Throughout the month of March, we are celebrating women and their accomplishments. Last week, we got to know more about Justice of the Peace Janice Sons.
This week, we celebrate our second woman: former Wichita Falls mayor and chair of the Sheppard Military Affairs Committee: Kay Yeager.
“I just have always felt like I need to be involved in the community,” Kay Yeager said.
Those thoughts began to enter into Yeager’s mind when she was still a young girl, growing up in her hometown of Wichita Falls, graduating from Ben Franklin and Old High. After graduating high school, Yeager said she didn’t exactly have her career goals down to a science, at least not right away.
“I knew I wanted to go to college. [I] didn’t have a clue what I would major in. I ended up majoring in chemistry,” Yeager said. “I have never used it. But, anyway, it’s good to do that kind of thing.”
After graduating from college, Yeager got married and moved to Colorado. Several years later, she moved back to Wichita Falls.
“More opportunity. We’ve been here ever since,” Yeager said.
One of those opportunities was running for the office of the mayor.
“I felt like it would be interesting, challenging. And so, I decided to run,” Yeager said.
Yeager won and served as Wichita Falls mayor from May 1996 to May 2000. But in the 2000 election and following a recount, Yeager would be defeated by former Wisconsin native and who many considered a dark horse candidate Jerry Lueck.
“Jim Berzina was city manager, so I’ll just quote something he always said. ‘You know, there’s going to be some Saturday in May one time when everybody’s gone to the lake and something like this would happen.’ It was probably one of the biggest disappointments of my life, that I lost. And yet, you have to pick up and keep moving forward,” Yeager said.
Before losing the election, Yeager helped guide the city through one of the biggest projects the city had seen for years: the construction of the MPEC.
While Yeager knows its construction wasn’t without controversy, considering some residents were forced to move, she said she and so many others worked hard on the project.
“We didn’t want people who lived there that were going to lose their homes to be unhappy with where they went,” Yeager said.
One person now keeping a watchful eye on the future of the MPEC is current mayor Stephen Santellana.Though it has and still faces criticism, Santellana believes Yeager’s vision of the facility proved beneficial for the city and it remains an assest.
“We want to do her right and we want to do the citizens right with that facility,” Santellana said.
Santellana explains being in charge, you can’t please everybody. The mayor said some of the best advice he got regarding being mayor was from Yeager.
[The] best piece of advice I ever got from her was ‘grow that thick skin’ and ‘put your plate away at all these banquets. You can’t eat at every banquet you go to or you’ll gain 50 pounds,'” Santellana said.
Now, among other roles, Yeager serves as chair of the Sheppard Military Affairs Committee, helping make sure Sheppard gets all the support it can get. One of her colleagues, former Wichita Falls Mayor and now president of SMAC Glenn Barham, said Yeager has always had the best interests of her hometown in mind.
“That’s what she’s been about all her life is doing what’s best for the community and her involvement with the Air Force, doing what’s best for the Air Force; just a stalwart in the community,” Barham said.
A community Yeager said she’ll always believe in.
“This is home. [It] has been for a long time now and will be,” Yeager said.
Though she spends a lot of time in Wichita Falls, she’s also involved with projects outside of town: one of those being chair of the non-profit committee supporting Yellowstone National Park.