Mecklenburg Commissioners Bestow Honors

Publication
The Charlotte Observer
Author
Bruce Henderson
Published
Dec 21, 2016

Mecklenburg County commissioners honored a former county manager and a past commissioner Tuesday night. Rows of former elected officials and county employees attended the meeting as former County Manager Harry Jones was inducted into the Order of the Hornet, Mecklenburg County's highest award.

Commissioners also named a portion of the Little Sugar Creek Greenway near uptown for one of its biggest champions, former commissioner and state Rep. Ruth Samuelson.

Jones was county manager from 2000 to 2013, when he was fired. Vice Chair Jim Puckett praised Jones for hiring professional staff, including current Manager Dena Diorio, navigating the financial straits of the recession and developing tools to gauge county performance.

Former commissioners Chair Park Helms said Jones overcame many obstacles in becoming Mecklenburg's first black manager. "Harry Jones has succeeded in life and it's important that we honor him for all his successes, and for helping those who need help."

Former staff colleagues said Jones looked after them, and commissioners said his advice helped them succeed.

"For Harry, every challenge is an opportunity to demonstrate faith, hope and humility. That's where Harry stands," said former Deputy County Attorney Sandra Bisanar.

"You are the person who is responsible for me sitting at this desk," added board Chair Ella Scarborough.

Jones, who was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer in 2011, turned to face his former staff members. "The one thing I tried to impart to the staff, our only reason for existing, is to do what?" he asked.

"Serve" several replied.

"You are immensely blessed, as much as I am, to have the opportunity to sit at this dais and serve these 1 million people in the exemplary fashion that you do," Jones said, facing commissioners. "It's more than I ever expected."

Commissioners proposed honoring Samuelson earlier this month. The 1-mile part of Little Sugar Creek Greenway through Freedom Park will be named the Ruth Samuelson Trail.

Samuelson, who has ovarian cancer, led the charge for funding of the project, which turned an urban eyesore into a popular destination. She developed relationships with property owners and developers who controlled land needed for the greenway.

Commissioner Dumont Clarke called the greenway "one of the great amenities of our park and rec system."

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