Former Elon Mayor Beth Schmidt passed away Monday at the age of 81. She was the first female mayor of Elon and has a park named after her right down the road from Elon University on Elon Park Drive.

Schmidt started her career in the region as the town clerk. She would later serve as the town manager in 1982 and was elected mayor in 1997. Current Elon mayor Jerry Tolley says Schmidt was a great leader.

“If I were to characterize mayor Schmidt, she probably had more love and devotion for this community than any other person I have ever known,” Tolley said.

According to Tolley, it was Schmidt’s gentle heart that helped her be successful as a town leader.

“Very kind and gentle woman — you never heard anyone say an unkind thing about her,” Tolley said. “She was a great leader as mayor, a great leader as town manager. She always got her way, but she did it in a thoughtful way. She never pushed anything.”

Schmidt was born in Bryan, Texas, and was the daughter of a minister. After her mother passed away while she was in high school, Schmidt chose to drop out to take care of her younger siblings.

When she was first hired as Elon’s town clerk, she was only one of six employees in the town that had a population of 2,100.