Judy Spooner Viewpoint: Rich Mullen gets new technology, but old passion for Grey Cloud Island Township enduresRich Mullen’s made life better for his neighbors on Grey Cloud Island.
By: Judy Spooner, South Washington County Bulletin
Rich Mullen, the Grey Cloud Island Township resident and town clerk, was 84 five years ago when he told me his father, Leland, lived to be 105. Even I can do the math.
Mullen has a sharp wit and knows everyone in the township and the stories about their families. Even though he knows about their good and bad traits, I have never heard him speak a harsh word about any of them. The only people who earn his disdainful words are those who don’t live in the township and dump trash, tires and sometimes even large appliances in the township ditches.
Even after three annexations, the township, all three square miles of it, is the smallest in the state. “It’s still paradise,” he told me recently.
An able man who built the home he lives in with his wife, Laverne, starting in 1957, Rich is smart and knows his way around a tool box.
He worked for the telephone company as a lineman. He is the head election judge and keeps the electronic ballot box in good order.
But Rich and some technology don’t get along.
In 2007, he finally gave up on the township fax machine. The only thing it’s good for is a boat anchor, he told me.
He’s also resisted numerous attempts by town board members to buy him a computer to keep track of township business. The township itself is up to date. All of the ordinances are online.
Rich takes meeting notes in pencil and types them, in all capital letters, into a word processor, which is really just a souped-up typewriter.
His decision not to have a computer wasn’t entirely based on refusal to adopt technology, but he tries to spend as little township money as possible.
But he finally caved.
Rich’s new computer is up and running, including a new printer and a modem to connect him to the Internet.
Elizabeth Bell, who lives next door with her husband, Tom, a township planning commission member and the official weed inspector, is mistress of the township website.
“We’re bringing Rich into the 21st century,” she said at the June town board meeting.
“I really appreciate Elizabeth,” Mullen said. “She told me where to throw the water if it’s on fire.”
Rich appointed Elizabeth deputy clerk, citing his authority to appoint one under state law.
“I’m not too old to stop buying green bananas,” Rich said, “but if I’m in jail or shot down behind enemy lines, the township should have a deputy clerk.”
She can sign checks and conduct “other duties as assigned,” Rich said. “You’re now in charge of the complaint department.”
After some good-natured kidding about reminding him that the new printer doesn’t need carbon paper, Rich said that after 36 years in township government he’s still enjoying serving his neighbors.
“I love the township,” he said.
There’s a lesson to be learned here and it has nothing to do with technology. There’s no higher calling, in my opinion, than using your ability, time and resources to make life better for society.
Rich Mullen’s made life better for those neighbors he talks about.