This was an article in our hometown newspaper, the Sidney Herald. This sums up his career in community service quite well. In addition, he was very active in the LDS Church and served in the Army during WW II. He was a great man and I miss him very much.
Mayor Mercer passes away
By Bill Vander Weele
One of the great leaders in the history of Sidney passed away early Tuesday morning. Harold Mercer, 90, who served as the city’s mayor during the 1950s, 1960s, 1980s and 1990s, died Tuesday at the Lodge at Lone Tree Creek. Funeral services are tentatively set for 10 a.m. Saturday under the direction of Fulkerson Funeral Home at the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints. Interment will be in the Sidney Cemetery. Remembrances and condolences may be shared with the family at www.fulkersons.com. After first serving as an alderman, Mercer was Sidney’s mayor from 1957-1965. He then stepped down to become the city’s public works director for 19 years. He was then elected as mayor in 1985, capturing 65 percent of the votes. His overall service of mayor for 24 years finished at the end of 2001. “I suppose public service is in my blood,” Mercer said in a Herald story in 2002. After the 1985 election, Mercer said, “I hadn’t expected to win like that. That’s really something to have that many people support you. I certainly appreciate the confidence people have shown in me.” In 2001, Mercer received a Lifetime Service Award from the League of Cities and Towns.
Current mayor Bret Smelser had Mercer as a Little League baseball coach as well as Kiwanis advisor when Smelser was in Key Club. Smelser said the influence Mercer and Tim Feeley had on him in Key Club led to his community service involvement. Smelser says he still has a photo of the Little League team, coached by Mercer, that won a championship. “I wasn’t a very good baseball player. He put me on first base so I could learn baseball,” Smelser said. “Despite the fact we weren’t a very good team, we won the playoffs.” Years later, Mercer mentored Smelser when he joined city council. Mercer also asked Smelser to run for mayor. “Harold was a very effective mayor,” Smelser said. “He had the ability to bring all parties together, something I hoped he’s trained me to do.” Smelser says Mercer, through his “very conservative” approach, moved the community forward during tough economic times, and he will long be remembered as Sidney’s longest serving mayor. “Harold had a big influence on me. There wasn’t a day that I didn’t think what would Harold do,” Smelser said.
George Swensen was involved in the construction of the present City Hall alongside Mercer. At the time of Mercer’s retirement as mayor, Swensen told the Herald, “The City Hall building was a well engineered product done right under Harold’s watch.” He added, “Harold knows where every sewer line and water line is located. He understood money, taxation and people. This is what Harold is all about. He ran a pretty tight ship.”
Longtime city councilman Cal Oraw remembers the great leadership Mercer displayed as mayor. "What I remember most about Harold is he was a great leader, a great speaker,” Oraw said. “He was very conservative and yet very progressive. He was always looking at what Sidney’s needs will be 20 years down the road. Yet, he was very concerned that the city’s reserves were always there.” The water treatment center and the new swimming pool were created during Mercer’s tenure. Whenever it came to raising rates, Mercer was known for expressing concerns. “He always brought up the single, elderly people living in their own homes. He was always looking out for them. He was just admired by everyone. He was well respected.” Oraw noted Mercer’s father, Ben, was one of Sidney’s first councilman when the city was incorporated in 1911. “Almost everything we have and enjoy in Sidney has some Mercer touch to it,” Oraw said.