A long and distinguished era in the history of Mebane came to a bittersweet ending on Monday, as Glendel Stephenson walked away from the office of Mayor after 35 years of service. City employees and numerous elected officials convened in the front entrance to Mebane City Hall for a special presentation.
“This is indeed an honor to recognize such a great Mayor, and a great individual. Your first term started in 1975. I was fifteen years old,” City Manager David Cheek said.
“How did you get so old so quick?” Stephenson said jokingly.
Cheek indicated that Stephenson first became Mebane’s Mayor and served over eight years in the office in the late 1970s and early 1980s before returning as Mayor in 1993. Stephenson has served in the office ever since.
“I have a favorite quote - I like to see a man proud of the place in which he lives. And I don’t know of anybody prouder of a place than you,” Cheek said. “And then the quote goes on to say I’d like to see a man live so this place will be proud of him. And I think you have lived in this place. And I think you’ve got a lot of people that are very proud of you.”
“We’re here to honor you. And to thank you for your service to Mebane. The staff is here. The citizens are here. This is a big day for us. It means a lot for us to honor you, and I wanted you to know that,” Cheek continued.
Cheek presented Stephenson with an engraved reading chair.
“This is a chair that the City wanted to present to you as a memento for your long service here, and you can sit and ponder what life is all about,” Cheek said.
Numerous other dignitaries spoke, including lifelong Mebane resident Julie Scott Emmons, District Director for Congressman Mark Walker. Emmons presented Stephenson with an American flag that flew over the United States Capitol in Washington, D.C. in his honor.
“The Congressman sends his regards,” Emmons said. “I’m very proud to call this my hometown. One thing that comes to mind - in my line of work, there’s a lot of inter-governmental affairs. I interact with so many people in elected office at the local state, federal, and local levels. But you stand out as someone who is a prime example of public service.”
“In this day and time, often we don’t use the words kindness or compassion or care for others above self when it comes to this line of work. But you exhibit that. You put others before yourself. You truly care about the people of this town. We’re very grateful for the example you have set for us. Congressman Walker is very grateful for your friendship. We’re very proud of the service that you have done.”
Chief Bob Louis presented the outgoing Mayor with a special Mebane Fire Department fireman’s helmet with the No. 35, representing his years of service as the town’s leader.
“I’d just like to say on behalf of the Mebane Volunteer Fire Department, Inc., and the City of Mebane Fire Department, we thank you for your unwavering support for the last 35 years looking after the fire service. Thank you,” Louis said.
Also to speak were the most recent members of the Mebane City Council - most of which have been working at least a decade if not much longer alongside Stephenson.
“Ten years ago, when I was first elected to Council, you and then-City Manager Robert Wilson, you all invited me to lunch. I think you might have been a little skeptical of the new, youngest kid on the block. But you were eager to help me succeed. And I really appreciated that. My first couple years on Council I stumbled a few times - as we tend to do. And you always stood by me. I’m very grateful for your unwavering support then, and for the past ten years on the Council.”
“One of the things I love about you is you always keep your eye on the prize - that prize being what is in the best interests of the City of Mebane. You appreciate the role that teamwork plays in that. A team that collaborates. A team that supports one another. A team that values one another’s perspectives.”
“You and I agree on a lot of things. And even when we don’t, I always appreciate your input. It always comes from a place of sincerity, of thoughtfulness. And of again, what is in the best interests of our community. And even when we don’t agree, there’s one thing we will always agree on - go Heels!”
“Many years ago, I remember the first incentive we had in Mebane. It was $30,000 for Becton Dickinson. They were going to have so many jobs, and spend so much money. We went into session, and they were going to spend a heck of a lot more than they initially said, and hire a lot more people. I remember you said, ‘We need to take a minute break,’ and we walked outside a second.”
“You said, ‘We have got to approve this.’ It was the first incentive. And now, through your guidance - and with a little money - Mebane has grown into one of, I think, the top business centers in the Piedmont of North Carolina. And that’s due to you, Sir. I thank you for that, and I’m sure the citizens do as well. It’s been a pleasure to serve with you.”
“Everette just used an ugly word - incentives. I hate them. But it’s a part of doing business. Nobody on the Council - nobody on the administration - like incentives. But that’s the way the world is today,” Stephenson said in response to Greene’s statement.
“One thing we try to do is make certain when we spend money - it’s got to be an investment. If it’s not an investment for the city, let them go down the street. We don’t need to buy business here. We just need to be certain that everything we do here is for the benefit of all of us - the whole city.”
“It’s been my honor to sit next to the Mayor for my 16 years on the Council. I could not ask for a better mentor, a better advisor, a better guide on the path to public service. When I was first elected, I was starry-eyed, and had all kinds of ideas about what we could do in the City of Mebane. But I didn’t know how any of it worked. I didn’t know how any of it happened. And Mayor Stephenson guided me every step of the way.”
“The team that we have here together is a group of folks from all different backgrounds, but we work together for the best interests of the City of Mebane. And it’s truly been an honor to learn how to be a public servant sitting next to you.”
“Mayor, I’ve known you all my life. I went to school with your son, Marshall. Worked at the Drug Store with him. I borrowed money for my first car from you at Central Carolina Bank.”
“Did you pay it back?” Stephenson said to laughs.
“Yeah - on time,” Bradley said in response.
“I was Volunteer Fire Chief the first time you stepped down as Mayor after eight years of service in 1984. I’m going to say the same thing to you that I did then. I consider you a statesman, a gentleman. And even the very few times that I ever disagreed with you, I always had the greatest respect for you. In my opinion, you are the epitome of what politics and public service should be about. And people should use you as a model for how to be a statesman. It has been a pleasure working with you.”
Longtime Mebane Mayor Pro Tem and Stephenson’s replacement, new Mebane Mayor Ed Hooks, read a proclamation honoring Stephenson for his three and a half decades of service to Mebane.
“I do remember the year our Mayor left. (Late former City Council member) Bob Hupman and I walked down to Glendel’s office and asked Glendel, please come back as Mayor of Mebane. And he accepted,” Hooks said after reading the proclamation. “We’ve done a lot of good things on the Council. But I think that’s probably the greatest thing that happened to me as a City Council member. We appreciate you, and what you’ve done for the City.”
Hooks announced at the conclusion of the proclamation that the Mebane City Council was officially honoring Stephenson by naming the Mebane City Hall along Washington Street in downtown Mebane the Glendel Stephenson Municipal Building, and placing a portrait of the longtime Mayor in the main lobby.
“That’s an ugly old man over there. But I’d vote for him,” Stephenson said jokingly.
Stephenson concluded the ceremony by reflecting on the many people he has worked with in Mebane over the years, and expressing appreciation for those relationships.
“The nice thing about it - what a great group of people to work with. They just couldn’t be any nicer - and a better, more cooperative group than the Council we have today. I want to say ‘work’ with - I haven’t done much. All I do is show up and talk to them and needle them a little, and say, ‘David, you’re spending too much money.’ What a great group,” Stephenson said. “It’s great when you have a group so dedicated and so considerate in their love for the City of Mebane as we’ve had here. I want to thank you.”
“For those of you who have put up with me for these years, I want to thank you for that,” Stephenson continued. “It’s been one of the greatest honors of my life to be associated with the City. To have worked with two dozen or more really outstanding people (on the City Council) - it’s important. It’s good folks who make themselves available for public service. And that’s what we have here in town. That’s what we have anytime you become a candidate for office. And we thank you for doing that.”
“You ain’t seen nothing yet. This City is going to double in size over the next twenty years. And it’s going to be a great place in which to live, raise a family, work, and enjoy life. Thank you so much for coming, and God Bless. To all of you, whether you voted for me or didn’t vote for me - thank you for allowing me to serve as Mayor during this period of time. It’s a good day to Mebane, Alamance County, North Carolina, USA.”