'This will always be home'
After more than two decades serving Rutherfordton as town manager, Karen Andrews announced her notice of retirement to the Town Council during its closed session on Wednesday evening at Rutherfordton Town Hall.
"It was a difficult decision to make," Andrews said. "This group of folks here is my family."
A native of Rutherfordton, Andrews began her position as town manager in May 1993. When she retires on March 31, 2014, she will have worked for her hometown for 20 years and 10 months.
"Working as town manager has been an opportunity for me, personally, to give back to a community that helped raise me," Andrews said. "There have been opportunities for me to help people in the community, which has been very rewarding."
One of Andrews' most memorable opportunities was assisting an elderly woman who wanted town services like garbage collection, but her property was not located within Rutherfordton city limits.
"I told her we couldn't do that unless her property was within the city limits, but then I went to talk with the county tax department and found out this lady was eligible for the Homestead Exemption," Andrews said. "Turns out she owned her property and we were able to annex her property adjacent to the city limits, and she was then able to receive services. When I would still see her downtown from time to time, she would come hug me and thank me. It really made a difference in her life, and that's what you hope for."
Except for three years spent working for Tanner Companies, all of Andrews' working life has been with a non-profit or a governmental unit.
Prior to becoming town manager, she worked as a business manager at First Methodist Church in Rutherfordton and spent time on Capitol Hill in Washington, D.C. as a congressional intern and later as the finance and administrative officer for the Select Committee on Narcotics Abuse and Control.
Once she retires, Andrews is looking forward to being able to travel more with her husband and spend additional time with her family.
"We enjoy going to see places and having new experiences together," she said. "I will also have more time to spend with my mom, who is in very good health."
While Andrews has numerous fond memories working as town manager, at times her job was not void of challenges.
"Not being able to actually help people in the way that they feel they need to be helped is challenging. Our hands are tied a lot of times in what we are allowed to do," she said. "Sometimes there are things that we would love to do but by law we can't and that can be frustrating. But it doesn't happen that way most of the time — most of the time we're able to figure out a way to help."
Like many town managers, Andrews keeps a copy of the Athenian Oath in her office as a reminder of her commitment to serving the town.
We will never bring disgrace on this our City by an act of dishonesty or cowardice.
We will fight for the ideals and Sacred Things of the City both alone and with many.
We will revere and obey the City's laws, and do our best to incite a like reverence and respect in those who are prone to annul them or set them at naught.
We will strive increasingly to quicken the public's sense of civic duty.
Thus in all these ways we will transmit this City, not only not less, but greater and more beautiful than it was transmitted to us.
"Being a town manager has given me chances to help make somebody's life better and allowed me to have a hand in making sure the town has the means to progress," Andrews said. "This is home, this will always be home."