These days of budget proposals may bring to mind, at least to those who worked with him, Fred Houser who passed away in March. His desire to serve first the county and then Lincolnton was deep seated and longstanding. Houser served first as Lincoln County’s accountant beginning in 1955 and then was appointed as Lincoln County’s manager in 1967. The county budget developed by Houser in 1957 totaled $752,325 with a tax rate of $1.
Houser served as county manager until 1986. After more than 30 years serving the county, he wasn’t quite done. He ran and was elected as a county commissioner, serving from 1990 to 1992. He then was elected as a Lincolnton City council member from 1997 until 2010.
During his tenure with the county, Houser oversaw the construction of the Lincoln County Public Library and the renovation of the county courthouse. He was also involved in laying the financial groundwork for a county water system with some 80 miles of water lines serving 2,000 families. He helped start the county mapping system, the countywide recreation program, the city-county airport and the Lincoln County School of Technology. He also saw the arrival of the 911 system in Lincoln County.
Houser’s son, Larry remembers coming home from playing with other children in the neighborhood to find his father working on the budget.
“He’d have legal pads all over the floor,” he said. “He had a little path for us to walk through. He never got upset about nothing.”
Larry Houser’s strongest memory of his father was that he never complained about anything. When Larry asked him why that was the case, he told him that when he was in Korea in a fox hole, it was cold, and the ground was ice. He said, “I told the Lord right then if he ever got me back on American soil I’d never complain about a thing for the rest of my life.”
Houser joined the U.S. Army in 1951 and served in Korea from 1952 through 1953 until he was discharged in May 1953.
“They threw the mold away when he died,” Larry Houser said. “They’d be hard pressed to find anyone like him again.”
Lincolnton City Mayor Ed Hatley has known Houser since the 1970s while he was employed by Lincoln County Schools.
“I found him to be a very honorable, honest person,” Hatley said. “He was a true gentleman. He did more for Lincolnton and Lincoln County than any person I can think of. As county manager, he worked tirelessly and was excellent with budgets. He never grew tired of giving his time and effort for needy causes. Every time that I talked to him, the first thing he’d ask was how the city was doing.”
Hatley added that he believed that it was because of Houser that a lot of things happened in the county and the city.
“He was also always very devoted to Bethphage Lutheran,” Hatley said.
Houser was treasurer of Bethphage from 1962-2002.
“I’ve known of very few people that considered civic responsibility to be as vital a part a person as anything,” Hatley said. “It’s hard to get people to run for office these days. Fred would step up to the plate at any time.”
Current Lincolnton City Council Member Roby Jetton served with Houser on the council.
“When I was a Democrat, I was chair of the party and when I needed money, I went to Fred Houser,” he said. “Not for him to give it to me – I knew he would get out and work for it. He could bring in more money by himself than three or four normal people could. You could depend on Fred Houser for just about everything. As a city councilman, he saved the city money. He didn’t believe in wasting money and he didn’t believe in taking a chance on wasting money. He stood his ground in politics. It didn’t matter to him. He was for the people and watched out for the people’s money.”
After Houser retired, he lived at his home in Lincolnton for several years before he had to go into assisted living in 2018. Both Jetton and Hatley would periodically visit him. Jetton started to bring him agendas for the city council meetings which he said, “tickled him to death.”
“He liked to keep up with what was going on with the city and the county and I guess he did until the day he died,” Jetton said. “He was an exceptional man. He thought so much of Lincoln County.