Easy-going, agreeable and friendly are the traits of leadership that colleagues and employees say they remember the most about former Atchison County Commissioner Thomas “Tom” Wagner.
Wagner, 81, died Thursday, May 2. Initially elected in 2004, Wagner served for two terms on the Board of Atchison County Commissioners from 2005 to 2012, representing the Third Commission District.
During Wagner’s first term on the county commission, he served four years with Second District Commissioner Floyd Oswald through 2008. The hiring of former Administrator Peggy House at Senior Village and the Memorial Hall revitalization were two major accomplishments Oswald recognized from his time serving with Wagner. House officially retired from the facility two days before Wagner’s death.
“Tom was always good and nice to work with,” Oswald said.
Voters passed a measure to construct Atchison County Sports Complex facilities located in Atchison and Effingham during Wagner’s first term. It was in January, 2007 when newly elected First District Commissioner John Bishop joined the county’s leadership team. Bishop held the seat four years. Both Oswald and Bishop agreed there were some challenging times amid rising costs the lean revenues to benefit the county coffer.
“We did get a lot of good things done,” Bishop said, adding that he feels Wagner was always professional, which made it an agreeable experience. It was hallenging because to reduce costs to the county we had to make some decisions in effort to keep expenses down. The commissioners also made efforts to reward employees for their good work and to show appreciation, Bishop added.
Register of Deeds Shelly Campbell and County Clerk Michelle Phillips were not yet elected officials when Wagner was in office. However they both were longtime employees at the courthouse, like Linda Chalfant and Kim Dorssom. All agreed Wagner was very friendly to all he would see, and he would regularly visit the offices.
“When you would see him he always spoke,” Campbell said.
“He was very welcoming,” Phillips said.
Some other measure implemented during Wagner’s tenure were the implementation of the county’s GIS maps, information technology, household hazardous waste drop-off site and the nuisance ordinances in unincorporated parts of the county.
Prior to his years on the commission, Wagner retired from Trans World Airlines and had unique experiences that likely set him apart from the other commissioners. While at TWA, Wagner served as a carpenter crew chief, and was involved in the construction of two papal beds.
Wagner told Atchison Globe in a story published May 3, 2011, that the bed made for Pope Paul VI in 1969, offered him a more hands on experience than the bed made for Pope John Paul II in 1979. Wagner’s crew members fabricated Pope John Paul’s bed.
According to Wagner’s published obituary, he worked as a ticket taker at Arrowhead Stadium from its opening in 1972 until the mid-1980s. He was a participant at St. Patrick Church, and a member of St. Patrick’s Knights of Columbus No. 818 and the William T. Jochems General Assembly No. 1716 of the Fourth Degree Knights of Columbus.
Wagner served in the Kansas National Guard and was involved in Kansas Farm Bureau. Wagner’s funeral was scheduled for Tuesday at St. Patrick Church with interment at St. Patrick’s Cemetery. Wagner is survived by his wife, Deanna, sons, Wallace, Tim and Larry and two daughters, Rhonda and Roberta as well as 10 grandchildren and two great grandchildren.