“(The camaraderie at Culver) has been an inspiration through my whole lifetime,” said former Lakeland, Tenn., Mayor John “Scott” Carmichael ’68. “I took on maybe too much sometimes; but you learn from your mistakes as well as your successes. Culver set me up for all of my future successes in life.”
Carmichael’s humility and service mindset predominated much of what he shared. After graduating from the U.S. Naval Academy in 1972, Carmichael served 22 more years in the Navy, and was involved in many international crises and conflicts, including the Vietnam and Persian Gulf wars. His top position achieved was commanding officer of a guided missile destroyer.
In 1991, this Navy man found himself far away from the sea and assigned to a position in Memphis, Tenn., where his wife needed to be for the best medical care available for her condition at the time. This was when they discovered and settled down in nearby Lakeland. Finishing up his work for the Navy in 1994, Carmichael served as Lakeland’s vice mayor and as a Lakeland commissioner from 1997 to 2001. He was elected mayor in 2001 and served until 2013, when he lost a bid for re-election.
Looking back at his service in Lakeland, Carmichael said, “I just stumbled into the job. They were doing stupid things here like clear-cutting for development. I felt like if I had fought for the system for so many years (in the military), that I needed to stand up for what was right.” He stated that he was surprised that he was ever elected.
While in office, he made sure that there was a forester on staff, which he said was uncommon. An urban forester was the head of the Natural Resources Department. Carmichael handled the growth of the town and oversaw the building of an interstate interchange. During his time as mayor Lakeland experienced great population growth. The current population is 13,000. He also worked to pass legislation to improve the quality of schools in his county. When recounting the successes, he was quick to say, “It’s all a team effort. It’s not just me.
“At meetings, you would see that I don’t say much. Part of my (military) training was to hear all sides first. I would rather people believe I’m stupid than open my mouth and remove all doubt!” he quipped.
Looking back at his Culver career, he commented, “(Culver) instilled a sense of pride, duty, honor, and country.” Clearly, Carmichael was able to focus his strong conviction to serve others in military duty, and then shift it to the very different realm of public office.