Gerlach, Claude T

From Lane Co Oregon

Claude Gerlach was mayor from 1945 to 1948. Claude grew up in Philometh and married his wife Dorothy in 1937. He attended Oregon State University (known then as Oregon Agricultural College) and completed his post-graduation internship at Coos Bay Pharmacy. He moved to Springfield in 1937 and opened Gerlach Drug Store. During Claude's tenure as mayor a town became city. The population was 3,800 people and the city limits extended to 19th Street but effectively no homes could be built past 10th Street since there were no sewers and septic tanks had become illegal. Claude supported the installation of sewers past 10th Street, supported the annexation of the area from 19th to 31st, oversaw the adoption of the City Manager System and the formation of the Central Lane Planning Organization which brought the first land use planning to the region. Claude likes to be known s the Grandfather of Springfield which in effect he is. Claude and Dorothy had two children, a daughter and a son who died in 1999. They have 5 grandchildren and 8 great-grand children.

[edit] Prescription for Development by Anne Hill Thomas

Springfield was small-time town until its citizens chose a pharmacist as their mayor.

In 1944, when pharmacist Claude Gerlach ws elected mayor, Springfield was a sleepy, little town with many unpaved streets and inadequate sewers.

"It just didn't seem like the city administration was trying to keep up with the roll of things," Gerlach says.

He and his wife, Dorothy, had lived in Springfield since 1938, owning and operating a drug store on Main Street. One of their store neighbors was Spencer Alexander, and he and others thought the city needed new leadership. They settled on Gerlach.

"They said to themselves, 'There's a young fellow who's come in and seems like he is interested in the community, so maybe we should put him in as mayor,'" Gerlach says.

One of the first problems Gerlach and a new City Council faced was the improvement of sanitary sewer lines, which went to 10th Street and were nearly ground level. Peple could not build beyond 10th Street unless they put in septic tanks, and the state had forbidden that.

"It seems like we were being badgered continually by people who wanted to build but couldn't," Gerlach says.

So the council decided to float a bond issue, which not only passed but gained councilors the nickname of the "underground boys."

The new main sewer line ran from D Street north to K Street (now Centennial Boulevard), then east. Other lines were funneled into it. Sewer lines were extended to 18th or 19th streets even though the area was pretty much unoccupied. The city dumped its sewage into the Willamette River, however.

"That was customarily done in those days," Gerlach says.

The state wanted the city to start an assessment program to accumulate and build a disposal site, which it did.

A major problem facing the city was a lack of funds. The city's money came from property taxes, but the tax base was limited because the major mills - Booth-Kelly Lumber Co., Rosboro Lumber, and Springfield Plywood Corp. - were outside the city limits.

The council started talking about an annexation.

"There were very sharp divisions among the people about whether they should be placed in to pay city taxes," Gerlach says.

Annexation eventually took place, however, extending the city limits to 31st Street, which included the industrial park.

An outdated tax base was another financial headache for the city. The city could increase its tax base by only 6 percent a year. Additional taxes needed an OK from voters.

But as the tax base increased, the city started buying equipment, such as a roadgrader and a new fire truck.

"We just had that one old, run-down truck parked there," Gerlach says.

So the city bought a Mack that was out for major events, such as a July 19th parade in Eugene.

"Everybody thought we were crazy., I thought we were off our rocker," Gerlach says.

A big benefit of the new truck, however, was that more people became interested in serving as volunteer firemen.

At that time, paid city staff were few and the city recorder and his wife handled all the business records. The fire, police and s... departments each had three employees...

...One of Buford's suggestions for Springfield was to funnel east-west through traffic- travelers over the McKenzie Pass and log drucks- onto South A from 10th Street to the bridge across the Willamette River.

"This was a pet project of mine," Gerlach says, "because I could just see it was wrecking the foot traffc on Main Street."

But the project never went anywhere much to Gerlach's disappointment.

The city also started its own planning commission. Until then, the planning commission and the City Council were the same body.

"(The council) would adjourn the council meeting and have a planning commission meeting, then go back to the council meeting," Gerlach recalls.

One of the city's biggest accomplishments in the late 1940s was the construction of a new City Hall. Although Gerlach was out of office by that time, he played a role in seeing that it happened. Before the new City Hall, city offices occupied a room in a building at Third and Main streets. Council meetings were held in that room.

The fire department was next door and the police chief's office behind that. "We backed the fire truck into a little niche," Gerlach says.

But a successful bond measure provided funds for a brand new concrete block building at Fourth and North A streets.

The building now houses Springfield's police department, but when it was new, it it ws home to all city offices, the police and fire departments end even the library.

Gerlach, who sold his pharmacy in 1971, decided not to run again for mayor in 1948. In his absence, a hotly contested race drew 2,589 voters out on Election Day.

Gerlach says he decided to retire because he was just too busy.

"I had a family to take care of and a business to conduct," he says. "I just couldn't afford to give that much time."

As he looks back, he sees the 1940s as a transition period for Springfield - a time when the city decided to move ahead. He credits the community for sharing that vision.

"I think basically we had good community cooperation when we wanted to do things, and that saves a lot of worry nd time and everything," he says. "You don't have a lot of squabbles and delays."

[edit] Longtime Resident Celebrate 65 years by Kara Cogswell, 2001

In an age when nearly half of all marriages end in divorce, 20 years of matrimony is a long time, but for one Springfield couple, more than six decades together have flown by.

"I can't believe it," Dorothy Gerlach said. "The years go."

Dorothy and her husband, former Springfield Mayor Claude Gerlach, celebrated their 65th wedding anniversary Saturday with a reception at the Valley River Inn.

About 150 friends, family members and community Senior Forum.

"They go and solve all the problems of Springfield and the world, and then they see nothing has changed, so they go back next week and discuss it again," Janet Gerlach said.

In their spare time, the couple keeps busy with hobbies. She enjoys oil painting and creating dried flower wreathes and researching family's history. His hobby is woodworking. He has made furniture for their home, and the Rotary Club and the church and toys for the grandchildren. The Gerlachs have five grandchildren and eight great-great grandchildren.

Many members and community leaders attended the event, hosted by the couple's daughter, Janet Tracy,and her husband, Daniel, both of West Hartford, Conn.

The Gerlachs were married in Dorothy's hometown of Adrian on August 2, 1937. Claude grew up in Philomath.

The couple met in 1933 when they were both students at Oregon State University, then known as the Oregon Agricultural College and while Claude completed his post-graduation internship at a Coos Bay pharmacy.

They moved to Springfield in 1938 and opened Gerlach's Drug Store. Dorothy worked with Claude in the store the first year it was open and then stayed home to raise their two children, Janet and son Raymond, who died in 1999.

In 1944, at the age of 31, Claude was elected mayor of Springfield. During his term in office, he led the way to make improvements in the sanitary sewage system and to extend the city limits to 28th Street. He also installed Springfield's first city manager, a position that has changed the way the city is run.

Despite his success as mayor, he decided not to run for reelection because he needed more time for his family and business.

At time when Main Street was the main location for business, only a few large stores existed in Springfield, and Gerlach's Drug Store was one of them. During its heyday in the 1950s and 1960s, the store employed 14 to 15 people and offered everything from cameras to cosmetics to fountain drinks.

In 1972, the Gerlachs sold the business to employees and retired, but they have remained active in the community. Dorothy, 88, and Claude, 89, are members of several local groups, including the Springfield Rotary Club, which Claude chartered. They are also longtime congregates of Ebbert Memorial Methodist Church.

And every Monday at 9:30 a.m. Claude still meets with other retired Springfield civic leaders in a group called the...

...great-great grandchildren.

The couple also enjoy hunting, fishing, and traveling. They have visited a long list of foreign countries in Europe, Africa, and Australia and for more than 40 years they were members of the Wally Byam Trailer Club.

One trip they'll make several times this year is to Corvallis to watch their favorite football team, the Beavers. The Gerlachs have been OSU season ticket holders for 58 years, and they already have their tickets for this season.

Dorothy credits the success of their marriage to a mutual understanding.

"We realize we have different temperaments and we understand and complement each other," she said.

Love has something to do with it as well, added their daughter, Janet.

"They accept and love each other as they are," she said.

Mayors of Springfield
Albert S. Walker (1885-1886) • S.I. Lee (1887) • Albert S. Walker (1888) • Simon Tuttle (1888-1889) • T.O. Maxwell (1889) • Albert S. Walker (1889-1890) • Albert Wheeler (1890-1892) • L. Gilstrap (1892-1893) • Albert Wheeler (1893) • J H Van Schoich (1893-1894) • Albert Wheeler (1894-1895) • Eugene C Martin (1896-1899) • John B. Innis (1900-1902) • H.A. Skeels (1902-1903) • R.A. Jayne (1903-1907) • Mark M. Peery (1907-1909) • W.M. Sutton (1909-1911) • Welby Stevens (1911-1913) • Charles L. Scott (1913-1915) • Elmer E. Morrison (1915-20) • Charles F. Eggiman (1921-1924) • George G. Bushman (1925-1929) • Charles O. Wilson (1929) • Wilfrid P. Tyson (1930-1934) • Ernest H. Turner (1934-1935) • W.A. Taylor (few minutes, November 27, 1935) • Ed Waltman (1935-1936) • William H. Pollard (1936-1940) • Charles Chandler (1940-1945) • Claude T. Gerlach (1945-1949) • B.P. Larson (1949-1953) • Edward C. Harms, Jr. (1953-1961) • B.J. Rogers (1961-1965) • David L. Scofield (1965-1967) • John E. McCulley (1967-1970) • William MorrissetteMaureen MaineSid Leiken
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