(Posted Dec. 13, 2018)
By Kristy Zurbrick, Madison Editor
Ohio’s longest serving county treasurer, a man known for his love of people, sense of humor, and open-door policy, passed away on Dec. 5.
William “Shag” Stidham, 86, was elected as Madison County treasurer in 1972 and retired in 2011. Prior to this time in office, he served in the U.S. Navy during the Korean War and worked for 10 years at the Madison County Sheriff’s Office where he achieved the rank of chief deputy.
Among the many people who count Stidham as a lifelong friend and mentor are Donna Landis, the county’s current treasurer. Her family and his are friends, and Stidham’s wife, Betty, cut Landis’s hair when Landis was a little girl. Landis went on to work for Stidham twice, once for a short time and again for a very long time.
“In 1978, I applied for and got a position at the Treasurer’s Office. It was through a state-funded government work program. When the funding ran out 18 months later, Shag asked the commissioners to hire me, but they said the budget was too tight,” Landis recalls. “Shag told me that when his head deputy retired, he would come looking for me–and he did. He was always good to his word.”
Landis ended up working for Stidham for more than 30 years, until Stidham retired and she was appointed to his seat. She said he enjoyed coming to work every day.
“He loved all the people. He didn’t know a stranger,” Landis said.
Stidham not only cared about the community, he also cared about his co-workers.
“It was like a family up here,” Landis said. “Shag was like a father to me, a friend. I could talk to him about anything. He was more than a boss.”
Madison County Sheriff Jim Sabin often sought out Stidham’s advice.
“I spent many hours over in Shag’s office when he was treasurer, relying on his experiences, in particular in law enforcement, to help me along the way on numerous occasions,” Sabin said. “He had many, many answers on a lot of topics, including how government works and how government should work.”
Stidham’s office, located inside the old walk-in safe at the back of the Treasurer’s Office, was respectfully known as “The Swamp.” Stidham would welcome anyone in for a cup of coffee and conversation–or debate. It was a gathering place for county officials.
“There is no doubt in my mind that more decisions were made there on the operations of the county than were made in the commissioners’ office,” Sabin said.
When it came to executing the duties of his office, Stidham was all business, but that didn’t mean he didn’t like to have fun.
“He was a jokester. If he had the opportunity to pull a prank on you, he certainly would,” Sabin said.
County Recorder Chuck Reed, who first got to know Stidham as a fellow sheriff’s deputy in the 1970s and later as a fellow elected official, had a couple of nicknames for his friend and colleague.
“I called him ‘Shagnasty,’ and I called him an ‘industrial size Maytag’ because there were times Shag could agitate you. The thing about it, he always would seem to be correct,” Reed said.
With offices on opposite sides of the courthouse, Reed and Stidham saw each other often and frequently went to lunch together. They’d patronize establishments all over the county, where they’d both take time to talk to constituents.
“Shag was straightforward with everybody as far as operating his office–tax collection, keeping the books. He always seemed to know how to invest money for the county, and he was always up to date on things,” Reed said. “He always respected his employees and they respected him. And he had the respect of the courthouse.”
Stidham and his staff went the extra mile to help customers, Reed added. For example, they would tell taxpayers who had mobility issues to call ahead, then they would meet them outside at their cars. Landis carries on this service, following her mentor’s lead.
“He will be missed,” Reed said.
“Shag was very proud of his service to the country and to the county. He was truly dedicated to serving in the many capacities he did throughout his life,” Sabin said.
Stidham is survived by his sons, Jerry and Jason, his sister, Betty Ruth Williams, and his wife of 60 years, Betty Jean Stidham, who worked alongside him at the Treasurer’s Office for 39 years.
Stidham was born in South Solon and attended South Charleston School, Springfield High School and London High School. He left high school early to enlist in the Navy. After he was discharged in 1955, he returned to London to finish high school. Prior to his work as a sheriff’s deputy and county treasurer, he built refrigerators, washers and dryers at Westinghouse Corp., worked at the Ice Service Co., and was a bartender at Farmer Dan’s.
Funeral services were held Dec. 10 at Eberle-Fisher Funeral Home and Crematory, London. Interment followed in Bethel Cemetery. Memorial contributions may be made to the American Diabetes Association at www.diabetes.org.