HAMLET — It was a night of goodbyes for City Manager Marchell David at Tuesday’s city council meeting.
Two former mayors and a longtime former council member rose during comments from attendees with speeches of gratitude tinged with sadness on the night of David’s last council meeting as Hamlet’s city manager.
David resigned July 21 to accept a position as assistant city manager for community with the city of Raleigh. Her last day in Hamlet is Aug. 22.
Former mayor Abbie Covington, an outspoken supporter of David throughout her career with the city, said Hamlet has lost two of its greatest assets.
“I came tonight because I know this is your final city council meeting,” Covington said to David. “I came to thank you and Miranda Chavis, who is not here tonight, for all they have done for the city. Marchell, I don’t know what to say to you except that you finally grew up. You did a magnificent job for this city and you are due the credit. I think you can hold your head up high and know that you did your job. We will miss you bitterly, but we thank you for putting your faith and trust in us, and for giving us your life.”
By the end of Covington’s speech, everyone in the council chamber rose to give David a standing ovation. Several people, including David, were in tears.
Next came former mayor Jeff Smart, who said that despite the battles they used to have over issues and the countless quarrels between them, he knew that he and David shared a common bond of public service to the people of Hamlet.
“During my six years as mayor, those were definitely enhanced because of you,” Smart said. “And I will never forget that, will never forget you. I am sad to see you go, but it’s definitely Raleigh’s gain. I love you. I love your family. To me, it doesn’t matter what you look like or who you are — it’s what you bring to the table. And I thank you.”
Former councilman Bert Unger served Hamlet for many years, several of them with David as city manager.
“Whenever I heard of a problem, I brought it to her and that problem was taken care of in a few days or less than a week,” Unger said. “We got a lot accomplished. There’s new buildings here, new organizations here. There’s a lot in Hamlet that we never would have had if she hadn’t been here. She could have made a lot more money somewhere else, but she chose to stay here. Money didn’t matter to her. I feel personally that our city will be diminished a great deal with her being gone. Marchell, I’ll miss you personally and I hate to see you go, but I know you’re going to be better off.”
Mayor Bill Bayless presented David with a plaque of appreciation for her 21 years of service to the city of Hamlet.
Current Councilman Pat Preslar reminisced about conversations and phone calls with David and long nights working to make Hamlet a better place. He spoke of downtown Hamlet’s transformation during David’s leadership.
“You made it happen,” he said. “Of all the years you have been city manager, I’d say the last few have been full of controversy…We’ve been through a lot together. We’ve been through the loss of our fathers, the birth of our kids.”
Preslar then asked David to come forward as he presented her a copy of local photographer Jimmy McDonald’s image of lightning striking and arcing over the Hamlet Depot and Museum on a stormy night earlier this summer. The photo, framed and protected by glass, had an inscription at the bottom.
“What it says here,” Preslar said, “is, ‘Weather the storm.”
“I promised that I wasn’t going to cry,” David said. “But I often lie to myself, so I’m going to try my very best to get through my closing comments.”
During her closing speech, David visibly and audibly fought back tears at times as she thanked those who have been fundamental in making her the leader she became.
“During my tenure here I had the absolute pleasure of meeting and getting to work with some of the finest people of this community. Abbie (Covington) taught me the meaning of grace under fire. That the male sex is not the greater or smarter sex, and that women can hold their own. That it is OK to give and expect respect back in return.
“Bert Unger showed me that public service is not what you do, but rather who you are. You mentored me more by your actions than you did with your words.
“Abbie Covington, you are second to none. Jeff Smart, my dueling partner — and he was right, we used to fight like cats and dogs, but we left it behind the door when we walked out. And I would be remiss if I did not thank Lee Matthews for giving me this marvelous opportunity back in 1993.”
Reach reporter Melonie Flomer at 910-817-2673 and follow her on Twitter @melonieflomer.