Former Greenwood Mayor Charles Henderson poses for a photo on Main Street in Old Town Greenwood in February 2010. Henderson died Monday at the age of 82. Daily Journal File Photo

The former longtime Greenwood mayor who oversaw the city’s rapid growth in the 2000s has died.

Charles Earl Henderson Jr. died Monday at the age of 82. He served as Greenwood’s mayor from 1996 to 2012 and was the city’s police chief from 1984 to 1994.

Henderson was born on Aug. 28, 1941, in Greenwood. He graduated from Greenwood Community High School in 1960 and married his late wife, Donna, in 1962. He served in the U.S. Marine Corps and the Greenwood Police Department while owning multiple businesses, according to his obituary.

During his 16 years as mayor, the city added a new Interstate 65 exit, saw the development of a medical corridor along County Line Road, lured large employers like Nestle Waters North America and convinced companies like Endress+Hauser to expand in Greenwood. He also laid the groundwork for future progress, such as planning for a third interchange at Worthsville Road, which was ultimately announced right before he left office.

At the same time, Henderson was in command of a city experiencing a substantial growth spurt. Greenwood’s population grew by about 69% while he was in office, from an estimated 31,242 people in 1996 to 52,803 in 2012.

His tenure also saw expansions of Emerson Avenue and Graham Road, the construction of thousands of new homes and significant growth on an east side that was once mostly farm fields. He oversaw the construction of a new fire station on the east side, and the advancement of plans for two roundabouts and for the development of the first section of an east-west corridor.

The city also managed to keep money in the bank at a time when other governments had no savings, Henderson said in 2011.

Henderson’s time in public service started decades earlier. In January 1984, he was appointed as the city’s chief of police by Mayor Jeannette Surina. Henderson, then 42, said his top two priorities were to lift morale in the department and raise the image of the department.

Nearly a decade later, in 1994, Henderson resigned as police chief to run for mayor as a Republican in a bid to oust Democratic incumbent Margaret McGovern. This bid was successful, ending 12 years of Democratic control of Greenwood City Hall.

“I honestly think people wanted a change,” Henderson told the Daily Journal on Nov. 8, 1995.

In November 1998, a new interchange at I-65 and County Line Road opened. Surina, who died in 1991, had worked for years to build the effort for the interchange. Henderson was able to break a deadlock between two cities, two counties the state and federal government to finally push it through to completion.

Henderson ran on a platform of streamlining government. Residents told him and his campaign they were concerned about drainage and traffic flow and wanted the government to do something, he told the Daily Journal at the time.

During that mayoral campaign cycle, the Indiana State Police did investigate allegations of suspicious conduct at the police department during his tenure as chief. The investigation was closed in March 1995 after turning up no evidence of wrongdoing.

“I’m glad that it’s done,” Henderson said on March 18, 1995, following the end of the investigation. “I knew there wasn’t anything there; I knew it was just trying to discredit me during an election.”

Henderson was subsequently reelected four more times before running for a record-breaking fifth term in 2011. But he was ousted by now-Mayor Mark Myers in the Republican primary.

During his concession speech in May 2011, and what seemed to be a callback to comments made when he was first elected, Henderson said people wanted something different.

“We’re here to serve them. They’re not here to give us a job,” he said.

He also campaigned on a platform of revitalizing Old Town, building a new aquatics center and constructing a new city hall. His plans for Old Town were met with controversy, and opponents questioned whether the city would spend too much money on these projects. A new aquatics center, Freedom Springs, ultimately opened in 2015 and city hall moved into an existing building in Old Town in 2014.

Myers and Henderson had known each other for years, as they were distant relatives. When Myers’ father was killed in a plane crash when he was 17, Henderson was one of the two people who came to pull him out of school to tell him the news, he said.

He even worked under Henderson as a detective when he was the city’s police chief.

“He was an excellent boss. He was a great police chief,” Myers said.

While Myers had beaten Henderson in 2011, there was no animosity between them. Henderson even endorsed Myers during his successful bid to be reelected to a fourth term last year.

“We’re very complimentary of each other,” Myers said. “I still respect him and he did a lot of good things for the city.”

When they campaigned against each other, they were kind and respectful to one another. Even the night before the primary, they helped each other out.

“[We] just wished each other luck and helped each other out,” Myers said. “But that’s just the kind of guy he was.”

Longtime public official Norm Gabehart worked directly with Henderson and they became friends. When Henderson was police chief, Gabehart worked as the city’s maintenance director. After Henderson was elected Mayor, he and Gabehart, then a Whiteland Town Council member, would frequently communicate about things going on in their communities. Eventually, he appointed Gabehart the city’s director of operations — a predecessor to the deputy mayor position — which Gabehart served as until Henderson left office.

Gabehart recalled an instance when roads in two subdivisions, Northern Park and Valle Vista, needed full reconstruction. Henderson refused to do one project without doing the other, Gabehart said.

“When we went to the funding perspective, his position was … ‘We got to do them both, I’m not going to leave Northern Park behind because of the requirements and commitments, financially, with Valle Vista,” Gabehart said.

Henderson was instrumental in starting a program spearheaded by late city council member John Gibson, and his wife, city council member Linda Gibson. The program in question led to the city having American flags on utility poles, she said.

The Gibsons got information about the costs of the flags and asked Henderson if the city would put them up if the community paid for them, and if the city would store them, she said.

“He was more than happy to do that,” Gibson said.

On a personal level, Myers and Gabehart described Henderson as a kind, humble and caring individual who would do anything for anyone. Everybody loved and respected him, Myers said.

For Gabehart, Henderson was there for him at one of his darkest moments. In 2004, while working for the city, Gabehart was arrested for driving under the influence of alcohol. Henderson didn’t care about the political aspects of this, instead trying to help Gabehart acknowledge he had a problem with drinking. Gabehart has been sober since then, he said.

“With his spiritual life, in his personal perspective, he encouraged me to seek out an opportunity that saved my life,” Gabehart said. “I wouldn’t be here today if it hadn’t been for Charlie Henderson.”

The news of Henderson’s death was devastating for Gabehart, as he was like family, he said.

Gibson last talked to Henderson on May 10, while visiting a friend in an assisted living facility. He was feeling better after dealing with some health issues and even talked about getting on his bicycle again — he was a cyclist, she said.

Henderson’s legacy will be one of public service, as he gave practically his entire life to it, Myers said.

He cared deeply about Greenwood, helping transition the fire department from volunteer to full-time, adding full-time firefighters. With the public works department, he helped ensure it had enough employees, adding employees there too, Myers said.

“He has a legacy behind him that many people never forgot because he was always willing to give,” he said.

Gibson feels Henderson did a good job as mayor. He always had time to talk to people and was always open to new ideas, she said.

Henderson’s fingerprints are over the city in terms of the planning ahead and laying the groundwork for his successor, Gabehart said. Examples of this are the construction of the aquatic center and relocating city hall, both of which did eventually happen, he said.

One thing that didn’t come about was a merger between Greenwood and White River Township around the early 2010s. Henderson did not initiate this but was mayor when the discussions about the “political hot potato” were taking place.

“His words were to me were, ‘If the people don’t desire us to be here, for our vision and view, then we don’t need to be here,’” Gabehart recalled.

Henderson’s character is one of the things Gabehart will remember most, along with the way he treated people.

“The way he will be remembered is his personal compassion that he showed people. I could tell you story after story relative to that,” Gabehart said. “But I know a lot of people that were affected in a positive way by Mayor Henderson, Chief Henderson and Charlie Henderson.”

Henderson is survived by two children, three grandchildren, five great-grandchildren and two sisters. A viewing is set for 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. May 22, with a funeral to follow, at Jessen Funeral Home and Simple Cremation in Whiteland.