Mayor David Combs gave his farewell remarks at the recent City Council meeting, emphasizing his philosophy is not to look back.
Combs, who has been in office since 2007 and opted not to seek re-election this year, spoke briefly near the end of an approximately one-hour-and-20-minute-long session on Nov. 25.
Combs drew applause when he expressed appreciation to his wife, Catherine, for her support.
Additionally, Combs expressed appreciation to the municipal employees, saying, “You have a different perspective when you’re not always engaged on a day-to-day basis. And I can tell you the employees of this city do an incredible job.”
Noting many municipal department heads were in the audience, Combs told them, “Hopefully, you can relay this message back to the folks that work with you and your different departments.”
He added, “Everybody may not always agree — but I can tell you on a day-to-day basis, the people that work for this city do an incredible job.”
He said he is leaving with bittersweet feelings and noted although there has not always been agreements at the council table, a lot has been done.
“But you know what happens in life is you make a decision — and then you move forward,” he said. “And you don’t look back and keep second-guessing yourself.
“And I think sometimes that’s what a lot of us do. You make a decision, but you’re always backtracking and trying to rethink things — and you just can’t do that in life.”
Combs also expressed appreciation to City Manager Rochelle Small-Toney, the council and the residents of Rocky Mount.
Noting this is a public forum, Combs said “it has been challenging at times, quite honestly with you, but it has been a great experience for me.
“I hope I’m a better man for doing this, but I couldn’t have done it without my wife and the support of the folks in Rocky Mount,” he said to applause.
Combs is going to be succeeded on Dec. 9 by Sandy Roberson, who won a runoff election on Nov. 5.
Combs is not the only Rocky Mount elected official who is bidding farewell.
Ward 4 Councilwoman Lois Watkins, who has been in office since 2007, did not seek re-election this year. Watkins is going to be succeeded on Dec. 9 by T.L. Walker Jr., who was elected on Oct. 8.
Ward 5 Councilman Tom Rogers, who also has been in office since 2007, also did not seek re-election this year. Rogers is going to be succeeded on Dec. 9 by Lige Daughtridge, who also was elected on Oct. 8.
During the council meeting — and prior to Combs’ closing remarks — Ward 2 Councilman Reuben Blackwell, who has been in office since 2000, spoke briefly and in an emotional tone about the panel comprised of the mayor and the seven council members.
“We’ve been a great team,” Blackwell said. “We haven’t agreed about everything. Lord knows, we fought about a lot — but we worked together and always worked it out.
“Nobody got everything they wanted, but we made sure nobody was left out. And I’ve got say I’ve been proud to be a member of this team.”
Blackwell offered a resolution expressing gratitude to Combs, Watkins and Rogers for providing outstanding service to the city. The resolution was quickly approved and followed by applause.
Ward 1 Councilman Andre Knight, who has been in office since 2003 and was re-elected on Oct. 8, also spoke briefly.
Knight told Combs, Rogers and Watkins he enjoyed working with them.
Knight spoke of having been in the fight together “when we tackled the giant of the utilities.” He called this “the big elephant in the room,” but he said “we all had the courage to stand together and take on Duke and Progress Energy.”
He opposed what eventually became the merger of Duke and Progress Energy to create the nation’s largest electric company.
Duke Energy Progress eventually signed a $1.2 billion deal to acquire a stake in assets of — and help relieve the long-term debt of — the 32-member N.C. Eastern Municipal Power Agency. That in turn allowed municipalities in the eastern part of the state to cut electric rates.
Knight also spoke of standing together in support of developing downtown and housing.
Knight said regardless of what has been said on social media posts about the council being polarized, “I can count maybe on one hand that we voted down racial lines. And if it was down racial lines, it was something that was sort of minimal.
“And we all worked together,” he said. “And I just want to say, from my heart, I appreciate it and that your presence and time and dedication will truly be missed.
“And I will hope that the incoming council will take on the same spirit that you all have embraced, that we work together for one Rocky Mount,” he said.