Former Columbus Mayor Bob Poydasheff died early Thursday morning, his family confirmed to News 3.
A transplanted New Yorker brought south by the U.S. Army, the 90-year-old Poydasheff and his family made Columbus home.
Poydasheff died in Phenix City after a brief illness that forced him into a rehabilitation hospital.
“He was well loved and well respected,” his son, Rob, said.
Columbus Mayor Skip Henderson concurred.
“Bob was one of those guys you never thought would stop,” Henderson said.
That he was, and there was a reason, says Henderson.
“He had an enthusiasm for all people,,” Henderson said. “It didn’t matter what their background was, social standing, what color, what gender, what age — it didn’t matter. Bob was a relentless optimist. And he was an enthusiastic lover of his fellow man.”
Former Mayor Bobby Peters, now a Superior Court judge, called Poydasheff a true servant.
“He definitely was a servant of the people,” Peters said. “He loved people. He loved the job. He loved the community. He served his country. He served his community. He was a great husband, father, lawyer. He had quite a career and has done so much for Columbus, Georgia.
Henderson called Poydasheff the eternal optimist.
“I wish I had a nickle for every time I heard him say, ‘You could spit in my face and I would call it rain,'” Henderson said.
Poydasheff served on Columbus Council for eight years before being elected mayor in 2002. He served one term and was defeated by former police chief Jim Wetherington.
How did a Bronx born, bombastic New Yorker become mayor of Columbus? Political consultant Bob Hydrick, a former Columbus mayor himself, ran all of Poydasheff’s council and mayoral campaigns.
“Bob had been so active in the community that a lot of people knew him,” Hydrick said. “Plus the fact that they knew the kind of person he was. He never met a stranger. I noticed where Mayor Henderson said this morning he loved everybody. He did whether they loved him or not.”
Poydasheff relentlessly promoted Columbus, says former Mayor Teresa Tomlinson.
“Columbus just lost their No. 1 cheerleader,” Tomlinson said. “I can tell you that. He had a huge heart for this city. He loved everything about Columbus even though he wasn’t born and raised here.”
After a distinguished 24-year military career, Poydasheff retired from the Army in 1979 as a colonel. He was a military lawyer who was involved in many high-profile cases, including the William Calley My Lai Massacre trial
He was raised in the Bronx and graduated from The Citadel before he was commissioned as an Army officer. He earned his law degree at Tulane University.
Columbus court reporter Joe Coley has know Poydasheff since Coley was a 17-year-old Boy Scout. He remembers the first time he met Poydasheff.
“He would come up like he always did,” Coley said. “‘Hello, young man. I am Bob Poydasheff. Call me Uncle Bob.’”
Poydasheff became more than a friend to Coley, they talked often and had a standing Friday morning coffee date in downtown Columbus.
“My dad passed away when I was 28. He became my dad,” Coley said. “We were friends. We had a father-son relationship. He mentored me and talked to me. We laughed together and he kicked my butt when I needed it.”
During his tenure as mayor, Poydasheff promoted Isaiah Hugley from deputy city manger to city manager in 2005.
Isaiah Hugley/City manager
He loved Columbus. He loved the people. He loved all the organizations. He supported all of those organizations. The Devine Nine, fraternities and sororities. And those are African-American fraternities and sororities. He supported shoe drives. He was on the black history programs. He just reached out to everybody.
“He wanted One Columbus,” Hugley said. “It’s what he wanted. He reached across lines and to everybody. I think the love the came back to him in the way he poured that love out.”
A self-proclaimed Republican, Poydasheff had a strong reach into the city’s Democratic and black communities. It fueled his 2002 mayoral election.
“He loved Columbus,” Hugley said. “He loved the people. He loved all the organizations. He supported all of those organizations. The Devine Nine, fraternities and sororities. And those are African-American fraternities and sororities. He supported shoe drives. He was on the black history programs. He just reached out to everybody. “
Poydasheff and his wife, Stacy, were married for more than 60 years.
Henderson has ordered city flags at half-staff to honor Poydasheff.
“Because of his service to our country and Columbus, we are probably going to do that,” Henderson said.