OXFORD – As he began his last report to the Board of Aldermen on Tuesday, Mayor Richard Howorth joked that he’d authorized the alderman to his right “to slap me if I get too emotional.”
Howorth, who declined to run for a third term, was only one of several departing leaders who choked up in thanking city voters, employees and their peers.
“I have every confidence that the new board under then-Mayor (Pat) Patterson will go well and you have my complete support,” Howorth said. “I thank the city staff, all of whom are public servants. … I especially thank my two closest advisers, David Bennett and Lisa Carwyle.” Howorth went on to thank the current aldermen individually, presenting each with a large ceramic vase.
To Patterson he said, “Thank you for your thoughtful and close attention to all matters that come before this board,” then drew a laughter by telling his plainspoken successor, “… and thank you, I think, for never holding back your views.”
Alderman Ulysses Howell quipped to Assistant Police Chief Joey East, “Alderman Antonow wants to take TASER training now that Pat is going to be moving to the chair next to her.”
Howorth gave special praise to the two aldermen who will leave the board in July.
“I would have a hard time saying anyone cares more for Oxford than Bill Baker, who has given so much to us,” he said. “Jon Fisher has been an exemplary always prepared, always engaged and has consistently improved this board’s decision-making faculty.”
Baker lauded city employees as “320 of the best workers you’ll ever have,” and Fisher urged their successors, “Keep the people first. Keep the city first.”
Bennett, who is retiring after a 34-year career in which he became city engineer, director of public works and chief operations officer, never missed a beat when the crowd rose to its feet in applause.
“The last time I had a standing ovation was January 1969 playing Walnut in a basketball game,” he said.
Errol Castens/NEMS Daily Journal, Oxford Bureau