• 68°

Caldwell is honored with by building

DEMOPOLIS – There were times she had to answer telephone calls when he wasn’t around, but that never stopped Jane Caldwell.

“I had heard him so many times telling people to call the water department that someone was on call, I just started doing it myself,” she said. “There were always a few phone calls.”

Jane Caldwell was secluded – more like sequestered – in City Clerk Vickie Taylor’s office Friday shortly before noon with family members and a few other ‘strap hangers’ – Councilman Mike Baker, Alabama Southern Campus Director Arthur Ogden and two reporters.

Her husband, outgoing Mayor Austin Caldwell was, unknowingly, down the hall in council chambers where Councilmen Ronnie O’Neal and Woody Collins, and Parks and Recreation Director Mark Pettus, had him hemmed up.

“You just blew that fifty grand,” Caldwell quipped to Pettus after the council presented him a framed photograph of themselves standing in front of the Higher Education Center, now officially named the Austin A. Caldwell Building.

“I’m overwhelmed and completely appreciative,” Caldwell said when the surprise was sprung.

O’Neal, who will retire from the council at the conclusion of this term, made the presentation.

“I know you feel like a building shouldn’t be named for someone unless they’re dead, but we did it anyway,” he said. “But you can’t go dying anytime soon.”

Collins had the honor of presenting Caldwell a bronze plaque designating the building and naming the city’s officials who are responsbile for its creation.

“I would hug each and every neck,” Caldwell said, but thought better of it and instead shook the hands of each council member. Taylor said he could hug her neck, which he did.

Councilman Thomas Moore, arriving a little late for the presentation, had cut campaigning for Senate District 24 a little short to be in attendance. Councilman Willard Williams had high-tailed it from his management job at Wal-Mart to make the presentation.

The naming of a public building is a scene oft-repeated across the country, but in Demopolis it’s been a rare occasion in Caldwell’s nearly five terms in office. He was appointed to the mayor’s seat, and successfully ran four more times.

Through it all, Jane Caldwell’s stood behind her man – although Caldwell has admitted his wife thought he was “crazy” when he agreed to fill in the remaining three-and-a-half years of Hugh Allen’s term.

“He says he’s going to sleep for a month,” she said, noting her only concern in nearly 20 years has been how tired the job’s made her husband.

“He’s worked two jobs for as long as I’ve known him,” she said. “He’ll find something to do.”