Kim Maggard's Whitehall is not the Struggling Suburb you Remember

Katy Smith
Kim Maggard, mayor of Whitehall

When Kim Maggard moved to Whitehall in 1981, its population had tipped into what would be four decades of decline from a high of more than 25,000 in 1970. During the ’50s, it had been one of the fastest growing cities in the nation, with neat rows of mid-century ranches and the distinguishing characteristic of sporting one of the nation’s first strip shopping plazas, Town & Country on East Broad Street. Maggard was 24 with a young daughter, having moved to Columbus from Ashland, Kentucky, the year before so her husband could take a job at the Defense Supply Center Columbus, a 530-acre military logistics complex. DSCC, as it is known, during WWII was the largest military supply installation in the world, employing more than 10,000 at its peak and housing the spare parts and myriad supplies that kept the American war machine running. Today, the hulking presence off East Broad Street remains as integral to the city of Whitehall—and its $50 million annual budget funded in large part by income taxes—as it is to Kim Maggard’s life.

Maggard was accustomed to military life, having grown up in a family that came from Kentucky but moved frequently to accommodate her father’s Air Force career, which took them to Italy at one point. When they returned, the U.S. housing shortage led them to buy a trailer, squeezing parents and four children into 500 square feet on a lot in Kansas. At one point, Maggard’s father went off to Vietnam for a year.

“My mom was very resourceful. She could cook like crazy, and she was very good with handling money, and she made those paychecks stretch,” Maggard says. “And when they couldn’t, then she would go to work. I remember her working at Dairy Queen for $1 an hour. She made our clothes. She made my prom dresses. She made my younger sister’s wedding dress, and it’s gorgeous.”

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