The City of Concord said a final goodbye to one of its greats last week. Former Manager Brian Hiatt officially stepped aside as his former deputy Lloyd Payne stepped into the role.
But the city didn’t let Hiatt go too quietly. Both current and former officials as well as community residents gathered Friday, March 23, to give the longtime manager a resounding sendoff.
“There’s lots of talk around here about legacy,” Merl Hamilton, deputy city manager, said at the celebration. “You’ll hear today about water lines and parks, but I’m here to tell you, boss, man, your legacy is in the bunch of us, what you’ve instilled in us that worked for you and made us better people, professionally and personally. That’s your legacy because we will walk around with it, many of us, forever, and we will forever appreciate that.”
Former council members spoke of the decision to hire Hiatt back in 1998 while others outlined the behind-the-scenes of working with him. Everyone from department heads to community members had gifts for the former manager, including a presentation of the Long Leaf Pine by Mayor Bill Dusch.
“Without a doubt one of the best things that we ever did was we are the ones that hired Brian Hiatt,” former Mayor Scott Padgett said. “We are all extremely proud of that and obviously never regretted it and many times have thanked our lucky stars that we made that decision.”
Several of those who spoke outlined the respect they had for Hiatt over the years, emphasizing his strong ethics, frugal nature and dedication to both the job and the people around him.
“I’m going to take a guess that thousands of people have gone through the doors of working for Concord while you were here,” communications director Peter Franzese said. “What you’ve done is you’ve taken your values, and you’ve inspired us as an organization to encapsulate them into our values. You’ve always inspired us and empowered us to be an organization that develops this sort of things. You didn’t come up with this; you inspired us to come up with this and it reflects back on you.”
Hiatt said he was touched by the event and the crowd that came out to support him.
“It’s bittersweet,” he said. “Obviously, you’re looking forward to the future and what that may hold, but at the same time, when you’re a city manager, you get to interact with all different people within the organization and within the city. You’re going to miss that, but obviously I’ll be around. It’s not like I’m going away.”
And reflecting back on his career, Hiatt said he has a lot to be proud of. He’s seen the city come through a lot since 1998, from the development around Concord Mills and the Charlotte Motor Speedway to surviving two major droughts and leading the way in water conservation. Concord has also made it through the economic downturn and come to a point with all individual funds in solid shape for the future.
“Being able to continue to provide services and having the financial stability, that’s something that I think the whole city should be proud of, and coming out of that period ready for the economic boom that we’re seeing now,” he said. “Concord has always provided me with good people to work with in terms of our leadership, the stability in people they’ve placed on the council. That’s something that I appreciate as a manager, having that kind of leadership and people that are really focused on the future and focused on what’s best for the community.”
Hiatt said he was looking forward to watching Concord move even farther into the future as new and emerging leaders take the community forward—now as a private resident. But he said he wasn’t quite sure how he planned to spend his newfound free time.
“I’ve committed to myself to wait until a month or so to clear my mind,” he said. “At the same time, I know my habits, and probably after three days I’ll be here trying to do some type of project which I don’t have the skills to do. So I’ll be looking for new challenges in the future.”
But while he may be gone from City Hall, those he leaves behind made it clear that Hiatt’s legacy will live on.
“Brian, if you ever have any doubt about people who care about you, people who love you, people who respect you, look around; we’re here,” Payne said. “You have inspired me and others to be a little better today than you were yesterday. You’ve pushed us to continually improve and never stop learning.”
Payne said that while he may be taking over Hiatt’s office, he doesn’t expect to replace his predecessor.
“The race you’ve been running started many years ago, but the finish line is in sight,” Payne told Hiatt. “I can say without a doubt you’re in first place. I, like many other managers, hope I can run the race like you showed us to. I cannot fill those shoes. It’s impossible to ask of anyone. I am grateful, however, for you showing me the shoes I need to wear and am hopeful that the race that I run will make you proud. It has indeed been an honor to work with you and serve alongside of you. I hope you enjoy your retirement; it is well deserved.”
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