East Spencer mayor to receive Legends of a Leader award from AME Zion Church

Published 12:05 am Thursday, February 23, 2023

EAST SPENCER — For well over a decade, the Southern City Tabernacle AME Zion Church in East Spencer has annually recognized a church member (or members) with the “Legacy of a Leader” award for their commitment both to the church community and the greater town community. This year’s honoree is particularly remarkable since she is both the mayor of East Spencer and the chair of the award committee, and therefore not one to admit she deserves the award.

But Mayor Barbara Mallett was selected after a church deaconess, Marva McCain, went around her to the pastor to let him know that Mallett herself had never been recognized.

“She is incredibly caring, loving, outgoing, respectful and determined to do whatever she can to help others,” said McCain. “She always makes sure everyone else gets recognition, and it’s time for her to be rewarded.”

Mallett grew up in Morganton, the second of eight children to her parents Robert H. Avery and Annie Mae Kanipes Avery. Both of her parents also came from large families, her father one of 10 children and her mother one of 11.

Mallett and her husband Gary have been married 56 years, spending the first 15 years of their lives together in Brooklyn, N.Y., before returning to East Spencer, Gary’s home, in 1976. The couple has two daughters, Crystal and Tarsha Mallett; two granddaughters, Amber Carter and Cameron Mallett; and one great-granddaughter, Zanylah.

“After having others be recognized, I don’t feel worthy, because others have done extraordinary things,” said Mallett. “You don’t think of yourself that way.”

But her list of accomplishments is long and ongoing.

She began as a town clerk for East Spencer in 1980 and served in that capacity and as financed officer until 2000. She also was on the board of aldermen as a board member from 2005-09, and has been elected mayor every two years since her first election in 2011. At the end of the current term in 2023, she will hold the title of the longest serving mayor of the town at 12 years.

Her peers in the town government have expressed immense pride that Mallett will receive this year’s award.

“We are exceptionally proud that our mayor is being recognized for her years of dedicated service,” said Town Manager Michael Douglas. And Mallett is proud of what she and the board and the town’s administration have accomplished, including purchasing new fire and police equipment (with a bill paid in full), the sale and/or repurposing of land to encourage residential and business development, the revitalization of Royal Giants Park, acquiring hundreds of thousands of dollars in state grant monies for town projects and improvements to the water and sewer lines with $23 million in state grants acquired on her watch (including improvements to water lines that address emergency water needs for large fires, as necessitated by the former Dunbar School fire). She feels a stronger sense of community pride these days, and hopes that her work and the work of the town has contributed to that.

In the church, she fills multiple rolls, including class leader, deaconess, former president of the Lay Council, Chairman of the Board of Trustees, Life Member of the WH & OM Society, co-chair of the kitchen committee and local secretary of the WH & OM supply department.

In the greater Salisbury-Rowan community, she is a member of the Rowan-Cabarrus Community College Foundation Board of Directors, Novant Health Rowan Medical Center Board of Directors, Rowan County Nursing Home Advisory Board, Novant Health Rowan Medical Center Patient Advisory Board, Chairman of the Salisbury Transportation Advisory Board, Smart Start of Rowan Board Member Allocations, Salisbury Rowan Community Action Agency Council board member, and State Employees Credit Union board member.

Mallett insists that her success is not a solitary event.

“A lot of people have been in my corner,” she said. “A lot of people have and do really believe in me. I believe also that you lead by example, and I hope people see the God in me. He wants to lift other up, and I try to do that for the town of East Spencer, and all whose path I cross. But without the love and support of others, I don’t think I would have done as well.”

Mallett was close to her parents and became, she said, the best of friends with her mother-in-law, but felt she let her parents down by not finishing college when she was young.

Before his retirement from Livingstone College, former college President Dr. Jimmy R. Jenkins Sr. presented Mallett with the Presidential Scholarship, so she has returned to college to finish what she started many years ago, she said. She hopes to graduate in December.

“I want to be able to stand not only as an alum but as a graduate,” she said, smiling.

Mallett says her faith has been the staff she leans on when she needs extra strength, and she hopes others can learn from her example. She is particularly pleased that the award ceremony falls in Black History month, and will be a part of the church’s celebration of that.

Asked what she would tell someone young and seeking advice, she said, “Remember every action has a consequence. Have a purpose, and live for that purpose. And remember life is not meant to be easy, but an accomplishment.”

The award service will begin at 3 p.m. this Sunday, Feb. 26 at the church. Guests are welcome, and a repast will be offered after. Although absolutely no donations are required, any donations made at the event will join monthly contributions to the church’s college scholarships, presented to a student who is an active church member and whose grades meet the requirements and who can show they are actively attending or have been accepted to a college.