In August 1960, Harold Clumpner was asked to fill a vacant seat on the Ogdensburg Village Board.
And, 50 years later, “I’m still filling the vacancy,” he says with a smile.
Clumpner was 27 years old when he agreed to fill the board’s vacant trustee seat.
“I think Roger Everts passed away,” he said. “I was just approached, and I accepted.”
Clumpner’s years of service on the board have not gone unnoticed. In fact, he has set a record in the state for continuous years of service.
Earlier this summer, the League of Wisconsin Municipalities presented him with a plaque during a regional meeting in Rothschild.
“They said they researched it and haven’t found anyone who came close to 50 years of continuous service,” Clumpner said.
The exact date that he became a village trustee is not known.
Around 1975, a fire in the home of the village clerk destroyed many of the village’s records. “We didn’t have a fireproof safe,” he said.
Regardless of what the exact date is, Clumpner has no special plans to celebrate his 50 years as a village trustee.
He had no idea when he was asked to fill the vacancy that it would turn into 50 years and says that time has gone by very quickly.
Born and raised in Ogdensburg, Clumpner has seen the village change.
“When I was a kid, there were three grocery stores. They had an ice-cream war. We were getting three dips of ice cream for a nickel,” he said.
The village, which incorporated in 1911, has always maintained a population between 200 and 227, he said.
“It’s a much neater town now, and we have a greater diversity of people,” Clumpner said. “When I grew up as a kid, it was mostly families that had been here since the village started. Most left. I think we are one of the few original families left in the area.”
In addition to the three grocery stores back then, he remembers the village having a doctor, a depot, a feed mill, a feed and seed company, a Chrysler dealership, an International Harvest dealership and 18 gas pumps.
Things began to change for the village during the post-World War II years as people began to move more, leaving the communities in which their families had lived for generations.
The other change, Clumpner recalls, was the arrival of larger companies that took away customers from small businesses.
Today, the shop that Clumpner bought in 1956 – Ogdensburg Garage – is among the handful of businesses still in the village.
It continues to have a steady business from the local community and beyond, with Clumpner saying they still have to adapt to how they do business today.
Clumpner’s son Bruce owns the business, and Clumpner continues to work there.
At age 77, he says he never intends to retire. “I go to work at 7 in the morning and quit at 5. Sometimes, I quit a little early, because I have to go a meeting. I work five days per week,” he said.
He likes working with people, and as he sat in the village hall, he talked about his work as a village trustee.
The village hall was originally a bandstand, located a short distance from its present site.
Clumpner said when it was a bandstand, it had a stairway and a railing on top, which is where the Ogdensburg Band played its concerts. Today, the one-room village hall is full of old furniture and pictures.
“Over the years, I’ve done everything from corral someone’s dog to fix a furnace,” Clumpner said. “In these little villages, where you have only two or three people on the board, you like to keep continuity on the board. Actually, I’ve been ready to quit for maybe five or 10 years, but I want to make sure we have continuity in the programs we set up over the years. We have good people now – people who want to carry on.”
Clumpner said one of the major decisions facing the board on an annual basis is the village’s street program.
“Over the years, I think I worked under six or seven different village presidents. You have to learn which style of government they will do and work with it, because the secret of the whole operation is harmony,” he said. “The hardest thing in the world you have to do is to come to this table and make decisions when there is animosity between members. I’ve been very fortunate with the people I’ve worked with. I’m so glad we run pretty smoothly.”