Fayette Mayor Mike Hirsch has announced that he will resign from office and pursue a job as professor and head of the liberal studies department at Huston-Tillotson College in Austin, Texas. Mayor pro-tem John Lawson will immediately take over as Fayette’s acting mayor.
Hirsch will also leave his position at Central Methodist College as chairman of the social science division. He served on the faculty for 11 years.
Hirsch said he’s leaving before his term expires next April.
In a letter to friends and colleagues, Hirsch said he moved to Fayette with his wife, Carol, not only to take the job at Central Methodist but to provide a peaceful setting for Stephanie, their daughter from Carol’s first marriage, who is developmentally disabled. When Stephanie was pulled back to Austin by ties to the rest of her family, he said, her mother went with her.
“Carol felt, like many parents would, torn between her love for her child and her love for me,” he said. “She moved to join her daughter two years ago. I now go to join my family.”
Hirsch, a Milwaukee native, spent three years at Austin while working on his doctoral degree from the University of Texas. Austin is also the place where he met his wife, and he still has numerous friends in the area.
“I made a commitment to Carol to rejoin her in three years,” Hirsch said. “I’m leaving earlier than I thought I would, but it was an opportunity that I needed to take advantage of now.”
Hirsch said a friend had sent him an e-mail about the job at Huston-Tillotson, knowing that he wanted to move back to Austin someday. He inquired about the position and was hired.
“I knew that if my marriage and family were going to survive, it was now or never,” Hirsch said.
The City Council of Fayette will have to elect a new mayor to fill the vacancy. The special meeting will likely be held Aug. 14. The newly elected official will then serve as mayor until the regular mayoral election next April.
“He has a lot of the community’s interest at heart,” said Robin Overstreet, city clerk of Fayette since 1990. “If we ever had a disagreement, we always managed to work it out. He was very easy to get along with.”
Hirsch was first elected councilman of the southwest ward. He ran for mayor in 1998, winning with 59 percent of the vote. In April 2002, he began his third two-year term. Since then, Hirsch has focused on increasing economic development in Fayette as well as bringing recognition to the community.
“I have thoroughly enjoyed my professional as well as personal friendship with Mike over the years that I have known him,” said Don Cullimore, director of public relations and publications at Central Methodist. “As a professor of sociology, he created public opinion polls on current issues that he circulated to the media. As mayor, he brought a lot of skills to that position. He knew how to work with state and national agencies to bring funding to Fayette. A number of new industries and businesses that have moved into the area can be attributed to Mike’s leadership. He was active and creative in the community, and will be very much missed.”
In a statement to the press, college President Marianne Inman, said, “Through student internships and other collaborative ventures in which Mike has taken the lead to establish, the links between the College and the City of Fayette are exceptionally strong and vibrant. We all wish him and his family the very best as he assumes his new position in Texas.”