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Warner Wiley remembered for accomplishments as Beech Grove mayor

Warner Wiley remembered for accomplishments as Beech Grove mayor

By Nancy Price

For 47 years, J. Warner Wiley served the Beech Grove community in many capacities. He was a mayor, police officer and chief, park board president, city council member and board of public works and safety manager.

On June 12, the city mourned as Wiley, 83, passed away.

“Warner was a wonderful servant who loved the city of Beech Grove and worked very hard to develop it and maintain our autonomy,” said Beech Grove Mayor Dennis Buckley.

Phil Gurganus, supervisor over sanitary and storm sewers for the Beech Grove Department of Public Works, held a sign that had marked the Beech Grove City limits while Wiley was mayor when the funeral procession passed city hall on Friday, July 17. (Photo by Brian Ruckle)

Wiley was the sixth mayor of Beech Grove when he was inducted in 1992. He served three terms.

Under his leadership as mayor, Wiley’s accomplishments included:

  • Infrastructure– “The thing that I was always impressed with, he was really big on infrastructure,” Buckley said. “He did a lot of sidewalk work and paving (around 6th, 8th and 9th avenues). He also rebuilt the Beech Grove Senior Citizen Center at 602 Main St. “It allowed for more seniors to access the center and a lot more programming and transportation. He remodeled the old Olympia Club (now Hornet Park Community Center).”
  • National accreditation – “The Beech Grove Fire Department became nationally accredited while he was mayor. We were only the second ambulance service in Indiana to obtain that accreditation,” Buckley said.
  • Retaining local employment – “He did a lot of work with the Amtrak Task Force for 12 years and he was instrumental in saving a lot of jobs. While he was mayor, there were around 522 jobs (with Amtrak),” said Buckley.
Left top, last year, the Beech Grove Police Department was renamed the J. Warner Wiley Police Station. (Submitted photo)

As police chief, Wiley was instrumental in the construction of a new police facility in 1974, according to Buckley. He also worked to achieve national accreditation. Long after his retirement, Wiley aided Buckley in building a new police facility. In 2019, the Beech Grove Police Department was renamed the J. Warner Wiley Police Station in his honor.

Wiley’s son Craig, who has served as Beech Grove city attorney since 2012, said his father was very proud of his work to keep the Amtrak station in Beech Grove, which at one point employed over 1,000 people. The Amtrak program was on the chopping block but Wiley along with other representatives fought for it.

“Dan Burton, Dick Lugar and my dad worked on a bi-partisan basis to keep that facility open. That place could be weeds high as the fences years ago if they didn’t fight for that,” said Craig Wiley. “He was really proud of that.”

Wiley with his family: wife, Janet (sitting); daughter, Jeanine Doyle; and sons, Michael, Craig and Ryan. (Submitted photo)

During his tenure, the mayor position changed from part time to full time in 1995. He also worked as safety and security director at St. Francis Hospital when he became a full-time mayor and worked two full-time jobs until 2000. Craig said his father could have retired in his 40s from the police.

“He could have done a lot of things with his life. He considered law school, but he chose public service. When you are a small city mayor, you lose a lot of privacy and you have no security detail. You are expected to be at the parades, games,  and community events. When he became a full-time mayor, he worked two full time jobs from 1995 to 2000,” said Craig.

Brian R. Ruckle contributed to this article.

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