KANNAPOLIS – Next Monday will mark the first time in over 24 years that a Kannapolis City Council meeting has taken place without Bob Misenheimer at the table.
Misenheimer, 82, is retiring from public life after two terms as mayor, 15 years as a city councilman and 36 years in public education.
In his last public appearance as mayor, Bob Misenheimer was honored for decades of service to country, to community and to the citizens of Kannapolis.
As the guest of honor at the 2013 Cabarrus County Red Cross All-American Dinner, Misenheimer was praised for his leadership.
“Bob Misenheimer has done so many things for the city of Kannapolis, not just in his role as mayor but as volunteer for so many things,” said Lynne Scott Safrit, the evening’s master of ceremonies.
Nancy Litton, community executive director of the Cabarrus County chapter of the American Red Cross, said the fundraising dinner was a good time for community leaders to gather and honor Misenheimer.
“As an educator, a community volunteer, as one who developed the Veterans Park as a part of City Council, it just fit with us,” Litton said.
With his wife, Bernie, his two daughters and two of his grandchildren nearby, Misenheimer shook hands with friends and well-wishers during a pre-dinner reception.
He said he was feeling “a little bit of sadness that this is it, but at the same time, I’m very fortunate that I’ve had the opportunity.”
When asked what he felt would be his legacy as a leader, Misenheimer spoke of the months immediately following the closing of Pillowtex, formerly Cannon Mills – at one time the city’s owner and primary employer.
Misenheimer recalled how over 4,000 people were laid off when the bankrupt plant closed its doors abruptly 10 years ago.
“That was a terrible time, and to be perfectly fair, we didn’t know what we were going to do,” Misenheimer said. “We were in a heap of difficulty.”
Cabarrus County Commissioner Steve Morris praised Misenheimer’s leadership.
“He has demonstrated a spirit of cooperation with other municipalities that is going to extend far beyond his term,” Morris said.
Not only that, but Morris said he’s got another reason to remember Misenheimer fondly: when Morris was a student at Shady Brook Elementary School, Misenheimer was his principal.
“He’s given me a talking-to a time or two!” Morris said.
“Fifty years from now, we’re going to be reaping benefits from some of the actions that was taken when he (Misenheimer) was mayor,” said City Council member Roger Haas.
His successor, Darrell Hinnant, said that he admired Misenheimer “for being mayor during some very tough times.”
“I hope I can be as successful as he was in these better economic times,” said Hinnant, who was elected mayor on Nov. 5, and who served three terms on the City Council alongside Misenheimer.
Newly-elected City Council member Dianne Berry said she has known Misenheimer since her time working with Kannapolis City Schools.
“He’s surely left a mark on the city of Kannapolis,” Berry said.
In presenting the All-American Award to Misenheimer, Rowan-Cabarrus Community College President Carol Spalding called him “the consummate public servant.”
On his watch, Spalding said, hope and progress were the continuing themes for Kannapolis.
And, Spalding said, the growing N.C. Research Campus, along with a new downtown city hall and police station, would be hallmarks of Misenheimer’s time in office.
When he took to the podium, Misenheimer joked with Hinnant about retirement.
“I’m not entirely sure I want to do this!” he quipped.
Misenheimer went on to say that he was honored and grateful for the award, and for the opportunity to work with leaders in the community.
“This is a good time, and we’re leaving the city of Kannapolis in very good hands,” Misenheimer said.
He thanked City Council members, especially outgoing Mayor Pro Tem Gene McCombs, who is also retiring.
And, true to form for a man whose career took him from being a school principal to the mayor of a city, Misenheimer closed out with a word of warning:
“If you all don’t walk the chalk line, I’ll have to come back and file for reelection!” Misenheimer said, grinning.
For his part, before the dinner Misenheimer said that he was proud of having “run a tight ship” during his years in office.
He said he hopes the city’s elected officials, including three new council members, will follow the example of the current City Council by working closely together.
Misenheimer said he was confident that Hinnant will do a good job as mayor, and that the council will continue to strive for consensus.
“They treat each other with a great deal of respect, let everybody talk (and) let everybody say what they have to say,” Misenheimer said.
Contact Hugh Fisher via the editor’s desk at 704-797-4244.