Nancy Jo Grobmyer retires after 37 years

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By Kristin Beck

Friendly. Smart. Levelheaded. Dedicated.

These are just some of the adjectives used to describe the longest-serving member of Carrollton City Council and first councilwoman in its history: Nancy Jo Grobmyer.

Grobmyer, 83, is retiring from the post she has held for the past 37 years. Her last council meeting will be Monday Dec. 13. A reception will be held in her honor at 6 p.m. before the meeting at city hall.

As election season approached this year, Grobmyer said she was on the fence about whether or not to run again. “I thought, ‘I hate to say no I won’t run for council,’” she said, “but I still thought, ‘Wait, you’re already in your 80s, we need fresh blood.’ I’ve been there long enough, and even though I’ll miss it so very much, it’s something I should step down from.”

However, she will likely not be completely fading from civil service any time soon. Grobmyer said she would like to remain on the Urban Forestry, Design and Review and Main Street boards if re-appointed so that she can stay involved in the community.

Grobmyer was born on a farm in Gallatin County, but her family only lived there a couple more months before moving to Carroll County. She attended Christian College in Columbia, Mo., now called Columbia College. She moved back to Carrollton while attending the College-Conservatory of Music in Cincinnati on a vocal scholarship.

She married her husband, Robert A. Grobmyer, in 1947, and the couple had four children: Jack, Jim, Mary Ellis and Chip. Following her husband’s death in 1957, Grobmyer decided she wanted to “do something that I could call my own that I could do for the community,” she said. “(I had) never worked for government and thought that might be interesting and that would be something I would have to study and work toward achieving.”

Grobmyer ran for council in 1973 and came in second place, receiving 263 votes behind top vote-getter Hubert Brock with 270. As she took office in 1974, Grobmyer became the first woman to serve on Carrollton City Council. While this was a momentous achievement, she said the fact that she was a woman was not an issue during her campaigning or her term. Former Carrollton mayor Charlie Webster, who served 12 of his 20 years as mayor and three years on council with Grobmyer, agreed, saying she was popular and a very capable candidate for the position at that time.

“(She was) very dedicated, easy to get along with,” he said. “No matter what the committee I appointed her to, she always got the job done.”

Webster recalled the time the city was putting in the traffic light at the shopping center on Park Avenue. He said Grobmyer hounded the state for a year until it finally went in.

After receiving the tree commission grant, Webster made Grobmyer the first chairman of the Urban Forestry board. As a result, she is responsible for many of the trees in town, including those lining the road to the Masterson House, he said.

“She’s one of the most pleasant people I have ever dealt with in my 20 years as mayor,” he said. “She was dependable, she was friendly and she never stirred up controversy.”

Grobmyer said she served two four-year terms before they were switched to two-year terms for city council members. She also served one three-year term when the state changed the election cycle during the 1980s. She said two-year terms are one of the downsides to being on council because they are too short. “You’re getting started on a project and you may not get to see it finished and that’s kind of a downer.”

Among her many accomplishments while serving on council, one near the top of her list is the development of Point Park. Called ‘Frog Town,’ Grobmyer said she remembers traveling to Covington and giving a presentation in order to obtain a grant for the project.

According to the March 10, 1976 city council minutes, city attorney Stan Billingsley reported that County Judge Robert M. Westrick’s office had been notified that the application for the city of Carrollton had been approved for Bureau of Outdoor Recreation Funds. The matching grant was for $51,250.47, with the state to contributing $965.47 and the city $50,285.

The first piece of property purchased for the park was from Shirley and Gayle Rodgers and Mary L. Meeks Real Estate for $3,000 on Oct. 21, 1976, according to city documents.

“It was simply open for boating, that type of thing at that time, but it was like a wilderness down there,” Grobmyer said. “It was scary to go down there; … It was that end of town that was not available to people, really.”

Grobmyer also listed the Peak funding project, the Carroll County Public Library restoration and expansion, the new city hall opening, the Jefferson Community and Technical College construction and the Schuerman Street extension as other major accomplishments over her tenure on council.

Outside of her councilwoman accomplishments, the Chamber of Commerce recognized Grobmyer as the Citizen of the Year, and the Kentucky Association of American Mothers, Inc. named her Kentucky Mother of the Year.

Grobmyer has taught piano and voice lessons since 1960 and has been the organist and music director at St. John’s Catholic Church for 56 years. She also sang in the Messiah Choir in Madison, Ind., for 40 years, played piano and helped teach vocal students in Sam Simpson’s musicals and played Mother Superior in ‘The Sound of Music’ productions in both Carrollton and Madison.

Grobmyer said her favorite thing about being on council is working on beautifying the community and bringing in new business. She also enjoys working with the schools and interacting with people in the community. “I will miss being in a position of helping make decisions for the community, which I love so much.”

Councilman Mike Gordon has been on council since 1986 and has sat next to Grobmyer for at least the last 12 years. He said she has a lot of wisdom to pass on and is very knowledgeable about what is going on in the city.

“She’s got a level head; She can make good decisions,” he said. “She can listen to what’s being said, and then based on what she’s heard, she can make a good, sound decision and I think that’s important because a lot of people will make quick decisions. She would always think about it, and when she made a decision, you knew that’s where she was going to be. She was going to stay with that decision, she wasn’t going to change and go somewhere else; she was going to be there and that’s what I enjoyed about her.”

Gordon said during council meetings, sometimes he will get very heavy into the discussion.

“She’ll just reach over and say ‘Now Mike, calm down a little bit,’” he said, laughing. “She’d keep me grounded.

“I’ve always had a lot of respect for her. I can’t think of anybody else I’d rather have sit next to me in council chambers.”

Grobmyer has high expectations for the upcoming council members and hopes they will finish the work started by the current council.

“I hope the River Walk is totally completed, and I think it will be,” she said. “… I would like to see more restaurants, gift shops in the downtown area, and I’d like to see more progress along both the rivers since we have purchased all of that property. It would be really nice to have that area opened up and in progress down there, and I hope all that is worked upon and finished by this new council.”

She offered the following advice to anyone interested in being on council:  “Meet people well, stick to what you think is right,” she said. “Sometimes you step on toes, but I think if you are going to be successful in this, you have to do what you think is the right thing for each situation and from a moral standpoint.”