Remembering the former mayor of West Lafayette Sonya Margerum

Margerum served as the mayor of West Lafayette from 1980 to 2004. She was the first female to ever be elected.

Posted: Nov 29, 2019 5:29 PM
Updated: Nov 29, 2019 11:50 PM

WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. (WLFI)- The community of Greater Lafayette is mourning the loss of Sonya Margerum, a woman who didn't know a stranger.

"She knew the name of the mailman and the names of the people who came and picked up the garbage, and knew all the people at the parks and recreation department all of that,” said Eric Margerum, Sonya’s son. “She knew everyone and she cared about them as people."

Margerum served as the mayor of West Lafayette from 1980 to 2004. She was the first female to ever be elected.

"I can remember the former mayor said that a woman should be home taking care of the kids not running for office," added another one of Sonya’s children Rich Margerum.

Being one of the first females in politics back in the 1980s was tough. Comments like that were part of what Margerum had to overcome in her 24 years of service.

"She had to overcome a lot of barriers you know,” said the current Mayor of West Lafayette John Dennis. “We had just rampant sexism in those days it was a man's world. With her gentle strength, she overcame that and put West Lafayette on the map.”

Mayor Dennis said without Margerum's vision and ability to create partnerships Greater Lafayette wouldn't be the community it is today.

"Our relationship with Purdue, the trail system, the connectivity with Lafayette and the partnerships with Lafayette that was all due to Sonya,” added Mayor Dennis. “You know although Tony and I have been friends for a long time, Jim Riehle and Sonya Margerum started that and made these two different cities one great big community."

As for her legacy, her family says her kindness will be a topic of discussion for generations to come.

"Just the way she treated people was amazing and I share that with my boys as well,” said Sonya’s son Eric. “I have two teenage boys and I am always saying how important that legacy is. How to treat individuals and being kind to others and supporting them is extremely important.”

Flags were flown at half-staff on Friday across greater Lafayette to honor Margerum's service.

Governor Eric Holcomb also asks businesses and residents in Tippecanoe County to lower their flags to half-staff on Saturday as well.

The West Lafayette City council is will be renaming the Morton Center after her as well. It is currently under construction and will be finished in 2020.

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