By James Feichtner
Retirement can mean a variety of things to different people. For Lawrence resident Steven Collier, his retirement led him to follow a path that would eventually have him becoming the mayoral candidate for the city of Lawrence.
Growing up and living in Lawrence for 54 years, Collier first found work in the local school system after transitioning through it himself as a boy.
“I grew up in Lawrence. I moved to Lawrence in 1964 and went through Harrison Hill Elementary and Belger Senior High, now Lawrence Central, then went off to school,” Collier said. “I was lucky to have a good senior year playing football at LC.”
Collier’s tall stature and devotion to academics led him to Hanover college.
“I had never even considered playing collegiate football in high school. It turned out that Hanover offered me enough money in an academic grant to be able go to Hanover for four years,” Collier said.
During his time at Hanover, Collier discovered a love for teaching. Utilizing his contacts at Lawrence schools he was able to get a job right out of college at the newly opened Lawrence North.
“The principal there I had already known and the head football coach had coached at Lawrence Central when I was there, and as it so often happens, it’s not what you know, but who you know. I got a teaching job a little after I had graduated. I spent 33 years teaching and coaching at Lawrence North; football, wrestling and baseball.”
During his more than three decades at Lawrence North, Collier also served as dean of students, athletic director and head coach of football. Collier’s decision to retire came in 2010 when his own kids were starting to begin their own family.
“When I decided to retire it wasn’t a snap decision, but my son and daughter-in-law were getting ready to have a child. We had always planned to retire at 55 if we wanted to. So I retired then in June of 2010 fully intending to work somewhere else,” he said.
It wasn’t until after Collier retired that his involvement in city government would arise.
“After about three or four months we had done some traveling and I was invited to go to a Lincoln Day dinner,” Collier said. “I had never been very politically affiliated. This was in 2011. Both my kids had worked for the city in some capacity, but that was kind of the limit of my exposure.”
Collier was eventually asked to run for a seat on the common council. At the time, it seemed like uncharted territory for Collier, but his years spent teaching made the transition seem natural.
“I went back and filed the papers and it turns out that when you’ve taught for 33 years people recognize your name. So the campaign went very well. I began serving on the council. It wasn’t really a big transition,” Collier said. “I really began to enjoy the job. It was very fortunate that I was able to start a second career and find something I really enjoyed doing.”
As Collier spent time on the council, he began to understand the need for change in Lawrence.
“I began to really watch what as going on (in the city) and you always want to have some sort of an impact on people,” Collier said. “Then as I’m on the council I begin to be frustrated on how things are moving along in the city. It seemed to me like we weren’t spending our money in a way that best benefits the citizens of Lawrence. Frustration began to set in and I began to question some decisions that were being made at the administrative level.”
But when Collier was first approached to run for mayor, he was unsure he was up for the task.
“I said, ‘I’ve just been on the council for about a year and a half.’ Then I began thinking about it and my wife and I had talked about it. She was only halfway on board because she was retired and wanted to stay that way, but inside of me I had this excitement growing saying that this is something I think I can do and make a change and have an impact,” Collier said. “I spent some time talking to as many people as I could outside of my (council) district, meeting with business leaders in the city. I began to talk to them about how can we do things better and just doing a lot of listening. I began to really have a very real interest, and now a goal, to run for mayor of the city of Lawrence.”
Collier said that he has large goals he would like to implement while as mayor.
“Economic development comes into play because the only thing you can increase, if your city grows, is a local option income tax and that comes right back to the city,” Collier said. “The more people you have employed in your city the higher that goes. So economic development has to be in the forefront in order for cities to grow.”
Another goal is to increase the connectivity within the city.
“Lawrence is a bit of a unique situation. The city itself annexed Oaklandon back in the mid-70’s. you had the city of Lawrence and then you had a gap where Fort Harrison was and then you had Oaklandon out there. We really didn’t have any way to have the city connected into one entity. My goal would be to create ways where people can actually walk or ride their bikes to city center and then go back out there. That’s a key component for younger people. That’s a long term goal for me and that’s a big job.”
His third goal would be to further enhance the public safety departments in Lawrence.
“We were able, last fall, to get some good things accomplished for fire and police,” Collier said. “We finally got something called Kelly Days for firemen, got the money back to hire 12 EMT’s, got money appropriated to hire additional policemen and then we got lucky and got a public safety tax increase, which is probably the only tax increase I’ll support. So we’re in position to make some real stride for our public safety.”
All about Collier
Lives: Resident of Lawrence since 1964
Education: M.A. Education, Secondary Administration, Indiana University Bloomington, 1984. B.A. in History, Secondary Education, Hanover College, 1977.
Lawrence Central High School, 1973
Career history: Taught 33 years at Lawrence Central High School. Served as dean of men, athletic director and coach at Lawrence Central.
Civic initiatives: Serves on the Lawrence Common Council Dist. 5. Served on Lawrence Council Public Safety Committee, Finance Committee and chaired the Council Parks Committee.
Family: Wife, Christina, married for 38 years. Two children Kari, daughter, and Jon, son. Two grandchildren Reagan and Sam, with another expected in Jan. 2016
Favorite activities: Hunting, fishing, golfing and gardening.
Favorite music: Maroon 5, Eagles, Marshall Tucker, John Denver, The Beatles, Bruno Mars, Taylor Swift, Katy Perry, and Green Day
Favorite movies: “Casablanca,” “Saving Private Ryan,” “Dances With Wolves,” “Lonesome Dove,” “Love Actually,” “Christmas Vacation.”