‘He will always be a big part of town’

Published 10:18 am Monday, February 16, 2015

Wesley Garris honored after serving Windsor Council for nearly 42 years

By Merle Monahan
Contributing Writer

When Wesley Garris retired from the Windsor Town Council in December, he had served for 41 years and four months, making him the longest-serving member since the town was incorporated.

Wesley Garris holds up a plaque that was recently presented to him in recognition of his service to Windsor. Garris retired this past December after having served for many years as a council member, vice mayor and even mayor.

Wesley Garris holds up a plaque that was recently presented to him in recognition of his service to Windsor. Garris retired this past December after having served for many years as a council member, vice mayor and even mayor.

He has served under several mayors, held that job as well as that of vice mayor, and lived through a number of important town issues, including annexation.

“It was not always an easy job,” he said with a smile. “But I wouldn’t trade my time on council for anything.”

Garris was honored last week at a banquet given by the Town of Windsor at the Hilton Hotel Restaurant in Suffolk. Nearly 100 guests, including friends, co-workers and family attended. After the meal, he was given a plaque and a framed resolution from the council for his many years of dedicated service to the town.

Garris does not see himself as anyone special, however.

“It is so important for people to get involved in the community,” he said. “And I have enjoyed the years I’ve spent on council.

“I just thought it was time to let someone younger take over,” the 75-year-old said of his retirement. “And at my age now, it’s time for me to slow down.”

Garris has lived in Windsor since he was 12. He moved there from Walters when he was in fifth grade, and after graduating from Windsor High School, he immediately enrolled in apprentice school at the Newport News Shipyard.

The father of two and grandfather of four retired from the shipyard in 1999 after 40 years as a senior quality analyst in the engineering division.

With so many time-consuming jobs it would seem that Garris would not have time for anything else. Yet he has also served in the Purdie Masonic Lodge since 1956 and the Windsor Fire Department for 55 years. In the Masons, he is a past Grand Master. While as a council member, he was chairman of the committee to refurbish the fire station. He was president of the fire department at the time.

Garris smiles when he recalls some of the duties he has performed as a council member, though.

“When I was first elected in 1967, we had only one part-time employee, the town clerk, so council members were responsible for many of the jobs required in town. I was on the cemetery committee, which included selling graves and making sure that the cemetery was kept up.

“Well, we hired a man to cut the grass there, but just before Memorial Day he quit, leaving the place overgrown with grass. It was up to me to get it cut or I’d hear from the people who had their families buried there,” Garris chuckled.

“I was no stranger to cutting grass, since that was the way I had earned money when I was a kid. I pulled out my push mower and took care of the job myself.”

He says one of his hardest jobs on council was handling the town’s annexation when he was mayor.

“A lot of those to be annexed were not in favor of it and let me know in no uncertain terms. Some of these people I had known for years and had no idea they could say such ugly things.

“The annexation went through,” Garris said, “and things have not been as bad as people thought.

“Actually, we had to do it,” he went on, “or the town of about 900 could not have survived.”

Annexation brought in another 1,400 residents, Garris said.

The soft-spoken former mayor said his biggest regret is that he could not spend as much time with his wife, Cynthia, daughters Susan and Amy, and four grandchildren, and of course his church, Windsor Baptist.

“I hope to remedy that, though,” he said. “I am looking forward to spending more time at home.”

There were times when he had a meeting every night of the week, he added.

Garris revealed that he will miss the council meetings, although he did have a break during the years, serving the first time from 1967 to 1984, the second time from 1988 until 2002 and the last from 2004 til 2014.

“I’d make up my mind not to run, but then some of the residents would urge me to run again.”

He’s continuously been a top vote-getter, something he’s proud of.

Carita Richardson, the current mayor, said the town will really miss him, although they have not said goodbye yet.

“We still call on him because of his wisdom and experience when we have a difficult situation. He can never be replaced.”

Richardson said Garris is a prime example of what it means to be a real public servant for the community and town residents.

He has taken time from his family and work to help so many. He is a strong leader and despite some negativity at times, has always done what is right for the town.

“He will always be a big part of the town,” she said.