By Paige Nash
Mayor Terry L. Gardner first put down roots in Minden, Louisiana more than 40 years ago when he married Mindenite Debbie Walker and relocated from Shreveport. These roots spread throughout the community in a multitude of directions, growing, changing and impacting Minden in ways that would leave a mark beyond his lifetime.
In 1983 he founded TG Companies and under his leadership, developed it into a multifaceted corporation that would later include, “Orleans on Main” and “The Gardner Group.” Along with changing Minden, he changed many lives he encountered across his career and time here in the city.
Through these companies he had the ability to provide countless people with opportunities they may not have ever had if it were not for the compassion shown by Gardner. He did not judge them by their past, which in some cases included a history of criminal activity or problems with drugs and alcohol. He gave these people a second chance at life with no hesitation.
The way he chose to only look at the good would reverberate throughout the lives of these people, enabling them with a job and a way to provide for themselves or their families, which in turn allowed them to change their lives and the lives of those around them. One person’s compassion has that ability, like a domino effect.
“Terry was so motivated and never, ever lazy. He would get out and work with the crews when we were short handed,” said Linda Miller, former coworker of 22 years. “One of my most precious memories of him was when he had one of the workers, a young man, out in the shop. The young man could not read, and he needed to know how to in order to write the tickets, so Terry sat with him every afternoon and taught him. A lot of those guys turned their lives around because of the chance Terry gave them.”
He made it his mission to leave a positive impact on Minden. Gardner served as a board member on numerous committees, such as Rural Rental Housing Association of Louisiana, Boys & Girls Club, Statewide Louisiana March of Dimes, Minden Main Street, Board of Directors of Minden Medical Center and Webster Parish Convention of Tourism, to name a few.
From 1999 to 2004 he served on the Minden South Webster Chamber of Commerce, where he held the title of Chairman of Membership, Ambassadeurs, the Beautification Committee and Banquet Committee. He returned in 2006-2007 and served as Chairman of the board.
Close friend Sarah Haynes served with him during some of this time on the chamber board.
“Terry loved the Greater Minden Chamber where he served as Youth Leadership Director, instilling a love for Minden,” said Haynes. “Terry and I were named Man and Woman of the Year, which was a shock to both of us in 2013. That was a great year for us. We did a lot of representing.”
It is no secret Gardner looked forward to Mardi Gras season every year. In 2000 he founded the “Krewe des Ambassadeurs,” a social organization that shares in that love. He served as executive director, Krewe captain and King V with this organization. They meet monthly and focus on community and neighborhood development and improvement by hosting many events throughout the year, including golf, bingo, poker and cornhole tournaments.
Up until his death, he was a member of Lions Club, committees of the Historic Residential District, Fall Fasching Festival and Webster Parish Sales Tax Commission. He was an active volunteer for Webster Parish Habitat for Humanity and Minden St. Jude Auction, President of Woodhaven Homeowners Association, Delegate for the Louisiana Municipal Association and Sunday School Teacher at First Baptist Church of Minden for the last 10 years. Along with his many hats he already wore, in 2018 he became our mayor.
Mayor Gardner planted seeds throughout the community making it a goal to leave things better than he found them. He had the ability to see the beauty in every street, neighborhood and building. Then, he did what he could to preserve that beauty or improve upon it. He was a key factor in Minden’s development over the years, sprinkling his vision across the city in the forms of flowers and plants, construction and reconstruction, never stopping until his vision became a reality.
His accomplishments, passion and kindheartedness have branched out over the years touching everyone he met, many of whom will make it their personal mission to ensure his vision for the city will continue. His life story and ability to make sure Minden “feels like home” will serve as his greatest legacy, not something he has left behind for us, but a feeling he has left within us.