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Bishop bids adieu to Keith Caldwell

August 29, 2014

Mayor Pro-tem Pat Gardner presents outgoing City Administrator with a City Tile at his last council meeting, Monday, Aug. 25. Caldwell is returning to Georgia and has been replaced by Jim Tatum. Photo by Marilyn Blake Philip

While Aug. 25 was the first City Council meeting for new City Administrator Jim Tatum, the outgoing City Administrator Keith Caldwell was showered with farewell speeches, gifts, well wishes and applause and some goodbye pie for good measure.
From City Council members to Bishop residents, many people said their goodbyes to Caldwell, whose last day in office was Friday, Aug. 29. Praise was so effusive that Caldwell announced, “I’ve changed my mind, I’m not leaving. This is too good,” which was greeted with a round of laughter.
Mayor Jim Ellis read highlights from a three-page list of Caldwell’s accomplishments. “You’ve been a very busy guy … a vital member of our city … and have helped us do amazing thing in every single department in immeasurable ways.” Ellis also expressed gratitude for the team Caldwell has “built and will leave in place” when he is gone. “We all want to go through life leaving things better than we found it and he’s accomplished that.”
Inyo County Supervisor Jeff Griffiths, said, “You have accomplished 30 years’ worth of good deeds in the seven and a half years. (However) in that long list, your many small kindnesses were left out.”
Caldwell said that these accomplishments were “not singular. They were collaborative efforts” with the city and the community. He acknowledged his wife, Vicky, who “came all this way with me on this adventure … We’ve received much more from you than we’ve given.”
City Attorney Ryan Jones, a newcomer to his post, said he felt welcomed by and comfortable with Caldwell right away. “I am moved by his emotion and passion for his work with the city … You are a good man,” Jones said and gave Caldwell baseball cards and golf balls because of their “common interests.”
True to his promise to give Caldwell something memorable, former city attorney Peter Tracy outfitted Caldwell with a bolo tie and a John B. Stetson derby, which Caldwell donned, saying, “I’ll wear it with pride.”
Bishop Area Chamber of Commerce and Visitors Bureau Executive Director Tawni Thomson thanked Caldwell on behalf of Chamber staff, members and volunteers who have worked “alongside Keith on many projects and programs that benefit the businesses and residents in our community.” She thanked Vicky Caldwell for serving as volunteer visitor center host. The couple will “be missed, not just professionally, but personally as well.”
With a broad smile, Thomson added, “And if you need help making any travel arrangements or reservations for a return visit, please be sure to let us know.”
Citizen Skandar Reid expressed thanks to Caldwell as a mentor who taught him a lot about public service and making public service announcements.        
Councilmember Laura Smith called Vicky Caldwell up to the podium, presenting the couple with a bouquet of flowers and words of gratitude and best wishes.
Inyo County Supervisor Linda Arcularius gave Vicky Caldwell, a Round Valley teachers aide, a tearful thank-you on behalf of her granddaughter who benefited greatly from Caldwell’s guidance.
Inyo-Mono Association for the Handicapped Director Beth Himelhoch said Keith Caldwell has given IMAH clients the opportunity to be of service to the city in many meaningful ways. “You and the city opened your heart and your arms” to the city’s mentally and developmentally disabled adults, “offering opportunities never there before (and) they learned vital skills.” Himelhoch then presented Caldwell with a glass statue.
Bshop Area Chamber of Commerce Board President Julie Faber added to the levity of the occasion, giving each councilmember a paper airplane on which was written public comments suggesting ways to support the airport expansion and rehabilitation. After the readings, councilmembers were unable to resist flying their planes from the dais.
Mayor Pro-Tem Pat Gardner presented the city tile of gratitude, “Although, you will be missed, I know you are going for all the right reasons.”
Councilmember Keith Glidewell presented Caldwell with an inscribed pocket watch. “It’s on Bishop time and will stay on Bishop time,” he joked. Seriously though, “through good times and tough times I always knew that Keith was a man of integrity … that he was passionate about his job and cared deeply for the city. For all these reasons I respect Keith.”
Councilmember Dave Stottlemyre presented the official city coin. “From time to time as you look at this coin let it remind you of your fond memories of the City of Bishop.” By the way, he joked, “I looked up the price of silver on the stock market this morning and it was $19.71 per ounce.” Stottlemyre also said he admired someone who would “pick up and move all the way across the country” to start a new life in an unknown place.
Public Works Director David Grah said that he has really appreciated Caldwell’s open, friendly style, which has allowed the city team to make accomplishments both in and outside of the city. Police Chief Chris Carter and Fire Chief Ray Seguine lauded Caldwell earlier in the meeting during department reports.
Citizen Chuck Kilpatrick expressed his appreciation for all the Caldwells have done as members of the United Methodist Church, for its congregation and its special programs.
Former City Clerk Denise Gillespie spoke emotionally “on behalf of past employees.” During Caldwell’s 2007 interview, she could tell he was “going to be good for the city,” that he would be an asset to city staff, as well as the community. “It was a pleasure to work with Keith.”
Citizen Charles James wished the couple good luck, adding, “You are going back to a place that has more water in the air than we have in the ground.”
Tatum said, “I liked you until the statement you made about changing your mind.” When the laughter subsided, he said, “I admit it’s a tough act to follow (but) I thank you for your invaluable help” which enhanced the leadership transition.
When all was said and done, Vicky Caldwell said she would truly miss Bishop and being part of the community.
“…We’ll never forget it and we will be back for sure.” 
The Caldwells will be returning to their hometown of Winder, Ga. to be with family and to care for their aging parents.

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