One long wall in Bill and Sue Mauser’s Clipper Estates home near Slidell, La., is decorated with photos of the houses the couple have called home through the years. The journey to their current residence, just north of New Orleans, La., took 50 years and included home addresses in six states and 11 cities, including Uniontown, where their adventure began.
It was in Uniontown that Bill Mauser, now 70, launched a 34-year career in management with JCPenney. The career began inauspiciously, with Mauser sweeping the floors and cleaning bathrooms at the JCPenney location on Main Street in Uniontown. A high school junior at the time, Mauser’s goal was to become the store manager. He did that, and more.
A 1970 graduate of Penn State with a bachelor’s degree in business administration, majoring in management, Mauser spent more than three decades managing JCPenney properties in West Virginia, New York, Ohio, Indiana and Texas, where in Dallas, he was manager of JCPenney’s Field Operations/Shoe Division.
Integral to his professional success were business acumen and an innate ability to forge strong personal relationships, the same skill set that spelled success for Mauser as executive director of Keep Slidell Beautiful. Like his original Uniontown post, Mauser’s initial association with Keep Slidell Beautiful was not in a leadership role. An offhand comment about how much litter Mauser saw strewn about Slidell that he made while visiting daughter, Mehgan, prompted her to issue a challenge: “When you move here, do something about it.” He did that, and more.
After retiring from JCPenney, Mauser and his bride moved to Slidell, where Bob Baker and Ray Canada were planting the seeds for a new volunteer organization dedicated to rallying residents and local businesses to Keep Slidell Beautiful (KSB). Mauser ultimately became the face of the organization, volunteering for two and a half years before being hired by the City of Slidell for a new full-time position, that of KSB executive director.
Keeping Slidell beautiful wasn’t always an easy endeavor, especially after Hurricane Katrina struck in 2005. Then Slidell Mayor Ben Morris charged Mauser with supervising more than 1,000 volunteers who rushed to the area to lend a hand: clearing debris from what was left of the rectory at Our Lady of Lourdes Catholic Church, power washing muck-covered headstones at Greenwood Cemetery, whatever it took.
For 12 years, Mauser and the KSB Board of Directors organized semi-annual citywide cleanups that averaged 500 participants, young and old. Slidell Mardi Gras parade cleanup crews were established, ensuring the throws of Carnival did not litter Slidell streets for weeks or months after the street celebration had ended. Bayou cleanups kept waterways as pristine as possible. An annual city golf tournament was initiated, raising an average $15,000 per year. Grants and donations were drafted, generating more than $300,000 that KSB poured back into the city’s beautification efforts. “I feel good about the standard we set,” Mauser said.
Mauser’s efforts were rewarded with accolades: City of Slidell Angel of the Storm, Slidell Elks Citizen of the Year, Daughters of the American Revolution Citizen of the Year, Slidell Little Theatre President’s
Award, Rotary Honorary Member, Keep Louisiana Beautiful Executive Director of the Year, and awards aplenty from Slidell mayors, the Slidell City Council, and the Louisiana Municipal Association.
Though grateful for the recognition, as it provided a platform to promote the KSB message, Mauser’s primary motivations were civic pride and a personal conviction to never ask anyone to do a job he wasn’t willing to tackle himself. Mauser was a man of his word, as he was often seen trimming fronds from palms along Ponchartrain Drive and not so often seen mowing the Slidell Senior Center lawn during pre-dawn hours by the light of his car headlights.
“I believe in leading by example, and doing unto others,” Mauser said.
Mauser officially retired from the City of Slidell December, 2018. “It was time,” he said, “between working with the city and Penney’s, that’s 49 years worth of work. That’s enough for me.”
Now Mauser is looking forward to fishing, boating and traveling to, among other locales, the Grand Cayman Islands and Alaska. Never one to remain idle for long, Mauser enjoys working around the house, volunteering with the St. Luke the Evangelist Catholic Church Men’s Club, attending church at Our Lady of Lourdes Catholic Church, working out three times a week at Cross Gates Family Fitness in Slidell. He also remains active with KSB, mentoring and volunteering on the KSB Golf Committee to support longtime friend, Mike Noto, Slidell’s Director of Public Operations.
The pace comes as no surprise to Sue Mauser, who has been a supportive partner throughout the couple’s journeys throughout the Snow Belt and beyond. Smiling broadly at her husband, Sue concedes, “He just never stops.”