Municipal statesman remembered

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

By Clint Confehr

Senior Staff Writer

Lewisburg has lost a quiet and thoughtful statesman.

Robert O. "Bob" Binkley died Sunday at home in his easy chair. He was 80.

"It is impossible to overstate the impact he had ... over 30 years, especially in the area of industrial development," former Mayor Bob Phillips said.

Binkley was a sessions court judge and twice city attorney. City councilmen tried to hire him back after politics released him. He returned to help industrial development.

"He was quite a guy," said Paul DiGiovanni, president of Christian Brands in Phoenix, Ariz. The company moved several businesses to Lewisburg's I-65 Commerce Park. "He was a perfect blend of an old-styled attorney ... guiding his client through a maze of regulations, grants and loans that the state and county had, while still being true to the city and putting it in a language so ... someone who's not a professional in those areas could understand."

Binkley isn't from here, but he established a law practice and stayed.

"We probably couldn't have run the city without him," former Councilman Arnold Lilly said. "They still used him a lot. At the Industrial Development Board meeting last week ... they were going to use him for something."

IDB Chairman Eddie Wiles remembers Binkley as a friend.

"When he was on a project, yeah, he was an attorney, but it was obvious ... the well being of the city was his focus," Wiles said. "There was always that comfort with Bob. If I hit a roadblock, I knew I could call him.

"If he brings you something to sign, you sign it," Wiles said.

Binkley helped establish employers including Calsonic Kansei North America.

He got the city's trash dump on Rock Crusher Road off an Environmental Protection Agency list of pollution sites.

"Bob saved the city a million bucks, if not more" by doing so, Lilly said.

Phillips concurs: The EPA "can come in every few years and test springs at the city's cost... We must have $50,000 in every budget when that comes around. There couldn't have been a worse site than a quarry."

Former Councilman Phil Sanders called Binkley "a mighty good guy. He was a good lawyer ... and minded his own business, too."

Councilman Hershel Davis said, "I thought a lot of Bob. He did a good job for us. He was well informed."

Davis knew of Binkley's sickness in recent years, cancer.

Binkley and Planning Commission Chairman Jim Bingham served on the Urban Growth Planning Committee several years ago when Binkley kept the committee on task.

"He was knowledgeable and credible," Bingham said. "It's a devastating loss to the community... What a gentleman... I loved the man."

Lewisburg businesswoman and historian Lynda Potts said, "He was a wonderful source for the history of Lewisburg city government."

Downtown property owner Mike Walker said, "I don't know how appropriate it is, but I'll put our flag at half-staff for him at the post office building."