A Good Place To Rest

Honoring the late Mayor Johnnie Hauerland’s devoted contributions to community, City of Meridian dedicated bench in his name in front of City Hall

MERIDIAN – Former City of Meridian Mayor Johnnie Hauerland always did what he could with what he had where ever he was – whether it was requiring the best for his teachers and students or for the betterment of his hometown. And he always did it professionally, engaging everyone with a firm handshake and a warm smile.

When Hauerland (March 16, 1940-July 24, 2021) slipped away from this earthly life two years ago on July 24, 2021 of COVID-19, the town, his friends and family lost a good, good man. Sharon, his wife of 31 years, was by his side when he passed away after being on a ventilator at the Waco Ascension Providence Hospital Intensive Care Unit for two weeks. Hauerland had been vaccinated against the COVID-19 virus, but due to a recent battle with Non-Hodgkin Lymphoma his immune system was compromised, which still made him susceptible to the viral infection.

With City of Meridian representatives from City Hall, Public Works, City Council and the Police Department, along with the Meridian Chamber of Commerce, Meridian Economic Development Corporation, Meridian Independent School District, Meridian Parks and Recreation, Grassroots and friends, his widow Sharon and her daughter Sheri Wood unveiled a beautiful park bench in front of City Hall the City of Meridian dedicated in honor of his name Monday.

The memorial bench with a dedication plaque offers a place to fondly remember a much valued and respected Mayor, known for his love for Hawaii shirts and colorful plaids. And it’s bound to become a welcome place to rest or have a chat for those visiting City Hall or downtown Meridian.

“Johnnie was an excellent Mayor and friend,” Meridian Mayor Ryan Nieuwenhuis said. “He ran the city efficiently. He was a great man with great sense of community. It is our honor to have this bench dedicated to him.”

The unveiling of Hauerland’s bench was a bitter sweet moment that honored a good man, his invaluable support, leadership and presence. His absence leaves a void.

Mayor Hauerland was a dedicated man in everything he did, whether it was as educator/administrator or the civic organizations he was involved in. Hauerland was very much engaged in the town’s organizations and made a point of being seen around town, at fundraisers and at different meetings. He would have been pleased to see they all came to honor him and his memory.

“Johnnie had such a positive impact on everyone he came in contact with during his walk through a life well lived,” said Meridian Parks & Rec board president Brett Voss, who also served as the Meridian Economic Development Corporation board president for seven years under Hauerland as mayor. “Johnnie always made a point of thanks everyone individually for the volunteer work they did serving the community. And he was always extremely supportive of the work we did developing the Meridian Master Parks Plan.”

Hauerland and Sharon made Meridian their home in 1990 when he was hired as Superintendent for the Meridian Independent School District. After a 39-year career in the field of education, he retired as Superintendent from Venus ISD in 2004. Upon retirement as Superintendent, Hauerland wanted to be more involved in the town he called home, and was appointed to the Meridian City Council in June 2006 before becoming Mayor in July 2011.

“Johnnie loved Meridian,” Sharon Hauerland said. “And he was very proud to serve as the town’s Mayor.”

After the short unveiling ceremony, there were cupcakes and a chance to reminisce. Sharon shared some fond memories of his caring, loving soul – for her, her daughter and their dogs. For example, when Sharon was away visiting her daughter in Santa Fe, he would take the opportunity to steam clean all the carpets as a surprise upon her return. Or when they watched their favorite television shows together, he would curl up with the dogs.

As a school superintendent and mayor, Hauerland would always take the time to learn about the people he worked with and their interests. And if changes needed to be made, he would present them in a way that make sense to them in an effort to get them on board. He was a people person, and Sharon always admired how he saw everybody as an equal, which made him diplomatic and very good at his jobs.

“I thoroughly enjoyed working with and for Mayor Johnnie Hauerland,” former City Administrator Marie Garland said. “We became colleagues and friends. He brought a wealth of community service to Meridian through his many years in the Texas school system.

“His experience and confidence built by working with students, parents, staff, boards and citizens groomed a leadership that benefited Meridian. His untimely death was felt across the city, and we miss him tremendously. His memorial bench in front of Meridian City Hall is a wonderful tribute.”

Mainly focused on what benefitted the town and its citizens, Hauerland was very supportive of any initiatives taken by civic groups or citizens that improved the quality of life in Meridian. He always had a kind word or friendly advice to offer, and always made a point of thanking people for their efforts.

Often out in public, Hauerland was very approachable and open to listening to citizen concerns and comments. Many hours were also spent as a volunteer for the Meridian Manor Treasure Chest – a second-hand shop run by the Meridian Manor Auxiliary in aid of the senior residents of the facility, as a member of the Meridian Lions Club and with the Bosque County Retired Teachers Association.

Funded by memorial donations upon his death in lieu of flowers, Mayor Nieuwenhuis named the quality of the park bench “the new city standard,” expressing the hope that more benches of its kind can be placed around town.

Just the idea of being part of starting something like that would have made Johnnie Hauerland smile.  


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