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My Turn, Maggie Blackwell: Thank you, Salisbury

Writer

Maggie Blackwell, Salisbury mayor pro tem

Dear Salisbury,

With only a couple of days left to serve as your mayor pro tem, my heart is bursting with all sorts of emotion, so I am writing you to tell you thank you.

Thank you all for endowing me with the gift of serving you. Despite some challenges, every day has truly been an honor and a gift: from you to me.

Thank you for trusting me with your future.

Thank you for your children who have served on our Salisbury Youth Council over the past six years. It has been a delight to know them and see them grow into vital, fascinating college students.

Thank you to the citizens who called me with your problems: the lady with the repossessed car; the widow with the headstone facing the wrong way; the lady with the wheelchair who dared not sit on her porch for fear of the drug dealer’s pit bulls in the yard; the resident of subsidized housing being charged monthly for smoke alarm batteries and light bulbs. The list goes on and on. Each of you trusted me with your intimate details, and most of all, with your trust to be able to help. It was a humbling experience to work with you.

Thank you to the many churches who opened your doors — and sometimes your pulpits — to me.

Thank you to the many friends who saved a place in your living rooms for me to ask your wisdom, your thoughts, your priorities.

I’ve already thanked the folks who helped me get elected: the donors, the friend who tirelessly pulled up campaign signs — after all four campaigns — the friends who held fundraisers. But you surely get another thanks here.

I’ve written letters to the special staff people who helped me help citizens, and you know I appreciate you — but here’s another thanks.

Thank you to all the citizens who spoke at City Council meetings over the last eight years. I wrote down every name and message for eight years. Some of you appeared nervous; some of you brought prepared notes; some of you spoke off the cuff. You gave us insight into your perspectives. Sometimes you changed my vote. Each of you had something important to say and I appreciate all of you taking the time to come and address your City Council. It is fundamentally the most precious part of the meeting.

Thank you to our citizens who serve on our boards and commissions. Your hours in meetings help our city to thrive. You are under-appreciated. Thank you for your work, your initiatives, your time.

Thank you to those who have left us: Sgt. Mark Hunter, William Peoples, Fred Evans. Each of you changed me for the better and I will never forget you.

Thank you to Susan Kluttz, the first mayor under whom I served, for providing such a strong role model of a woman in leadership. And to Paul Woodson, the second mayor under whom I served, one of the kindest and most generous people I know.

Thank you to the almost 9,000 third-graders to whom I’ve spoken. You are brilliant and smart, and you inspire me to be my best person. Never forget to try your best so you can be elected one day. Remember to shake hands firmly and look people in the eye.

I’ve made two commitments to myself as I return to normal life and I’ll share them with you here.

1. I will support future councils. Serving is a hard job; you’re taking in information and weighing conflicting data and speaking in public all at the same time. It’s a lot tougher than it looks.

2. I will never introduce myself with, “I used to be mayor pro tem.” What we used to be is irrelevant. All that matters is what we are doing today to make the world a better place.

It’s been a wild and crazy eight years with four city managers, three city clerks, lots of turnover in top spots, budget challenges, increasing crime, Fibrant challenges and the ongoing fight for decent housing for all.

Thank you for every challenge as well as every happy moment.

Salisbury, I thank you.

Maggie Blackwell’s term ends Tuesday when new council members will be sworn in. She chose not to seek re-election.

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