ORIGINALLY WRITTEN LAURA CAMPBELL
Mary Glenn takes pride in her community, and not just because the Burns mayor is also chairperson of its PRIDE committee.
Since she moved to town from her El Dorado hometown with husband Earl 19 years ago, Glenn has delighted in the people of Burns.
And now, in her third year as mayor, Glenn said she takes almost maternal care of those for whom she is responsible.
“They’re kind of like my little children,” Glenn said. “I like the position of being able to do something to help the community.”
Acting as a mother for a large brood is nothing new for Glenn. She and Earl have six children, 17 grandchildren and six great-grandchildren, she said.
“It just awes me to think that we are at that point in our lives that we have all these grandkids,” Glenn said. “Things just have a way of changing.”
Now that her children are gone from the nest-one is in Lawrence, one in Tennessee, and two each in El Dorado and Leon-Glenn has shifted her focus to caring for the people of Burns.
“We’re all just like a big family as far as I’m concerned,” Glenn said. “If anybody needs anything, there’s going to be somebody right there to help.
“And everybody watches everybody else’s kids,” she added. “It’s not their kids, it’s our kids.”
It’s this closeness and security, particularly for the community’s children, that Glenn has worked to preserve through her dual roles as mayor and PRIDE chairperson.
“I’d like to see our children be able to grow up and be able to be out on the streets without being threatened,” she said. “It’s just a delight to see them out there.”
The transition to full-time involvement in the Burns community has been a gradual one for Glenn and her husband, she said, starting with the move to their home on Nickerson Avenue.
“We had bought this piece of property from some friends for an investment,” she said. “Then we decided that this would really be a nice place for a house.”
Next came the transition from working in El Dorado to active retirement in Burns, she said.
“We both still worked at the refineries in El Dorado,” Glenn said of herself and her husband. “I was accountant and he was lab technician.”
Following about 15 years of a 19-mile commute to El Dorado, Glenn has been retired for nearly three years. Her husband still works part-time for the city of Burns.
“I get to boss my husband five hours a day,” she said with a laugh.
But even as the fully retired one of the two, Glenn said she keeps so busy now she could never go back to work.
In addition to serving Burns in her public service positions, Glenn enjoys spending time with her family, playing the dulcimer, gardening and fishing with her husband.
“I don’t know how in the world I ever did what I’ve done while working,” she said. “I don’t know where that time would have been able to come from.”
Glenn came to the mayoral position with 13 years of experience on Burns city council and four years as council president.
When the former mayor resigned because of family issues, Glenn stepped in to run for the position, won the election and served a two-year term.
She ran again uncontested in April to serve for the next four years, she said.
The added responsibility of being mayor for the past two years makes Glenn glad she retired when she did, she said.
“It used to seem like it wasn’t all that hard,” she said. “Now it seems like it’s just every day there’s something that keeps me going.”
In a position that goes hand-in-hand with her role as mayor, Glenn has kept going for nine years now with the PRIDE program she and her husband started as a result of an invite to a PRIDE meeting in Park City, she said.
“It’s been so beneficial for the community,” Glenn said of the PRIDE committee. “Everybody kind of comments, ‘I’ve never seen the town look this good.’
“We’ve done a pretty darn good job,” she added. “PRIDE is something that I take a lot of pride in.”
From the very beginning, Glenn and her committee of about 15 to 20 members have done nothing halfway in their city improvement projects.
“When we started PRIDE, we bit off a big chunk-we started with street signs in town,” she said. “A lot of folks will start off with a small project, and then work up from there. But we started with, I think, one of the biggest ones.”
And they did so for good reason, Glenn said.
“There was just one little sign in town,” she said. “Nobody knew where anybody lived.”
Ron Goodwin of Goodwin Enterprises in Burns designed the signs, Glenn said, and son Larry Goodwin of Larry’s Welding put them all together.
“Everyone just got together and started working,” she said. “That was really an important project.”
As mayor and PRIDE chairperson, Glenn has led the town in several other important projects since that first one, including construction of a park pavilion, playground and basketball court with the help of the Burns Lion’s Club and the El Dorado Honor Camp.
The project also included building a “privy in the park,” she said, adorned with sunflowers painted by local artist Brenda Koehn.
“It’s probably one of the cleanest bathrooms anywhere around, because I take care of it,” Glenn said with a laugh.
She said PRIDE’s next project, slated for this summer, is to finish decorating around the gazebo, located on Main Street adjacent to the Buffalo Gulch restaurant and across from Burns Cafe & Bakery.
The decorations will include a windmill with a six-foot base, a waterfall and wildflowers among the rocks north of the gazebo, a couple of old-fashioned street lights and some cement benches in front of the gazebo.
“That should pretty well finish that corner project up,” she said. “The gazebo is a wonderful place.”
Glenn said the town’s biggest accomplishment with her at the helm was the construction of a community center two years ago.
“After we lost the school, we were all pretty well down and out about it,” she said. “The community was just really let down.
“But then, once we came up with this idea about the community center, we all knew that was something that we needed,” she added. “It was the most exciting four months of my life.”
From November to April, citizens volunteered hours of work worth enough to match a grant from the state’s KanStep program.
“A lot of Mennonites that would normally leave the community and go do work in other countries as a missionary stayed right here in Burns,” Glenn said. “This was their service they were giving to the church that particular winter.”
Even the senior citizens who could not physically help with the construction contributed by paying for meals at the Burns Cafe.
“All the guys who worked every day went down to the cafe and had a hot meal,” Glenn said.
The community center includes a senior center, an exercise room and a quilting room, Glenn said, with enough seating for 200 people.
“And then we have the most beautiful kitchen in the whole wide world,” she added. “All the girls in town want that kitchen.”
Glenn said she and the city have considered applying again with the KanStep program for a grant to build a new fire station.
But for now, she said, the big projects are to shape up the local museum and to move the library and city hall into the north and south sides of the old post office.
Glenn said project funds are still short to cover bids that, as always, are higher than expected.
“That’s probably been the hardest one that I’ve had to face,” she said. “It’s frustrating because you want it to happen, but you know it can’t happen without the funding. Money just seems to be the issue.”
Not only does she make sure that “everything goes as it’s supposed to” with these kinds of issues, Glenn said she and others have worked for continual improvement in the community.
“You want things to progress, which we are progressing,” she said. “We are encouraging business; we are encouraging new families to move into town.”
Glenn said the town’s population has far surpassed its count of 268 people from the 2000 census.
“I’ll guarantee, we’re way ahead of that now,” she said.
Glenn said she takes her responsibility to the community seriously but enjoys it immensely.
“I want to make sure that I’m doing what I’m supposed to be doing,” she said. “I’m just here for the city.”