Who’s the oldest? Mayors settle dispute with a laugh

By JESSICA WESTON News Review Correspondent

Ridgecrest’s 50th Anniversary celebration earlier this month was a smashing success, with a jocular dispute arising among some of our community’s more venerable former mayors.

Described as “Ridgecrest’s oldest surviving mayor” prior to the event, Don Chieze served as one of two Grand Marshals along with current Mayor Dan Clark. The potentially confusing description of Chieze’s status led to a friendly dispute among three of Ridge-crest’s former mayors.

Chieze “was walking around and I said, ‘They say you’re the oldest mayor,’” said former mayor Anna Marie Bergens. “He told me his age and I said, ‘I’ve got you beat.’” (Bergens is four years older than Chieze.)

Chieze offers his own version of the encounter. Bergens came walking up the street, he said, and asked him, “Don Chieze, are you older than me? It says here in the paper that you’re the oldest mayor.”

Also weighing in on the controversy is former mayor Ron Cheshire, who — as it happens — is between Bergens and Chieze in age.

Parade Co-chair Kathy Armstrong later clarified the issue. “We wanted to honor the earliest leader of the city,” she explained, as opposed to the one with the oldest chronological age. “The earliest living mayor was Don Chieze”

After a little research, Armstrong confirmed that Bergens is indeed the chronologically oldest former Ridgecrest mayor.

“How that happened is that he was mayor before me,” Bergens explained, referring to the fact that the title referred to the years of Chieze’s tenure as mayor, not his actual age.

“What it meant to say is that I’m the oldest in tenure,” he agreed.

Bergens and Chieze are old friends, she said. “I’ve known him for many years.”

Chieze said he enjoyed the events of the weekend and the confusion over his status as an early leader left him unfazed. “It’s no biggie,” he said.

Cheshire described his reaction to the situation: “I had a chuckle,” he said.

Story First Published: 2013-11-27