Walker resigning from Gary Library board, precinct committeeman spot
By Michael Gonzalez Post-Tribune correspondent January 8, 2013 1:38PM
Tony Walker. | Provided Photo~Sun-Times Media
Updated: February 15, 2013 6:06AM
GARY — Attorney Tony Walker cast off 2012 by resigning from the Gary Public Library board and from his position as a Gary precinct committeeman.
Walker said he resigned the positions, and from a 10-year stint as a radio show host and producer on WLTH radio, to free up more time in 2013.
“I resigned because I’m having to significantly scale back my volunteerism in 2013 as our law firm expands into Indianapolis and Chicago,” said Walker, head of The Walker Law Group. “This has to do with my personal schedule and how I schedule my time.”
He will remain a member of the Indiana State Board of Education and the Indiana Supreme Court disciplinary commission.
Lake County Democratic Party Chairman and Hammond Mayor Thomas McDermott said he will meet with Gary party chairwoman Elsie Franklin to determine who will fill Walker’s spot as the committeeman for precinct G5-13.
“I like (Tony) Walker. He’s a sharp guy and an asset to the (county) precinct organization,” McDermott said. “I’ll talk with Elsie (Franklin) to see what our next steps are.”
The school board also will appoint a replacement for Walker.
Walker became the focus of praise and criticism for his two-year leadership, beginning June 2010, of the politically charged library board. The Gary Community School Corp. board appointed Walker to the library board in 2009.
The board significantly upgraded the library system’s technology, including bringing e-books, or electronic versions of books accessible on-line, to the system, as well as new computers and software.
In his term as president, Walker and the board also oversaw a drastic budget reduction, due to property tax caps enshrined in the state constitution, from $6.4 million to $3.2 million.
That led to personnel cuts and, ultimately, the closure of the Main Branch of the library on 5th Avenue. Walker then led the roughly two-month charge to convert the building into the South Shore Museum and Cultural Center to, in his words, keep the building from becoming another eyesore downtown.
Walker’s detractors, including Franklin, accused him and the majority bloc on the board of ramrodding the idea into existence. Franklin, a county council member, led the council in removing a key Walker supporter, changing the voting blocs on the board.
“Hindsight is 20-20,” Walker said. “If I’d had the luxury of time, which I did not, I would’ve handled it differently. However, from the time the (cultural center) idea first caught fire until the time we were supposed to board up and shut down that building left us only about two to three months to do something.”
Walker said he regrets “some of the contentiousness” tied to the center’s development.
Walker also said he wished the board would have handled the director’s position differently. The board hired Otis Alexander from Virginia to be the director over a long-time employee Diana Morrow, who is now the interim director.
“We had a jewel of an administrator in our midst in Diana Morrow, who should’ve been our selection for the library director,” Walker said. “The best person for the job was sitting right there under our nose.”