polo rl Haskell native begins work as first woman to be city’s mayor
“You can go home again, but you have to come back with a different viewpoint, a different attitude. These past years have absolutely been the best years of my life,” she said.
“I got to know my mother,” said Lyman, who noted that her mother died in 2014. “Alzheimer’s got her. I was able to spend some wonderful years with her. I was also able to connect with the Mount Harmony Cemetery, where many of my family are buried. I am still on its board of directors.”
Lyman also became involved in city government, a decision that would lead several years later to her election as mayor of Haskell in November 2014. She is the first female mayor in the city’s history.
Saline County District Judge Stephanie Casady swore Lyman in as mayor of Haskell on Jan. 1 at Haskell City Hall.
Lyman said her roots to Haskell go back “six, seven, eight generations on my mother’s side the Smiths and Westbrooks. My father was from Logan County.”
Lyman is the daughter of the late Joe Lyman and Bernadine Smith Lyman.
“My father taught at Harmony Grove schools in the 1930s and was later superintendent of the schools,” Lyman said. “He retired in the 1970s. He was also the superintendent for the Bryant schools. Education was always important in my family.
“My mother was born and raised in Haskell. She opened the first beauty shop in the city of Haskell. It was in the family home,” Lyman said. “At first, she had a beauty salon in Benton, but after the third child was born, my father suggested she move home. He built her a beauty shop, and she called it Bernadine’s.
“My mother was a 1936 graduate of Harmony Grove High School,” Lyman said. “I am a 1965 graduate; my daughter, Gina, graduated in 1987; and my grandson, Daegan, graduated in 2008. We are all proud to be Cardinals.
“I have a lot of history with this community.”
Lyman has a daughter, Gina May, 45, who is a registered nurse, and a grandson, Daegan Haller, 25, whom Lyman calls “the absolute best blessing I have ever received.
“We are very proud of him,” she said of her grandson. “He is an air traffic controller at the [Lyndon B.] Johnson Space Center in Houston, Texas. He watches the space station.
“He always knew what he wanted to do. At age 7, he was into Star Trek and was using Legos to build space stations all over the place.”
Layman said that after high school graduation she went to Southern State College (now Southern Arkansas University) in Magnolia, where she studied to be a legal secretary.
“I left college, got married and moved off to Texas,” she said, adding that she worked in accounts payable jobs during most of her life. “That’s what I like to do.”
Lyman, who is divorced, is also a member of the Ladies Suburban Club, which was started in 1955 in Haskell and has been instrumental in sprucing up the city with flowers and plants.
Lyman said the city’s former mayor, Jeff Arey, chose not to run for re election in 2014.
“He let us know his plans. He is the new Saline County judge,” she said. “He leaves some really big shoes to fill. He did an excellent job for 16 years.
“I really did not know much about being mayor. My older brother, Joe, told me, ‘You ought to run.’ I prayed about it and decided this is what I am supposed to do. I want to do what is good for the city. Everybody is very congenial, and we all work well together. You can only be as effective as the people you work with.
“I’m trying to learn as much as I can about the workings of the city. You are never too old to learn,” she said.
Lyman, who served as recorder treasurer for the city of Haskell before being elected mayor, said that after she moved back to Haskell 25 years ago, she worked in an accounting position in Little Rock.
“A position came up on the [Haskell] City Council. I lived in the ward where the vacancy was. A friend encouraged me to run for it. I thought it was a monthly meeting where I might learn something about the city, so I did [run],” she said.
“I had no idea of the mechanics of what goes on in running a city, all of that is discussed in the City Council meetings. Rose Marie Wilkinson was the recorder treasurer during that time, and I was on the council. She did a tremendous job. She realized that Haskell was growing, and she thought it might be time for her to step down. She and I got together. She resigned as recorder treasurer, and I resigned from the council,” Lyman said.
“The mayor (Arey) appointed me to finish [Wilkinson’s] term as recorder general. I still had two years on my term as recorder treasurer when I decided to run for mayor, so I had to resign before I could declare for the mayoral position,” she said.
“I absolutely enjoyed my time as the recorder treasurer,” said Lyman, who noted that she spent three years on the City Council and seven years as recorder treasurer.
“I thought I had a few miles left, so I decided to run for mayor. I won without a runoff. I received 52 percent of the vote.”