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Mayor Scottie Ernst remembered as a community servant

Following the death of Stanford Mayor Scottie Ernst last Tuesday, members of the Stanford and Lincoln County community shared fond memories of the man all described using one word – “servant.”

The community said goodbye to Ernst Monday afternoon, as his funeral was held in downtown Stanford. Following services, a procession led by local police, sheriff’s office, fire and other emergency response personnel through town, made its way to Ernst’s final resting place in Buffalo Springs Cemetery.

Ernst died doing what he loved according to many, and that was serving his community. David Gambrel is Lincoln County’s property valuation administrator, but also a longtime friend of Ernst.

“If there’s one thing that would epitomize him, it was that he had the heart of a servant. And how did he spend his last moments? What was he doing? He was doing a job that wasn’t his to do, because it needed to be done, and because he loved his community. It’s just really a shock,” Gambrel said Wednesday morning.

Ernst and Gambrel had been friends for 45 years, and Gambrel said the two went to high school together, but they also had other bonds that allowed them to grow close later in life.

“He graduated two years ahead of me. I graduated with his wife. We grew a lot closer two years ago. Our mothers were both terminal at the same time,” Gambrel said. “I’m a pastor besides being PVA, so I had a lot of opportunities over the years to see Scottie and how he dealt with families.”

Gambrel said when Ernst was elected mayor in 2018, his friend asked him to swear him into office.

“Scottie asked me to swear him in, and I gave a little speech,” Gambrel said. “In the time he’s been mayor, he would come to me and ask my advice. That’s kind of hard when you’re in public office, to have people that you feel like you can go to and they’ll tell you what you need to hear, and not necessarily what you want to hear. We had developed that.

“I’ve been around politics for a long time, and there are people in politics for different reasons. But when you find someone who has not only the right attitude, but good aptitude, that’s a special combination, and that’s what he was. He was very capable, but he had the right attitude. It’s a terrible loss for Stanford, and it’s a terrible loss for Lincoln County. It’s a loss for a lot of people.”

Stanford Fire Chief Scott Maples said he can’t remember not knowing Ernst.

“I’ve known Scottie my whole life. We grew up in the same area, south of Stanford here. Our dads worked together farming. He was a little bit older than me, but I knew Scottie since I was able to remember,” Maples said.

The two served together as members of the city council, and most recently Maples worked for Ernst in his role as fire chief.

“Scottie definitely had Stanford in his heart. He was a true public servant and gave a lot of time and energy to the city of Stanford. He always had an open mind and he was a pleasure to work for,” Maples said. “Personally, Scottie was a kind human being. He had such a kind heart and was always willing to help anybody in need. anybody will tell you that. He had such a big heart.”

Maples said Ernst was the same with the fire department as he was with all city departments, which was hands-on, and ready to help them in any way he could. Maples said he always wanted to know if there were any concerns he could help with, and told people to come and talk with him if he could help them.

“He had the city’s best interest at heart. It was a tragic loss. Stanford is hurting,” Maples said.

City council member Ronnie Deatherage worked with Ernst closely in office, but they have been friends for years.

“Gosh, I’ve known Scottie since we were in high school. We got elected six years ago, and I got to serve with him for four years,” Deatherage said. “In that time we worked really well together. We had a lot of the same ideas, and we wanted to do the same things, so it made it really easy. Obviously you’re not going to agree on everything, but the whole purpose of government is to find disagreements, then come to common ground and work and compromise and do what’s best for everybody. We had a lot of the same ideas and same aspirations for the city, so that made it easy.”

Ernst’s love for his community stood out to Deatherage, and he recalled the mayor as someone who wanted the best for his town and county.

“He really cared about Stanford, and not just Stanford, but Lincoln County as a whole. What was good for Stanford was good for Lincoln County because everybody comes into the county seat for business and different things,” Deatherage said. “He wanted to put in some sidewalks, so we had some discussions about who’s responsible for sidewalks, so he had a sidewalk plan in place. As far as the aesthetics of the city, you could tell what he was doing and it really made a difference. If you go anywhere around Main Street and downtown, it’s really, really pretty. He worked hard on that and he had a lot of good ideas, and of course Debbie was there to help him. He’ll be surely missed.”

Lincoln County Chamber of Commerce Executive Director Andrea Miller fought back tears as she spoke about Ernst and his love for his city.

“I felt like he saw needs and talked to a lot of people about what they wanted and did what the people asked for. He was always downtown, and he always had his finger on the pulse of things,” Miller said. “And even before he was mayor, when he was on the city council, when we had the Bourbon Chase, he and Debbie would always come down and volunteer. I was just very impressed with the passion he had for our community. He was very humble and didn’t need accolades, he just got it done.”

Miller said although Ernst did many things for the community, in her opinion, one of his greatest accomplishments was starting the local tourism commission. She said since the city no longer has a tourism director, his work on that project has been very important.

“It’s a large group of very passionate folks. I think they subdivided their interests and talents since we don’t have a tourism director any more. I think that was one of his shining achievements was starting that tourism commission and kind of lighting a fire under folks and giving them some say in how we progressively move forward,” she said.