City Council says farewell to Molly Leight as John Larson takes the oath

City Council says farewell to Molly Leight as John Larson takes the oath
December 08
05:00 2016



After a decade representing the South Ward, Molly Leight held the Bible for her successor, John Larson, as he took the oath to become the newest member of the Winston-Salem City Council on Monday, Dec. 5.

Larson, who is retiring as vice president of restoration at Old Salem, was asked by Leight to run for the South Ward seat when she decided not to seek re-election. Larson faced Carolyn Highsmith in the Democratic primary and narrowly lost by six votes. He challenged the election, due to the wrong ballots being given to voters, and the State BOE had the South Ward primary held again in June, which he decisively won.

He also defeated his Republican opponent in the general election to finally claim the seat he took for the first time on Monday.

“It’s an honor for me to be here sitting in Molly Leight’s seat,” said Larson. “I’ll try to fill it.”

Larson said the City Council works best when it works together. He said that Leight’s election in 2005 turned the council from a “form of contention to a collaborative series of colleagues.”

“She created a new respect for the office and for the council, as well as for herself, through quiet competence and through her cheerful disposition both on the board and off the board,” said Larson.

Leight defeated conservative City Council Member Vernon Robinson, whose vitriolic style and views made him a source of conflict.  The members of the council echoed Larson’s comments that Leight had been a good colleague during her tenure. Derwin Montgomery said he learned from Leight when to ask the right questions. Jeff MacIntosh praised her passion and integrity.

“I thank you for being the type of lady who loves everybody,” said Mayor Pro Tempore Vivian Burke, “who appreciates and understands diversity and respecting the culture of all people.”

Leight is a Winston-Salem native, who grew up in Izmir, Turkey, where she resided through high school. After that she returned to Winston-Salem to attend Salem College and ultimately earned a master’s degree from Emory University in Atlanta, Georgia. She had retired from being a research assistant when members of the City Council encouraged her to run.

Leight said that she’s tried to keep inappropriate business development out of South Ward neighborhoods, especially those around Peters Creek Parkway. She said she’s proud of ordinances she’s passed that have helped improve the quality of life in the city, like one that requires developers to keep a percentage of mature trees on land they use.

Leight has served on many boards over the years and currently chairs the Gateway YWCA board. She’s a master gardner and a frequent traveler with the N.C. Zoological Society on African safaris and other exotic trips.

Leight hopes she can maintain her friendships with council members. She said she plans to let them know how they’re doing in the monthly public comment sessions during council meetings.

“It’s not goodbye, it’s so long,” said Leight.

The rest of the incumbents on the City Council and Mayor Allen Joines also took their oaths during the meeting. The council re-elected Burke as mayor pro tempore. They also approved committee appointments. Larson will serve on the public safety and public works committees.   Joines said the city will address numerous challenges in the new year, including poverty.  In 2014, more than 24 percent of city residents lived in poverty. The mayor’s Poverty Thought Force is finalizing its suggestions on how to significantly decrease local poverty.

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Todd Luck

Todd Luck

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