Not an end, but a beginning
Rutherfordton Town Council members, town employees, county officials and numerous friends and family said goodbye to Karen Andrews during an emotional retirement ceremony at the Rutherfordton Town Hall on Monday.
After more than two decades serving Rutherfordton as town manager, Andrews announced her retirement to the Town Council on Feb. 5.
"It was a difficult decision to make," Andrews said in February. "This group of folks here is my family."
A native of Rutherfordton, Andrews began her position as town manager in May 1993, working for her hometown a total of 20 years and 10 months.
"It has been a great honor for me to be a town manager in my hometown — a lot of town managers don't get that kind of opportunity," Andrews said. "It's been a pleasure to be able to work with a council that has the town's best interests in mind. Having such dedicated town employees that I've been blessed to work with has made my job easier."
In March, council members joined Rutherfordton Mayor Jimmy Dancy in adopting a resolution recognizing Andrews' loyal and dedicated service to the town, and on Monday several individuals took the time to personally thank and commend Andrews.
"I've had the privilege of working with Karen the longest of any of the current council members, and today I'm a combination of happy and sad," Council Member Christy Bare said. "She has been a great manager and a great friend who has always been there for me. I am sad she is leaving, but happy for her retirement."
As a town employee who came up through the ranks, Council Member Terry Cobb said he truly respected what Karen has done for Rutherfordton.
"Twenty-one years is a long time, and I admire the longevity," Cobb said. "She's truly going to be missed and her shoes will be tough to fill."
"I'm going to miss her experience more than anything," Council Member Stan Clements commented. "She is the first town manager Rutherfordton has had since switching from the mayor-council government form to the council-manager form."
Town Attorney David Lloyd also paid his respects to Andrews, highlighting the working relationship he has shared with her over the years.
"Of all the town employees I've worked with, I've worked most closely with Karen," Lloyd said. "She has made my job easier, and It's been my great privilege and pleasure to work for her."
Also commending Andrews were county officials including County Commission Chairman Bill Eckler, County Commissioner Julius Owens and County Manager Carl Classen.
Eckler said that while he has had less contact with Andrews than many other officials, all his experiences working with her have been positive. Owens added that Andrews has continued to be a true friend and when he thinks of Rutherfordton, he always thinks of her.
"We certainly appreciate all you've done on a county level," Classen told Andrews. "You've held up the ideals of what we all try to portray."
Now that she is officially retired, Andrews is looking forward to being able to travel more with her husband and spend additional time with her family.
"With Karen, I've gotten to be part of a family of new adventures," said Andrews' husband, Dan. "She has spent 21 years with her Rutherfordton family, and now we're looking forward to these next adventures with each other."
Among the honors Andrews received during her retirement ceremony were a key to the Town of Rutherfordton and a plaque dedicating the council's meeting room as the Karen Andrews Room, an honor presented by Dancy and which brought tears to Andrews' eyes.
"You have been a very important part of this town. Regardless of where we sit around the council table, to have someone like you that we could depend on was instrumental for not only us, but also for the town," Dancy said. "We know this town has meant so much to you. We promise to continue the leadership you instilled and we won't let you down."
"This means more to me than I could ever express," Andrews responded. "It's been a wonderful 21 years, and they've gone by faster than I imagined. This is home, this will always be home."