BAYARD — After growing up on a farm outside of town, Bayard Mayor Greg Schmall and his wife are now spending their 39th summer living in the same house in town.
Schmall said he and Vickie like the feel of the town they have both called home for many years.
“It’s the roots,” he said. “It’s where I’m from. It’s where I’ve always been around. I went to school in Lincoln, worked a couple of years in Indianapolis, Indiana, but came back to farm with my dad. The small town, everything, the lifestyle is slow and quiet. At times, there are things, obviously. Probably family is what keeps my wife and I here. My parents are both deceased now, but they were here at the time. My wife’s mom and sister both live here. It’s where we grew up and where we’ve decided to stay put — at least, I won’t say short-term since it’s been 39 years. It’s where we are. It’s home and we like it. We’re both Bayard people.”
Schmall had served for seven years on the Bayard City Council many years ago, and said he has always had an interest in at least some government subdivision type of work. He has served on the school board and college board in addition to the city council. He said a run for mayor seemed to be a good fit during last year’s election cycle.
“I was approached by several people last year, summer or spring, about maybe running for mayor,” he said. “It was already past the filing deadline, so I filed as a write-in candidate and was fortunate enough to win last fall’s election over two very competent competitors, the current mayor (Michelle Coolidge) and a council member (Scot Ouderkirk). They both would be good mayors, too. And Michelle was a good mayor.”
Bayard’s future depends on growth, Schmall said. He believes the key is going to be some small, mom-and-pop type operations. Chances of attracting a large employer seems fairly minimal unless it would be something such as an ag-related warehouse-type of business in need of a facility such as what’s left of the sugar factory buildings.
Better capitalizing on tourism is also a target for Bayard. With Chimney Rock just a few miles down Highway 26, there is a natural tourist attraction to draw people to the community. In fact, on one recent day, Kent Beck of Copper Canyon, Texas, was on his way through on vacation and stopped for the night at the Chimney Rock Pioneer Crossing Campground before heading on to the Black Hills in South Dakota. Sisters Peggy Heady and Marlene Plante had been traveling from their homes in Washington across the northern states and came south from the Black Hills to see Chimney Rock as they headed for their destination in Coffeyville, Kansas. Heady said they had to stop at Chimney Rock because “We don’t bypass any of the good stuff.”
The importance of that attraction should not be underestimated, Schmall said.
“It is huge, and we’re guilty of not utilizing that to its fullest extent,” he said. “What a great thing to have that most everybody in Nebraska knows about, and we probably take it for granted. We can look at it every day, and we probably don’t even do that. We just assume it’s there. There are some opportunities, and we just need to pursue that more. What can we do from a business standpoint to get people from out there to come into town? ... What a huge natural asset that is there for free, and we just need to capitalize on it.”
As mayor, Schmall said the key is to keep Bayard moving forward and taking care of the citizens.
“We’re not going away,” he said. “We’re going to be here, and we’re going to continue to work at making things better for our residents, whether that’s small businesses, repairing our streets, making sure our parks are safe and clean. Whatever it might be, we’re going to continue to move forward and keep working towards tomorrow.”