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Grand Rapids in 1856

Scene of early Grand Rapids viewed from the...

Working for Mayor Welsh

by Helen M. Meade

After becoming a permanent employee of the city, I circulated in different offices where extra help was needed. This gave me background experience in the following offices: City Attorney, City Engineer, City Clerk, and City Assessor. During this time George W. Welsh was mayor and Walter Sack, city manager. When Mr. Sack was not re-appointed in May of 1946 Frank H. Goebel, former Public Service Director, took over the position temporarily. It was at that time that Mayor Welsh asked for me to be assigned as his secretary.

In 1947 Mayor Welsh became President of the U.S. Conference of Mayors, a national duty which made the work in the office more exciting because of the many official contacts through-out the country.

His acquaintance with Drew Pearson, the national columnist, drew local interest in the Friendship Train which crossed the entire country. A delegation went to Fort Wayne to meet the train when it stopped there, and I drove a city car, a Model A Ford, with passengers that included Margaret Johnson, Jackie Reynhout, and Rachel Long. We left Grand Rapids at midnight, had bad weather, met up with detours and never saw one open gas station on the way. Luckily we made it, arriving at 5:00 a.m. and awakened the official delegation by calling their room from the lobby. Frank Goebel and John McKay were among the official delegation. We met Drew Pearson and enjoyed the excitement.

Some time later when it was learned that a visiting delegation of Dutch Burgomasters and other officials from Europe would be in Grand Rapids City Hall to meet with Mayor Welsh, it involved a lot of planning to properly entertain them. We borrowed an elaborate tea service and other equipment from the Pantlind Hotel and the affair went off quite well.

In 1946 when a women’s group came from Kansas City to organize a local chapter of the National Secretaries Association, they contacted selective offices in the city to invite professional membership. I became a charter member of the Grand Rapids Chapter.

A change in the City Charter about this time provided for the appointment of a single City Assessor by the City Manager instead of one from each ward. Due to a conflict of opinions between the Manager, Frank Goebel, and the City Commission as to who the assessor should be, Mr. Goebel was fired.

Because of his prestige as Mayor, Mr. Welsh was selected by the Town Hall of the Air in 1949 to join organizational leaders on a trip around the world. In the meantime, a group known as Citizens Action had evolved, mostly because of the firing of Mr. Goebel.A mass meeting was called in Fulton Park for which I issued the permit. Four thousand attended and it was decided to start recall procedures against Mayor Welsh. Because of his absence from the city on the world trip, the recall papers were served on me. Mr. Welsh cabled his resignation from Rome and resigned July 19, 1949. Commissioner Stanley J. Davis was appointed May for the interim, and Paul G. Goebel, brother of former city manager Frank Goebel, was elected mayor in 1950.

From  My City Hall Career  by Helen M. Meade

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