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Rutledge remembers a local hero

Former Rutledge mayor Joe Dexter Flynn celebrated his wife Charlotte’s retirement  from 40 years of service with the City of Luverne in September 2013.

Former Rutledge mayor Joe Dexter Flynn celebrated his wife Charlotte’s retirement from 40 years of service with the City of Luverne in September 2013.

An important era in Rutledge history drew to a close when former Rutledge councilmember and mayor Joe Dexter Flynn passed on May 24.

And even though Flynn formerly resigned in December 2013 as mayor of 17 years, he continued to mold and shape the town of Rutledge both before and after his tenure ended.

Luverne Mayor Joe Rex Sport was one of many people who knew Flynn for a number of years, and he said that it was easy to see the mark Flynn left on Rutledge.

“I’ve known Joe Dexter a lifetime, I reckon,” Sport said.

“I was superintendent of education, and his wife, Charlotte, was my circuit clerk for years.  So of course I knew him well through her. And I knew him well as a person.  We were friends, and we maintained that friendship through the years.

“He meant a lot to the citizens of this area just because of his expertise with electricity and well pumps.  And as the mayor of Rutledge, I thought Joe Dexter did the best job as mayor of any mayor I’ve known over in Rutledge.  He was progressive, he instituted a lot of things that Rutledge never had before.  He was a visionary type of person that could see things out in the future that the city needed.”

Rutledge town clerk Rita Brown saw firsthand the change that Flynn enacted throughout the town.

When Flynn began his campaign for mayor more than 17 years ago, he came to Brown and asked if she would be interested in being the clerk for the town.

She told him she would, and built a one-of-a-kind relationship with him in the near two decades that followed.

“He loved this town—he really did,” Brown said.

“He came in here and there wasn’t very much equipment—hardly anything to work with. We got a grant for trucks. And the next thing we did was we got a fire station built, and he helped get a grant for our first fire truck.

“The street signs that were up were old and you couldn’t read half of them, and we got all new street signs.  We even started a recycling program.”

Flynn was also instrumental in changing the former Best Western hotel into Rutledge Inn and Suites, which generated enough revenue to install a water tower that served both the hotel, the Crenshaw County Jail and, eventually, Hooks Barbecue.

The items Brown mentioned are only a sample of a laundry list of changes brought on with Flynn’s term.

The community center was recently remodeled, with both bathrooms and the kitchen being updated with more efficient equipment, and the electrical system was also updated to be safer and more efficient.

The Rutledge Primitive Baptist Church also received a facelift thanks to Flynn.

“He was all about getting that church fixed, and getting a roof on it,” Brown added.

“We contacted a lot of people that had loved ones buried in the cemetery and got donations and put a new roof on the church, and painted it.”

But Flynn’s influence extended beyond Crenshaw County, as his military service culminated in his earning of a Purple Heart during his tour in Vietnam.

Among his numerous titles as a colleague, soldier, or community leader, those that knew him all had a common label for him—Flynn was a friend.

For those interested in donating to his memory, donations can be made to the Rutledge Cemetery Fund.