“It’s been quite a ride,” Sherry Dunaway says with a smile. The native Gastonian is talking about her more than 33 years working for the City. She started in the Legal Department, then worked the majority of her years in the Police Department. About five years ago, she became the city clerk.
“There are many milestones I am proud of, but I am most proud of how I worked my way up to city clerk,” she says. “I feel like I have served the citizens to the best of my ability.”
The city clerk keeps the City’s permanent records. That means attending every City Council meeting and transcribing the minutes. She keeps City ordinances up to date. The clerk also serves as a liaison between the City’s elected officials and its employees.
And the phone on Dunaway’s desk rings all day long. Nearly every question that citizens ask, she can answer off the top of her head. For the few callers whose questions stump the clerk, Dunaway knows who to contact to get the answer. “My goal is to always try to get people an answer or put them in touch with someone who can,” she says.
The mayor and members of the City Council had plenty of praise for Dunaway when she was honored at the June 16 Council meeting.
“This is bittersweet,” Mayor Walker Reid said of her retirement. “But all good things must come to an end. Your personality, your work ethic and your friendship have meant a lot. We will miss you,” Reid said.
Another long-term member of the Council also had high praise for Dunaway. Mayor Pro Tem Dave Kirlin thanked her for doing her job “dependably, faithfully and cheerfully,” and said he had never heard Dunaway complain.
Councilman Robert Kellogg thanked Dunaway for making the jobs of councilmembers easier. He called her a “ray of sunshine” and said he didn’t know if she ever stopped smiling. Councilman Jim Gallagher said, from his first day on the City Council, Dunaway made him “feel right at home.” Councilwoman Jennifer Stepp said Dunaway has a “servant’s heart” and said she would miss the clerk’s “sweet smile and sweet spirit.”
First-term councilwoman Donyel Barber said she “admires” Dunaway. She thanked the clerk for making her feel welcome and for all that Dunaway has done for the City. Charles Odom, also in his first term on Council, described Dunaway as “remarkable” and said, “I wish there were more people like you who present the spirit of love that you show.”
Dunaway plans to stay busy in retirement. She and her husband, Dean, own an estate-sale business called Finders Keepers. She has two adult sons and three granddaughters who give her even more reasons to smile.
“I am so thankful that I have been able to have a long career with the City of Gastonia,” she says. Dunaway specifically mentions the City's benefits package and retirement plan. “It is a great place to work and I am proud of our City and employees. They do a great job every day.”
And if you couldn’t tell, she’s still smiling!