A farewell from Executive Director Miriam Hair
Municipal officials and friends have often asked me, "How long have you worked for the Municipal Association?" When I share that it has been 30-plus years, the next question is always, "Why?"
Sen. Floyd Nicholson (D-Greenwood) surprised Miriam Hair with the Order of the Palmetto, the state's highest civilian honor, at the Association's Annual Meeting on Hilton Head Island in July. Nicholson is the former board president of the Association and former mayor of Greenwood, Hair's hometown.
And my answer is always the same — I can't imagine working for a company where the mission is only to sell more, produce more and increase profits. While we always strive to increase the number of municipal officials engaged in the programs of the Association and find more ways to share why the success of cities and towns is important to the success of our state, it's much more than just a numbers game.
The Association's sole purpose is to provide a means through which city officials can work together to increase the efficiency and effectiveness of municipal services and enhance the experience of living, working, and doing business in our state's cities and towns. That's a mission that I have enjoyed being a part of now for 32 years.
Before the early 80s, the Association's small staff of eight or so lobbied the State House, held an annual meeting, collected certain business licensing taxes and published a few publications including the monthly newsletter, Uptown.
Then things began to change. In addition to these existing services, the Association created its first pooled insurance program to provide more stable premiums and coverage for cities and towns, and the SC Association of Municipal Power Systems contracted with the Municipal Association for an employee to serve as its executive director. While the decision to staff SCAMPS launched the Association's vision of using 11 affiliate associations to provide training to municipal employees, it also launched my career, as I was the lucky one hired for the position.
As the complexities of running a city grew, the Municipal Association also created the Municipal Elected Officials Institute. Next year, the Association will celebrate the 30th anniversary of the institute's first graduating class. And, last year, the Association celebrated the first graduating class of the Advanced Municipal Elected Officials Institute.
Over the years, the Association invested in technology to provide online training for municipal officials and to provide portals for insurance companies and telecommunication companies to pay municipal taxes online.
These are just a few of the programs developed to respond to the needs of cities and towns. What an exciting time I have experienced in my 32-year career with the Association.
I will always be grateful to Don Wray and Howard Duvall, both former executive directors, for believing in me and giving me the opportunity to build a rewarding career with the Association. And I will always be grateful to Jim Robey, the former deputy director who recruited me to the Association, and guided me in my duties early on. I also offer a special thank you to the board of directors who nine years ago appointed me executive director after serving 10 as deputy executive director.
When I talk about the Association, I always brag that we are the best in the country. That is only possible because of all the dedicated, knowledgeable and creative employees with whom I have had the pleasure of working over the years. To all of our staff, past and present, your friendship means the world to me and your dedication is appreciated by all our cities and towns.
From elected officials and city employees to the Association's presidents and board members, what a blessing for me to have worked alongside so many dedicated public servants and witness every day what your service means to South Carolina. I will miss the work as I retire on December 31, but I will miss even more the wonderful people who make this Association and our cities and towns so great.