Salisbury bids farewell to retiring city manager

Published 12:00 am Friday, July 29, 2011

By Emily Ford
SALISBURY — During an outpouring of love, laughter and gratitude, Salisbury bid farewell Thursday to the man who has led the city for the past quarter-century.
At a public reception that drew hundreds, City Manager David Treme accepted accolades and honors with humility and humor, at one point quipping “it only seems that long” when Mayor Susan Kluttz accidentally put his start date at 1886, rather than 1986.
Surrounded by his wife Karen and their children Julianne VanGraafeiland and Robert Treme, David Treme thanked his family and then surprised his protege, new interim City Manager Doug Paris, by calling him to the podium and praying for him.
Treme promised to stop calling the 27-year-old “young Doug.”
Paris, a city employee for four years, begins his new job Monday.
City managers from Concord, Lenoir and Wilson praised Treme as a visionary and said his customer service initiative, launched in 2005, has set the gold standard across the state. All three cities, as well as Winston-Salem, have adopted Treme’s concept.
Treme is “considered the father of customer service in North Carolina,” said Brian Hiatt, city manager of Concord.
Grant Goings, city manager of Wilson, said Treme inspired him after they met during an executive leadership class at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.
“To see him with 30 years in the business and more energy than anyone else in the room,” Goings said. “… He changed how I looked at my career.”
Lane Bailey, city manager of Lenoir and president of the N.C. City and County Management Association, said no city manager in North Carolina is more respected than Treme.
“He epitomizes servant-leadership,” Bailey said.
The managers presented Treme with a framed momento of his customer service initiative, one of several gifts at the reception.
Council members and city employees managed to surprise Treme with a bronze plaque similar to historical markers throughout the city.
Betty Dan Spencer and Braswell Perry designed the marker, which will hang in City Hall, declaring Treme as city manager emeritus and detailing highlights of his career:
• Annual City Council retreats for strategic planning, a new concept in 1986 and one that many people call Treme’s top contribution to Salisbury
• Downtown revitalization
• New parks and major improvements to Jake Alexander Boulevard, Innes Street and the I-85 corridor
• Expanding the city limits and upgrading police and fire protection
• Consolidation of water and sewer services county-wide
• Fibrant, the city’s new public broadband service
City employees chose to honor Treme using two causes close to his heart. They donated $250 to the Rowan County United Way in his name, and pledged to make a contribution in his honor each year.
They also renamed the city’s top customer service award the “David W. Treme Hedgehog Gold Award,” given annually to an employee who goes above and beyond the call of duty. Treme introduced the Hedgehog Concept from the book “Good to Great” to Salisbury employees.
City employees also surprised Treme with a video, created by Elaney Hasselmann and Jason Parks in the city’s Access16 production studio.
In the video, former Mayor Margaret Kluttz, former Assistant City Manager Foster Owen and former City Councilman Jim Dunn, who hired Treme, thank him, praise him and wish him well. Each shares a personal story about Treme.
Kluttz lauds Treme’s dedication to Salisbury and his innovative thinking, including finding a way to ban cruising in the 1980s to make way for the revitalization of downtown.
In another touching tribute, City Clerk Myra Heard recounts how Treme befriended her and became her mentor, as he did with many others.
“He serves, and he loves,” Heard said before the reception. “That theme that has emerged over the last few days as people talk about what he’s meant to them.”
Contact Emily Ford at 704-797-4264.

Coming Sunday
After more than 25 years as Salisbury’s city manager, how will David Treme be remembered? People with key insights talk about the legacy of the man who led the city during a quarter-century of remarkable growth and development.