Writer: Mark Lastinger
Published June 29, 2020
It wasn’t on the agenda but it was clearly important nonetheless.
During its June 22 meeting, the Rincon City Council opened with a tribute to longtime City Planner LaMeisha Hunter Kelly, who resigned a few days earlier to pursue another career opportunity. Her final day is Friday.
“We give awards and recognition a lot but I don’t like to do it under these circumstances,” Mayor Ken Lee said.
Lee presented Kelly a plaque for 13 years of exemplary service, including two stints as interim city manager.
“Just saying ‘thank you’ is not quite enough,” Lee said.
Lee then delivered a list of Kelly’s many accomplishments.
“I’ll just say that LaMeisha, during the many times in this city when we’ve had difficult situations, has been the rock,” Lee said. “She has been the foundation of our city staff in many, many cases and I just appreciate what LaMeisha has stood for, and I appreciate the integrity that she has carried out her duties with, and I appreciate how she has consistenly carried out the responsibilities of her job and maintained the integrity of our city in doing so.”
The mayor said Kelly stepped up each time she was needed.
“She never had to be asked most of the time,” Lee said. “When she saw an opportunity where she needed to fill the gap, she did it and I appreciate that in her so much.”
Lee called Kelly “a confidant for the people who worked with her.”
As city planner, Kelly attended the University Georgia Carl Vinson Institute of Government and 17 conferences of the Georgia Association of Zoning Administrators.
“I think that says a lot about her desire not only to be a better staff member, a better employee and be better prepared to do her job, but it fits her ambition about being a better person in her development,” Lee said.
The mayor wrapped up his remarks with this comment, “I can’t say enough, LaMeisha, how much we appreciate all you have done for this city. I know your heart has been in it from the beginning and it has been totally in it. It’s rare to find anyone with that kind of commitment to anything anymore.”
Councilmembers Patrick Kirkland, Eddie Long, Levi Scott, Reese Browher and Ann Daniel also lauded Kelly. Councilman James Dasher was absent.
“Dedication and commitment,” Scott said. “I guess I’ll have to attempt to stop coming by (City Hall) on the weekends to tell her to go home. I’ll probably miss that.”
City Manager John Klimm pounced on his chance to comment about Kelly.
“I think I can safely say that I speak for every single employee when I say that, when LaMeisha told us she was leaving, there was a great deal of sadness for the last week or two,” Klimm said. “But over that period of time, that sadness turned to appreciation and each one of us came to realize how wonderful it’s been to work with such a professional. We all learned from LaMeisha.
“We are sad to see her go but we wish her the very best.”
In closing, Klimm’s remarks took a personal turn.
“Fifteen to 20 years from now, if I’m still here, and I don’t mean Rincon — I mean on this earth — I probably won’t remember much about LaMeisha Hunter Kelly as a planner but I absolutely will remember everything there is to remember about LaMeisha Hunter Kelly as a person,” he said. “I have been blessed to work with here.”
The tributes continued to come for several more minutes as City Attorney Raymond Dickey, Public Works Director Tim Bowles, Police Chief Jonathan Murrell and others chimed in.
“... but I can say one thing about this lady,” Dickey said. “When she walks out that door for the final time, she can turn around and look back and say she did what was right.”
Eventually, Kelly, who was in tears by this time, got a chance to speak.
“I just want to say ‘thank you” because everything that I have done and been able to accomplish is because of you all (because of) your trust and faith in me,” she said.
Kelly said she appreciated the opportunity to “sit at the table” of government that the city council, Klimm and Dickey gave her.
“That was an honor that you trusted me to do that,” she said. “Everything that I will be doing in my new job is because of what you let me do.”
Kelly is expected to announce her job destination this week. So far, she has revealed only that it is in Effingham County.
At the end of her remarks, Kelly was choking with emotion, especially when she directed her words toward Bowles and the Public Works Department.
“I am going to miss my work brothers,” she said. “In this day and time, our working relationship should be the goal of all mankind. When I say that Tim has been a joy to work with, he has.”
Jokingly, the mayor said he isn’t so sure that is the case.
“I tell you,” Lee said. “Sometimes I would go in the office and I would hear Tim and LaMeisha in there, and I thought I was going to have to call one of the officers over there. They have a very unique relationship.
“They sound like brothers and sisters fighting all the time. I know they leaned on each other and the complement each other.”
Lee ended the tribute by mentioning Kelly’s level of dedication one more time.
“LaMeisha never watched the clock,” he said. “She wasn’t finished until the job was done. Her primary duty was turning the lights off at City Hall because she was always the last one to leave.”