COLUMBIA — Fifteen turkeys, 20 hams, 15 peach cobblers and six full sheet cakes is hardly the cuisine equivalent for the time and effort Mayor Darwin Hindman has contributed to Columbia in 15 years.
More than 500 people went to the Knights of Columbus Building on Saturday night to pay tribute to Hindman and his service as mayor.
The emcee of the evening, Bob Gerding, cracked jokes about seating arrangements and chicken ordinances, but when it was Hindman’s turn to speak, the mayor didn’t miss a beat.
“I love the backyard chicken that we had,” Hindman said, cracking a grin.
Seventeen other speakers all had warm, playful and sincere send-offs to the man many of them refer to as “Darry,” and for his wife, Axie.
City Counselor Fred Boeckmann recalled a car trip with Hindman in which the song “MacArthur Park” came on the radio. When Hindman reached for the radio, Boeckmann said he expected Hindman to change the station.
Instead, Boeckmann said, he “cranked up the volume and sang along with gusto.”
Sixth Ward Council Member Barbara Hoppe and Boone County Commissioner Karen Miller spoke of Hindman’s contributions to Columbia’s parks and trails.
Hindman is affectionately recognized throughout the city for his love of riding his bicycle and his extensive advocacy for the MKT Trail's development.
Alyce Turner, 60, said she attended a health conference last year in which Hindman arrived to the conference room on his bike.
“In my field of public health,” Turner said, “I think he’s represented that so much.”
Skip Hindman, the mayor’s son, spoke of his father’s insatiable optimism. Growing up, Skip Hindman said, his dad always thought the best of everything — even the weather.
“We could be ankle deep in rain,” Skip Hindman said, “and my dad would say something many of you might have heard him say before: ‘These are the ones you remember.’”
Khaki Westerfield, the daughter of former mayor Howard B. Lang Jr., presented Hindman with an award named after her father for the impact, initiative and length of service Hindman gave to the city.
“Can you think of anyone who is more deserving of the Howard B. Lang Jr. Award?” Westerfield said.
Donna Kessel, 59, acknowledged the large shoes Hindman is leaving for the next mayor to fill.
“I hope the changes that he’s made are reflected in the upcoming election,” Kessel said.
Sean Spence, the event organizer, said Margaret Hickem came to him four months ago with the idea to hold an event in Hindman’s honor.
Hickem, who ran Mama Bessie's Cleaners before opening a catering business, said Hindman always came to her events. “Every event we had, he always supported me.”
For the event, Hickem recruited, quite literally, her entire family to help.
Her brother baked peach cobbler, and her extended family volunteered to spend more than six hours setting up and tearing down tables and chairs.
Hickem’s nine-year-old niece Menyon Ricketts sang “His Eyes on the Sparrow” for Hindman in front of the surprisingly huge crowd.
Spence said they initially planned for about 50 to 100 people, but the event grew rapidly to more than 500.
Spence said feeding 500 people isn't easy, but he thinks everyone was well-fed.
"I think after this I'm going to take about a 36-hour nap," Spence said.
Hindman said he is humbled and honored by the support of the community for the past 15 years.
“I hope I’ve made some positive contributions,” Hindman said. “We are all lucky to live here.”
As the crowded room gave Hindman a standing ovation, there was little doubt of the mayor's impact on his city.