By Tim Eberly
The pictures of her family are still on a bookshelf next to her desk, and a leafy plant has not been removed from her desk. But Phyllis Leonard is prepared to make her exit from City Hall today, after serving for eight years as the mayor of Havre.
"I've got most of my drawers cleaned out," Leonard said this morning. "What you see here is mostly surface stuff."
At 2 p.m., the city is holding a going-away party for Leonard to celebrate her tenure at the city's helm. Mayor-elect Bob Rice is being sworn in as the new mayor at the City Council meeting tonight.
After today, Leonard is prepared to embrace her twilight years. "I'm just going to retire and enjoy myself. I worked for too many years. I never look back. I'm always looking forward because that's the way I am."
Leonard's two daughters, Gail Leonard, 32, and Kathy Anderson, 44, will attend her grand finale. So will her grandson, Eric Urango, a junior at Havre High School.
Said Leonard: "I'm sad I won't see the people that I saw" every day at work. "I'm sad that I won't be able to work on the things I was working on. But you have to move on and let somebody else take over.You've got to get a breath of fresh air in the office."
Though she has a few unfinished projects that she won't be able to complete, Leonard said Rice is a good person for the job.
"I think that he loves the town, and he's not doing it for the money or prestige," she said. "He's doing it for the city of Havre."
Leonard said she wished she had the opportunity to ensure that Fort Assinniboine would be preserved as a historical monument in Montana. She also wanted to put in a road connecting Bullhook Boulevard and Beaver Creek Road to complement Bullhook Road, along with a road connecting 12th Avenue with Bullhook Boulevard.
"Those are things I wish I could have gotten done," Leonard said.
Over the last eight years, Leonard cites the construction of the water treatment plant as one of her highlights. She also draws pride from her ability to make city employees a cohesive unit.
"When things weren't going well, I tried to get things to work," Leonard said.
Choosing not to cite any rough spots in her term as mayor, Leonard did say there were times when she was not on the same page as some of her associates.
"I don't think there were any difficult times to get through but I think there were times when people didn't see the same things I saw," she said. "They didn't have the same vision I had."
Retirement will allow Leonard to devote more time to her hobby of gardening, along with some well-deserved rest and spending more time with her family and friends.
"I think I've got everything pretty much started and I hope that Bob will continue with it," she said.
Leonard moved to Havre to attend Northern Montana College, where she met her future husband, Charlie, while in her sophomore year. She spent 14 years as a paralegal at a local law firm, a job she quit to have her second child.
Charlie Leonard, a former conductor with Burlington Northern Santa Fe Railway, passed away two and a half years ago.
Before winning her first mayoral campaign in 1993, Leonard spent five years as a member of the City Council, which prompted her to run for mayor. Term limits prohibited her from considering another four years in office.
"I just thought that I would have something to offer," Leonard said. "I think I had alot of ideas."