SNOW HILL — The Worcester County Commission bid an emotional farewell to a pair of long-time employees this week, giving the pair a friendly send-off as both head into retirement.
The commissioners’ meeting Tuesday was the last for County Chief Administrative Officer Gerald Mason and Emergency Services Director Teresa Owens.
Owens is retiring after 35 years with Worcester and told the commission that she has enjoyed every moment.
“I do want to thank each and every one of you for the support you’ve given me and the department throughout the years,” she said. “It’s been an honor and a pleasure. And I will miss the people the most.”
Commission President Bud Church promised Owens that she would be missed but has earned her retirement.
“I know you’re counting the hours but on Friday, don’t stumble when you run out the door,” he said.
Mason was also recognized and all of the commissioners had a personal story to share. Serving the county since 1986, Mason’s job description meant that he had more contact with the commissioners on a day-to-day basis than almost anyone else.
“You’re a team player and a strong leader who brings out the best in everyone who works for you or with you and that’s what a strong leader does,” said Commissioner Judy Boggs.
Commissioner James Purnell revealed that Mason “took me under his wing” and helped inspire Purnell when he first became a commissioner.
Commissioner Louise Gulyas underlined how big of a role Mason plays in keeping the lights on in Worcester.
“My heart really will miss you because, not only have you been good to me, you’ve been good for me,” she said.
“It’s going to seem strange at the next meeting not seeing you sitting there,” Commissioner Merrill Lockfaw agreed.
Lockfaw was unique amongst the commission in having the “dual perspective” of having worked for Mason as a county employee and served as Mason’s boss as a County Commissioner. In both situations, Lockfaw said that Mason conducted himself with professionalism and courtesy.
While his perspective was unique amongst the commissioners, Lockfaw wasn’t the only person in the room to have worked both above and below Mason. County Attorney Sonny Bloxom recalled his time on the commission, a period which saw Mason’s appointment to the chief administrator’s chair.
“One of the best decisions I ever made was when we voted to hire Gerry as our county administrator,” said Bloxom.
Like Owens, no one disputed that Mason has earned his retirement.
“Your family is very important and in what time you have in your retirement, enjoy it, and spend it with your family,” said Commissioner Jim Bunting.
Mason’s staff also offered a send-off, with Assistant Chief Administrative Officer Kelly Shannon comparing him to a head coach with a great record.
“Under Coach Mason’s leadership, Worcester County has experienced many winning seasons over the last 19 years,” he said. “Even when the odds seemed long, Gerry developed a winning strategy in the best interests of the citizens and visitors of our county.”
Public Information Officer Kim Moses called him “the best captain I’ve ever had” and added that she knew no one with greater integrity.
Next month Mason will be replaced by current Financial Officer Harold Higgins while Owens will be succeeded by Emergency Services Assistant Director Fred Webster.