WOODSTOCK – In hindsight, Bill Anderson's time on the Woodstock City Council and as mayor might have been one big thank you.
The now 65-year-old was taken from his alcoholic father and mentally challenged mother in second grade. He lived, through high school, at the Woodstock Children's Home – raised under the control of a house parent and, in large part, by the surrounding community.
The experience of those 11 years led him to write "The New Kid," a memoir published in July. But it also set the tone for Anderson's life and uncovered his heart for public service.
"He's a wonderful individual who gave back to his community in so many ways – in response to them helping him through the years," said Debbie Anderson, Bill's wife. She added that she felt his desire to give back arose subconsciously.
Bill agrees his appreciation for his community likely influenced his desire to run for public office. He served on the City Council from 1981-1989 and as mayor from 1993-1997.
Within the book – put out through the self-publishing company Xlibris – Anderson tells stories about his time at the home and reflects on how it affected his upbringing and his life going forward.
Anderson views his time at the children's home – now occupied by Hearthstone Communities – positively, although he said the living situation presented its own set of challenges.
"I came from a very, very bad home, and as I told my wife, if I would have grown up in that home I'd probably be in jail today," he said. "I felt fortunate that I had three meals a day. I was taken care of."
Anderson has been chipping away at the book for two decades, writing pieces here and there as they came to him. But it was about two years ago that he decided to sit down and get serious.
The book targets two potential readers, said the now-Claremore, Oklahoma, resident. The first is a past student or worker at the children's home. The second is a young person struggling through problems of their own.
"Even though the problems seem insurmountable at the time, things can get better and life can change," Anderson said.
The book has so far drawn positive comments, he said. At least one former housemate, though, told him it reads as a sunnier account than she remembers of the time. Anderson figures his years before the children's home likely influenced his take.
Regardless, he's happy to have the book out there. The characters and setting have received name changes – Woodstock has become Burnside, for instance – but the stories, he feels, remain true.
And his wife of 15 years – who spent nights working through stories and helping Anderson develop his ideas – couldn't be more proud.
"He felt now, as we are seniors, that he really wanted to accomplish this," Debbie Anderson said. "So he worked on it and he got it done. And I just think it's awesome."