Charlotte Baldwin will always be remembered for breaking glass ceilings. As the first female mayor of Madisonville, Baldwin had a reputation as a fair but tough leader who knew how to get a job done — and done correctly.
Baldwin, 89, died on Saturday, June 5 at her home in Madisonville. She served as mayor from 1978-83.
Bob Simmons, a former Madisonville City Council member who served from 1982 to 2012, said Baldwin was “a born leader.”
“Charlotte was a motivator,” he said. “She knew how to make a case for the things she wanted to get done. She had a cooperative council during the time that she was mayor. Everybody worked together primarily because she knew how to get a team to work.”
Simmons also credits the start of his city council career to Baldwin, saying she had many talks with him about coming on board to represent Ward 5.
“The person representing this ward resigned,” he said. “Charlotte called me one afternoon and told me this was happening and asked me if I would be interested in an appointment to that position. My first reaction was ‘I don’t think so.’ ”
True to Baldwin’s form, she persisted and Simmons was eventually appointed to represent the ward. Simmons said Baldwin enticed him on joining the council through a renovation project at Madisonville City Park.
“She knew that was something I would want to do,” he said, adding that he eventually became chairman of the parks committee for the city. “As a result of that over the next four or five years, we really worked to renovate City Park.”
The two also worked together on the local Chamber’s board of directors where they both eventually served as chairman.
“The primary project we worked on was a project called All Kentucky Cities,” Simmons said. “It was a program where you demonstrated to a committee of the chamber of commerce what your city had done to deserve that distinction. Charlotte and I put together a presentation … and we took it to the state chamber as our case for getting that distinction.”
Simmons said Madisonville was named an All Kentucky City four of the years they made the presentation in the mid-70s.
“We had a lot of opportunities to work together and be friends,” he said. “She also was a neighbor and a wonderful person.”
Simmons also said he had the honor to introduce Baldwin as the Madisonville Lions Club Woman of the year in 1974.
“She was a leader in a lot of things,” he said.
Lloyd Merrell served as city administrator for Madisonville and was hired by Baldwin and the city council.
“She was a wonderful mayor, and I enjoyed my whole time that she was there,” he said. “I really enjoyed working with her.”
Merrell said Baldwin was a fair leader.
“Her decisions were sound and she thought things through,” he said. “She worked well with the city council. It saddens me to hear of her passing.”
Merrell said while she worked well with everyone around her, she could be tough when she needed to be.
“When she had to be tough, she was very strong and held her position,” he said.
Merrell reflected on work accomplished during the Baldwin administration.
“She was a believer in keeping the infrastructure taken care of,” he said. “There was a lot of infrastructure work done in her term such as paving the streets and that sort of thing.”
Baldwin served as Secretary of the Kentucky Natural Resources and Protection Cabinet from 1983 to 1987 under Gov. Martha Layne Collins, a position that Merrell said Baldwin struggled with deciding to take it or not.
“When the governor asked her to serve in that position, she wrestled with the decision about leaving Madisonville,” Merrell said. “I encouraged her and told her she had done a good job here in Madisonville and to go do a good job in the state as well.”
Simmons said Baldwin’s legacy extends beyond Hopkins County.
“She left a mark across the state as a person who knew how to get things done and was willing to get things done,” said Simmons.
Baldwin was born Jan. 21, 1932, in Campbellsville to the late Edward Rouse Eads and Maxine Cook Eads. She was also preceded in death by her first husband Dr. Stanley Baldwin; her second husband, K.C. Zellich Sr. and two sisters, Helen Eads Vaughn and Emeline Eads Woods.
Baldwin was a 1949 graduate of Campbellsville High School, a 1951 graduate of Campbellsville Jr. College, and a 1974 graduate of the University of Evansville. She was also a former trustee of the University of Evansville and Chairman of the University Alumni Association, she was a recipient of the 1984 Outstanding Alumnus Award from the University of Evansville and from Campbellsville College, also in 1984.
As well as serving as the first woman mayor of Madisonville, she also served as the first woman president of the Kentucky Municipal League. She also was a director of Community First Bank of Madisonville.
She was inducted into the James Madison Days’ Hall of fame of Hopkins County in 2000, made a member of the Madisonville Bicentennial Hall of Fame in 2006, selected as the 1982 woman of Achievement by the Kentucky Business and Professional Women of Kentucky and as the she was a member of the Earlington United Methodist Church of Earlington and a volunteer with the Green River Hospice Association and the Western Kentucky Veterans Center.
She is survived by two sons, Dr. Stuart Baldwin and Dr. Ben Baldwin, both of Madisonville and four grandchildren, Adrian Baldwin of Louisville, Alex Baldwin of Nashville, Tennessee, Ansley Baldwin of Madisonville and one step-grandson, Joshua Dugger of Boise, Idaho.
A memorial service will be held at noon Saturday at Barnett-Strother Funeral Home with Bro. Marty Martinez officiating. Burial will be in Odd Fellows Cemetery in Madisonville.
Visitation will be 4 to 7 p.m. today and after 11 a.m. Saturday at the funeral home.
Memorial contributions may be made to the Earlington United Methodist Church in Earlington or the Veterans Center Activities Committee in Hanson. Envelopes will be available at the funeral home.
Online condolences may be made to the family at www.barnettstrother.com.