MOUNT GILEAD — Jamie Brucker is always looking for the next challenge. He’s found the latest one and on Jan. 6 the son of Jim and Robin Brucker will be sworn in as mayor of the village where he was raised.
“I grew up on South Main Street. I feel blessed. You get to see everything in town; every parade goes by. I grew up biking on the south square on the big grassy lot there,” he said.
“We’d play all the fun stuff, cops and robbers, with the neighborhood kids. I remember riding my bike and having the police department pull you over and ticket you for a free ice cream at Connie’s ice cream shop (now Grill and Chill).
“Everybody looked out for everybody and there’s an extra level of care. It’s those types of things as a kid that I remember and love about my town.”
Brucker, 30, has served as President of Village Council for the past year; on Nov. 5 he defeated incumbent mayor Mike Porter by a margin of 488 votes to 227.
He works for Snyder Funeral Services and is a 2011 Bowling Green State University graduate, where he received a business administration degree with a specialty in finance.
“As with a lot of things in life something happens to us personally and you become more interested in it. I lost someone in my family so I got really interested in the process of what happens now,” he recalled.
His grandmother died when Brucker was in the sixth grade.
“Listening to my parents talk about what the funeral director did for our family, I thought I’d like to have a job where I can help someone in such a unique way.”
The funeral director had to take the urn home and “shave a little off the top to get it to fit in the niche at the mausoleum she’s interred at.”
Brucker also became active in several organizations, including the Morrow Little Theatre and his church.
“I worked on some committees and got involved in Habitat For Humanity and served as treasurer. I noticed that everything I was doing was trying to create something to give back to the community.”
He recalls being at Wendy’s when he told a local resident, ‘One day I’m going to run for mayor.’ “He recommended that I start out on village council to get a much bigger picture of the ins-and-outs of the village.”
Brucker heeded the advice, ran and was elected, starting his term in January 2018.
“I put in a little extra time than was required … I rode along with police officers, went to fire training academy on two occasions.”
The street department let him help mow the grass and assist in hanging the Veterans Banners. When the water department crew went out on Christmas Day to repair a leak, Brucker accompanied them.
“I wanted to see what the departments were doing well and what they were struggling with,” he said. “It gave me a good idea of what was going on in the village.”
Council member Donna Carver has served with Brucker, in fact sat next to him during council meetings.
“Jamie will be a wonderful mayor. He has spent a great deal of time learning about each department. We have worked very well together creating a social media policy and page to communicate more effectively with our village residents. I look forward to serving on council with him as our mayor,” Carver said.
‘The next step’
When Dan Rogers retired as village administrator, it sought a replacement. Brucker was part of the process that resulted in the hiring of Derek Allen last summer.
“I took a couple days vacation from my job to meet with individuals, show them around town and I ended up running the interviews. I really started to realize that I absolutely love this kind of stuff and helping shape the future of our town,” he said.
Brucker wants to attract younger families back to Mount Gilead.
“Historically you grow up here, go off to college and take your knowledge elsewhere. I hope to break that cycle and that’s sort of what led me to the next step.”
With a fiscal officer and a village administrator handling a lot of the day-to-day operations, Brucker thinks that frees up the mayor “to start working on big-ticket items.”
Marketing the village
One of those is to create a marketing plan.
“I think there are opportunities for business to grow here, for developers to put in a small housing development.”
The lack of good rental properties is an issue, he says. “I just went to a housing meeting and people are waiting for apartments to come up.”
A marketing plan would aid potential developers, giving them information on police and fire protection and highlight what the village offers.
“Have it all in one document. I want to encourage planned growth, be proactive and reach out to companies that may want to come here.”
Brucker plans to work with the county’s economic development team.
Developing a couple of green spaces is another goal.
“One hopefully will be a pavilion next to the playground where the old Fort Gilead was.”
Council’s long-range planning committee, of which Brucker is a member, has been working on this plan.
The other one is a business-funded dog park.
“Many residents in town don’t have big yards and a nice fenced-in area to let their dogs run,” he said. “It’s a relatively inexpensive item that can help us grow without costing the taxpayers money.”
“Our biggest strength is our employees. Our street department is extremely dedicated, trying to keep our town beautiful. Just a lot of care with the guys and women who work for us.”
Brucker acknowledges that “attracting income-producing initiatives” is a challenge.
“Whether it’s the housing market and getting more people to live here and paying income tax or a bringing in a business. Our income from our income tax hasn’t grown with inflation and the cost of providing services.”
As he readies himself for the duties of mayor, Brucker is anxious to see what the next four years brings.
“I’m really excited and I think there’s going to be a lot of growth in the county. I hope that we can be a part of that experience and prepare for it.”
In addition to his parents, Brucker has a brother, Rob, who is a doctor at Harvard University. His grandparents are Merrill and Jane Brucker, both retired teachers with Mount Gilead Schools.