kind and encouraging word.
Bob was of a generation that prided themselves on building a community, giving and doing for the greater good – not for monetary value or ego. He didn’t have an axe to grind, he had a town to help build.
He was a good team player in the days before “team-speak” became fashionable, but that didn’t mean he was a go-along to get-along kind of guy.
He was a free-thinker, often outspoken and not afraid to argue what he considered to be an important point. He was a nuts and bolts kind of guy – counting the pennies and holding people accountable.
Bob didn’t always agree with what was written in The Gardner News, and I would sometimes want to hide when I saw him walking up the sidewalk towards the office; if Bob had something to say, he would say it face to face, not whisper it to others or hide behind a keyboard.
More than once he took me to task; sometimes sitting stoically, sometimes stridently disagreeing with the newspaper’s editorial or the way a particular article was written.
“If I vote `no,’ write WHY I voted ‘no,’” he would say. “Write what I SAY.”
But no matter how intense a “discussion” with Bob was, it always ended with a handshake; he debated issues, not personalities or egos, and when the debate was done, he would move forward. He was an elected official, he had residents to represent and a city to serve.
The last few years, Bob hasn’t been as been as involved in town; like with all of us, age eventually takes its toll. His last few visits to the office had been bittersweet: talking about his family and beloved wife Julie, the loss of his driver’s license for age related issues and difficulty getting to city council meetings.
Even in his mid-80’s Bob kept up on local issues and provided a welcome historical perspective from his more than 20 years elected experience. As recently as May 2013 he addressed the council regarding a possible change on how appointments are made, “You’ve appointed more people in the last five years that we did in 20,” he told the council during public comment. “It’s ridiculous what we went through the last few years. When you go to make a decision, think four or five years down the road.”
Gardner’s lost a good friend with Bob’s passing, but when I look around town his legacy lives on in everything from the downtown sidewalks, Hillsdale Lake water supply and keeping downtown viable.
Bob helped build a town, and he will be missed. Thank you Bob for your years of unselfish service.
Robert “Bob” Errol Page, 87, of Gardner, Kan, passed away Oct. 29, 2015 at Lakeview Village, Lenexa, Kan. He was a 75 year member of First Presbyterian Church, a member of the Gardner American Legion, VFW and Lions Club. He served on the Gardner Planning Commission and Gardner City Council. Bob was a volunteer fireman for 26 years where he reached the rank of Asst. Chief. He spent 15 years helping coach both boys and girls Little League teams. Bob was recognized by Gov. Bill Graves for 40 years of community service and was honored as Gardner Citizen of the Year in 1992.
Page’s legacy of public service lives on