The corn is up in Barnesville, population 173, and the sweet country smell of manure wafts across hills where black and white Holsteins graze.

"Our problems are minimal," says Mayor Elizabeth Tolbert, sipping iced lemonade, "and we like it that way. We work hard at being the last rural outpost in Montgomery County."

As Tolbert, 55, tells it in her warm gravelly voice, the work isn't really all that hard. The "last big issue" in town was the commotion over plans to open a convenience store. The store was never opened -- Barnesville still has no grocery. That was about 20 years ago.

About the only problems she has, Tolbert chuckles, are with state politicians who say they want to help. "I just tell them the best help is to leave us alone."

Tolbert doesn't see herself as part of the advance guard of the women's movement, even though she first became mayor in 1964. She has been mayor, off and on, for eight years since.

"I am not a bra-burning women's libber," she explains "I believe in equal pay for equal jobs, (but) I enjoy being a woman."

She adds, "I enjoy being the mayor but I don't think I'm doing any better job than a man can do." She says she has absolutely no political aspirations.

"Actually," Tolbert adds, "I just never considered being mayor as going into politics."

No one formally campaigns in a town where everyone knows everyone. On election day every other May, people walk over to a designated garage from 6 to 8 p.m. and slip their written ballots in a cigar box. Last May, 58 people voted.

"There is not a great deal of interest in individuals running for mayor," says Tolbert, choosing her words carefully. "All are vitally interested in what's going on in town, but when it comes to the actual nitty-gritty of government (they feel,) 'Oh, well.'"

In 1964, when the three top vote-getters chose a mayor from among themselves, Tolbert was picked. But images of "token woman" drift away as she admits the victory was because "I've got a loud voice, I'm home all day and I'm the one that goes out and screams at speeders in the road."

In addition to those qualifications, Tolbert receives complaints about shut-off electricity or snowed-in roads and conducts meetings. She also oversees a $10,000 annual budget that largely goes for street lights and trash pick-up. She gets no salary.

The commissioners meet monthly in town clerk Julia Jeffers' home. Except for a rare irate citizen, Tolbert says, "usually nobody comes."

Tolbert, who has four children and whose husband is a retired Air Force officer, admits certain proprietary feelings about Barnesville. Jeremiah Hays, a direct ancestor, settled there in 1747. She is the fifth generation of her family to live in the large 18th century house where ancestral portraits gaze down from the walls and a framed family tree with 2,300 names assumes a place of honor in the front parlor.

"The roots go very deep," she says proudly. "I'm kind of like the mother hen as far as this village is concerned. My family started it and I hope it'll go on forever."