Baker has served his city and its residents in many ways. That’s why The Piedmont Journal named him Citizen of the Year. Journal publisher and editor John Alred surprised Baker with the announcement and a plaque at Tuesday night’s council meeting.
Baker was appointed Piedmont’s mayor last year when Rick Freeman resigned due to health reasons. When Baker finishes out this term, it will mark 26 years for him either serving on the city council or as mayor or mayor pro tem.
His first term on the city council was in 1988. He was serving on the city council in 1996 when then Mayor Vera Stewart died. Baker was named mayor to fill out her term.
Baker worked 36 years with the Department of Human Resources. At the time of his retirement, he was laws program supervisor, which meant he was over the foster care division, necessitating him to be involved in a lot of abuse and neglect issues.
It would have been much easier for him to have moved his family closer to his job. Instead, he chose to remain in Piedmont so his daughters could attend the city school system, his wife could teach here and he could work for his beloved Piedmont.
Though he recently retired, for the past four years, he served as activities director at Piedmont Healthcare Center under the supervision of administrator Sandra Keener. He started out as an assistant and, after becoming certified, moved up to director.
“Billy is one of the most dedicated people I’ve ever seen,” said Keener. “When he commits himself to a job, any job, he gives it 100 percent. It’s been a pleasure working with him. I’ve enjoyed working with him and having him as a friend. I went to school with Billy, so I’ve known him for many years.”
His friend of 40 years, Ted Acker, said Baker is one of the nicest people he’s ever met and one of the most caring.
“He loved his job at work, taking care of people, and that’s basically what he did in Piedmont,” said Acker. “Billy loves the citizens of Piedmont. I think Billy is as good of a mayor as they’ve ever had in Piedmont. He loves the schools, he’s just a good person, and he’s a lot of fun to be around.”
Also important to Acker is the fact that his friend is an Alabama fan.
“He loves Alabama football,” said Acker.
Noble Bank city president Mac Singleton has known Baker for a half century and said that Baker is “a very enthusiastic person and is always trying to find ways to improve Piedmont.”
Singleton said he’s thrilled for his friend to receive this award.
City clerk Michelle Franklin has known Baker since she began working for the city over 20 years ago. Franklin said since that time she has observed first hand his diligence and dedication as a council member and as a mayor.
“He’s always strived to help anyone who comes to him with a problem,” said Franklin. “He’s very compassionate to the needs of others and wants to see that person happy. He sincerely loves the City of Piedmont and wants to see good things happen here.”
Franklin said that Baker has always represented the city in a positive and professional manner and is very deserving to be honored as Citizen of the Year.
Baker is married to the former Cynthia Gillespie. They have two daughters. Amy Pike and her husband Corey live in Piedmont with their children, Hunter, Madison, Brock Baker and Trevor Pike. Ann VonEberstein and her husband Vince live in Gulf Shores with their son, Brady Motes.
Baker’s affiliations in Piedmont have included the Lions Club, Piedmont Athletic Club and Benevolence Center. He’s a graduate of Jacksonville State University and is a member of St. Joachim Catholic Church.
Baker initiated the first Piedmont Polar Plunge which took place at the aquatic center earlier this month. The plunge benefited Venecia Butler’s Venecia’s Foundation, which provides chemo bags for cancer patients.
His daughter Amy said that she’s proud of her father and everything he’s accomplished.
“He always sets his mind to do things for the betterment of Piedmont,” she said. “And he keeps striving for those goals until they’ve been reached.”