Faith in Action

My Dad, the mayor

A life of service continues in West Virginia

Major Mike Himes, corps officer at The Salvation Army Schenectady, N.Y., Corps, admits he was a little concerned when his father, retired Major Richard Himes, said he was running for mayor of West Milford, West Virginia.

“My dad was starting a political career at 83 years old,” says Himes, “That can be a heavy load for anyone, even in a little town like West Milford. When there’s a problem, big or small, everyone always says, ‘call the mayor!’”

West Milford was one of the places where young Richard Himes grew up. His father was a coal miner who moved his family from place to place searching for work. Even though he only lived in West Milford for a short time, the little West Virginia town, current population under 700, left a mark on Richard.

“He was never really a political person,” says Mike, “But he was definitely a community person. When he returned to West Milford after retirement, he made connections with all sorts of social clubs and groups, young and old. He always had the Salvation Army flag flying wherever he went.”

Even before becoming mayor, Richard Himes was involved in his city as part of the town council. He also took on the job of street commissioner. “I used to joke with him that he was commissioner of the only two streets in West Milford,” says Mike, laughing.

In June of 2017, Richard Himes became mayor of West Milford, winning more than 50 percent of the vote.

“Everyone knew that he took every job seriously,” says Himes of his father. “It’s the reason why he was elected.”

Always serving

Last October, Mayor Himes, a veteran of the Korean War, traveled to Washington D.C. with fellow vets for a tour of the nation’s capital. Mike says that if it wasn’t for his dad’s military service, the Himes family might have missed being part of The Salvation Army.

“After serving in the Navy, my father was sent to Westover Air Force Base,” he says. “He returned there as a jet engine mechanic for Pratt & Whitney aircraft. That was where someone invited him to the local Salvation Army corps in Holyoke, MA. A few years later, he and my mother entered the College for Officer Training together.”

Today, as his son predicted, Mayor Himes has been on call for any issue in town, from leaky water pipes at the local elementary school, to a deadly carjacking that required FBI and state police involvement.

“He told me that it was a big event,” says Mike. “For some time, all eyes were on West Milford and his leadership.”

Even with his growing responsibilities, Mayor Richard Himes finds time to be involved in the community. If you catch a high school football game, you may see the mayor selling tickets at the door, says Mike.

“He’s as enthusiastic about it as if he was a young politician,” says Himes. “He always tells me that he never wants to leave town if there’s a job that needs to be done.

“It’s really a very cool thing to say that my 84-year-old dad is the mayor.”

by Hugo Bravo

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