By Stacy Walenter
Four years ago, the city of Troy was in a state of upheaval. Don Banning, the city’s mayor, had been recalled. There was little cohesion between the mayor’s office, the city council, and the city employees. Troy made headlines often, but never for the reasons one might hope. The city’s position on the front pages of local newspapers usually heralded not glory, but embarrassment.
Dave Norman, Troy’s Public Works Administrator, remembers the time well. “When Darren took over,” Norman said, “I don’t think anyone would have touched that job with a 10 foot pole.”
What looked like a mess to most looked like an opportunity to Darren Coldwell. Born, raised, and educated in Troy, Coldwell didn’t want to turn away; he wanted to help his hometown.
“I think everybody was just tired of the fighting,” Coldwell said, “including past councils and past mayors. I think it was just time for new personalities.” Coldwell discussed the troubles with Dallas Carr, Coldwell’s successor, and the two decided to act. Coldwell ran for mayor and Carr joined the city council.
With a degree in Interpersonal Communication and 25 years of running his own successful local business, Booze ‘n Bait, Coldwell went into the mayoral position undaunted. His only goal entering office was that the city and council functioned, and that they functioned with the community and the staff.
Within 90 days, the city was indeed functioning, if not flourishing. The city began growing in a different direction and everyone was growing the same way.
Coldwell took five different water and sewer loans and consolidated them into a single loan. By keeping the payments the same, he and his staff were able to shave 8 years off of the loans, resulting in a savings of $1.8 million for local taxpayers. Currently, since Troy’s general fund is built on property taxes, and the city’s population is declining, there is very little money available for use. After the 10 years left on the loan are up, Coldwell said, there will be an increase in improvements that Troy can make.
Coldwell’s personal goals as mayor focused on community improvements. During his tenure, city beautification efforts have seen the addition of fresh flowers in the warmer months, updated Christmas decorations for the holidays, new lighting, improved walking paths, and new police vehicles, which were purchased through a loan and grant program that Troy City Clerk, Tracy Rebo, put together.
Rebo, who has served with five different mayors, said Coldwell has been a joy to work with. “When Darren came in, he knew that there were a lot of employees who were not sure of the new administration,” Rebo said. “The city is now far better off than four years ago because of Mayor Coldwell.”
Coldwell’s tenure will end with the new year. He will continue his civic work in his role as Lincoln County Administrator, where he oversees the Emergency Management Agency, information technology, finance, maintenance, and human resources.
As he leaves office, he sends his gratitude to his team at the City of Troy.
“I really want to thank my council because they were fantastic. And the city employees,” Coldwell said. “I think they were really supportive of all the things we wanted to do. And really patient.”
Besides the unity, what will Coldwell miss the most?
“I’ll miss most the satisfaction,” Coldwell said. “In a small town, you can make some big changes. I’m proud of my tenure. I think we got a lot done.”