Last updated: June 23. 2014 6:32PM - 450 Views
By Mindy Kearns Special to the Register

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NEW HAVEN — After 34 consecutive years as a New Haven council member, Sarah Gibbs will be passing that responsibility to another on July 1.

Gibbs was the only incumbent councilmember to not be re-elected in the June 3 municipal election, but she is not bitter.

“A real good man is taking my place,” said Gibbs of council newcomer Vinson “Smitty” Jarrell. “And, there are still two women on the council.”

In Gibbs’ tenure on council, she has seen six mayors come and go: Grayson Williamson, David Russell, Ronnie Zerkle, Steve Smith and Kelvin Honaker. The most recent mayor she served under was her son, George Gibbs.

When asked what it was like to have her son as mayor, Gibbs said, “It was OK. I never thought I would live to get to serve under him. I didn’t even know he was interested in being mayor.”

She continued, “We didn’t disagree on much. We didn’t discuss too much at home. I didn’t want to influence him, and he didn’t want to influence me.”

Public service runs in Gibbs’ family. Along with Sarah and George, Sarah’s father, the late William Kelly, served as mayor in Hartford.

Gibbs said there are many highlights to her council service, but two stand out: getting a new town hall and getting the library. In fact, Gibbs has given almost as many years to the New Haven Library as she has the council. After working 29 years in the accounting department at the former Foote Mineral plant, she retired, but went to work at the library where she has been for “20 some years.” Gibbs still works there on Mondays and Wednesdays, and said it is her favorite activity.

A lot has changed in the Bend Area town since Gibbs took office, she said. More people used to attend council meetings than in recent years; there use to be more businesses in town than there are now; and many of her friends, including two female fellow council members, Frances Taylor and Nell Haymaker, have passed away.

Some things remain ageless, however. Gibbs said small towns continue to struggle financially, and councils always hate to raise water and sewer rates, but must do so to exist.

Gibbs celebrated her 85th birthday June 19 with a party in the council chambers. Her son snapped photos of her family members who attended. Gibbs has a daughter, Marilyn Pierce; two granddaughters, Mary Beth Young and Lora Davis; and three great-grandchildren, Emma, Aden and Ava Young.

An active member of the First Church of God, Gibbs is also a member of the Nehaclima Garden Club.

Gibbs concluded that she gave her successor some advice for serving on council: “Just do what you think is right and you’ll be okay.”

The town will host an open house in honor of Gibbs on Monday, June 30, from 5 to 7 p.m. at the library. A special presentation will take place at 6 p.m., and the public is encouraged to attend.

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