Former Alexandria Mayor Turns Author

October 8, 2013
by: 
Dwayne Page
Ria Mayor (photo by Dave Turner)
New Book by Ria Baker

Have you realized yet that you are unique and that you have an amazing talent to offer ? Have you made an attempt to discover that gift and allow it to emerge for all to see?

Former Alexandria Mayor turned author Ria Baker has penned a new book which she hopes will inspire readers to find their talents and make the best of them.

"You Don't Have to be an Eagle to Fly" by Ria Baker from Westbow Press is now available in paperback or eBook at www.amazon.com.

"It's a Christian motivational book," said Baker in a recent interview with WJLE. "It's about how you should use whatever talent God has given you to use and to be proud of it," she said.

"God didn't make us all eagles, but he did make us all so we can fly. We don't have to feel like we are not doing everything we should because we aren't rich or famous. That's not God's way for very many of us at all. If you have ever wondered if you were doing everything you could and should be doing with your life or if you feel bad that you aren't as successful as others you see around you, this quick, easy, and humorous book is just what you need," said Baker.

Although she has been involved with others in researching and compiling information and photos for previous local historical related books, this is Baker's first literary project on her own.

Baker also previously collaborated with author Karlen Evins on several projects including two cook books. "It's actually her cook books but I did the illustrations. We collaborated together but the cover, and all the little what knots and do dads, I drew all those. The first one we did is called "Southern to the Core" and the second book is "Put a Lid on It". They are sold in Cracker Barrel. Once a year we go to Gatlinburg to the craftsman show and sell them there. She (Evins) also has two other books called "I Didn't Know That" about unusual origins of things we say and I illustrated those," said Baker.

In the late 1990's, Baker began writing a humor column for the Watertown Gazette and the former Middle Tennessee Times newspaper locally and won the Tennessee Press Association Humor Column Award in the year 2000. "I really enjoyed doing that humor column. People really seemed to find it funny and I like to make people smile. It makes me feel good," said Baker.

The daughter of Jimmy and Daris Mullinax, Baker has lived all but six months of her entire life in Alexandria. "My daddy was in the service and I was born in Germany. We came back when I was six months old because my grandfather was killed. He was working on the dam with a road grader and it tipped over and killed him," said Baker.

She is the granddaughter of the late Charles "Chop" and Beulah "Shorty" Jennings of Alexandria, and Pauline Mullinax of Liberty. Baker has two sisters, Stacey who lives in Alexandria, and Beki who resides near Huntsville, Alabama.

After graduating from DeKalb County High School in 1977, Baker married Ricky Baker and started a family. The couple has two children, Derrick and Tori Baker. Today, Derrick and his wife Stacey have two children of their own, Jonathan and Sadie and they reside in Alexandria. Tori now lives in Lebanon and works as a school psychologist for the Metro-Nashville school system.

In addition to her flair for writing, Baker is an accomplished artist. She discovered her creative talents as a child working with her late grandmother who was also a gifted artist. "My grandmother (Beulah "Shorty" Jennings) was a school art teacher. When other grandmothers were doing cookies, we were painting. I can remember being in her kitchen and she would set up two easels. I had my little easel and she had her easel. She would paint and I would paint. That's just what we did. Now my grandkids paint at my house. When they come to my house we paint," said Baker.

"I like to do realism which is art that shows things exactly as they appear in life. I like for things to look like they are supposed to look when I get through with them. I don't do a lot of abstract. I've done portraits. I like doing something that means something to somebody. Sometimes I'll make a still life (work of art) out of people's grandparent's stuff, like an old pair of glasses and a vase. I enjoy doing that. I also enjoy making costumes. My sister Stacey and I are currently doing a puppet show ministry. It's a black light and I made the puppets for that," said Baker.

In the mid 1980's Ricky and Ria bought a grocery store in Alexandria which they operated for twenty years. " Ricky had worked for a place now called Service America then we bought the Cee Bee store on the square and ran it for 20 years. We got out in 2005," said Baker. Ricky is now branch manager of Liberty State Bank in Alexandria.

In her spare time, Baker has always enjoyed doing volunteer work , whether it be for the DeKalb County Fair or other organizations and causes. She and Ricky were also the first husband and wife to serve together as members of Leadership DeKalb, a 10-month program designed to bring together individuals who desire increased leadership responsibility in improving the quality of life in DeKalb County.

About the time she graduated from Leadership DeKalb, Baker decided to try her hand at politics and became mayor of Alexandria, an office she held for seven years. "I didn't do it for the money. But it can be a full time job if you do it correctly. There's a lot of meetings you have to go to. A lot of people knock on your door at night and call you all the time but I enjoyed being able to help people if they needed it. That was very rewarding," said Baker. Asked why she decided not to seek another term, Baker replied " I felt like it was time for me to move on and let somebody else do it."

While she is through with politics for now, Baker said she could see herself running for public office again. "There may be a time I would do it again. It wasn't all bad. Some of it was good," she said.

Baker was not the first member of her family to be involved in city politics. Her father, Jimmy Mullinax served as alderman for several years. Her husband Ricky Baker was an alderman and mayor and Baker's son Derrick and mother-in-law Tony Baker also had stints as members of the town council.

Having accomplished so many other goals in her life, Baker said she now has a desire to become a motivational speaker. "I really want to get into public speaking. I want to go to churches or women's groups. I've not been to college and I've never had a class in motivational speaking so It makes me a little afraid but if somebody gives me a chance, I'll try it," she said.

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