Beecher Baker reflects on his years as a Sevier County Commissioner
Twenty-five years ago, Beecher Baker was a car repair shop owner here in Seymour. While working on area resident’s cars, he noticed that roads were not favorable for driving. “I was terrified that I would ruin a customer’s car if I hit one of the many potholes. So, I asked the County Commissioner, at that time, when the road would be fixed. He said that they would need to find the money etc. Well, I noticed that Sevierville seemed to get their roads fixed but our area (Seymour) was being ignored, that’s when I knew I had to do something.”
That “something” Baker did was run for Sevier County Commissioner. In 1977, he won the election by a landslide receiving more votes than anyone running for an office in any county. Governor Blanton was so impressed with Baker’s win that he sent him a special notice of recognition, which Baker still displays. When Baker won the election he was 58 years old, instead of facing retirement he started another career.
If you know Beecher Baker’s story, he was destined to succeed. Born into a “very poor family,” Baker decided to enlist in the army. It was during his tenure in World War II that Baker received an education. He served a little over four years with time in Normandy, France and Belgium. Working for the motor pool Baker learned the skills that would be his future.
After returning from the war, Baker and his wife settled back into this area, where he found a job with Rogers & Company, known as Rogers Cadillac today. He stayed employed there for the next 25 years. Upon leaving the company, he decided to set up his own garage in the Seymour area. Eventually, he started Baker’s Transmission, which is now located on Chapman Hwy. Four years ago Baker sold the business and has solely worked as a County Commissioner ever since.
The success of having a road fixed the first four months he was in office, only motivated Baker to do more. Thanks to him there are no gravel roads in the 9th District. He was also responsible for getting turn-off lanes created on Chapman Hwy and at Seymour High School. Speaking of schools, Baker was the one who convinced his cousin to sell the land where Seymour High School now sits. “When I first entered office there was only one school in the community, now we have four and a fifth one on the way,” said Baker.
Roads and schools aside Baker had other issues. Case in point, he helped bring $1.2 million in funding from the Goose Gap Community into the White School Community, for the sole purpose of putting in a treated water system. He also helped start the Seymour Fire Department, an accomplishment he is very proud of. “I really like those guys, and I think that we should be proud of our local firemen.”
Baker has also fought hard against incorporating Seymour; a move he feels is harmful to the community. “We would be paying more taxes to have other people tell us what to do. Right now our community works fine just the way it is.”
In fact, Baker’s hope for the Seymour community is that it will have zoning first. “I know that Seymour will incorporate someday but lets take it one step at a time. Let’s do the zoning and then wait and see what happens,” Baker adds.
Looking ahead to the future Baker says he can finally retire “I won’t retire to my chair though. You should see my basement. I rebuild small engines for people and I like to take my time.”
It is highly doubtful, after talking with Baker that he will retire from community-service either. “A traffic light still needs to be put in out at the First Baptist Church on Chapman Hwy, and road widening needs to be finished out by the high school,” he says smiling.
It will be interesting to see what the next twenty-five years will hold for Beecher Baker and the Seymour Community.