Longtime Stanley town employee, council member steps down

Page News and Courier

STANLEY — A decision needed to be made at the Nov. 9 town council meeting. The town had received two bids from companies to replace water meters. The bid the council preferred would not be enough to replace 150 meters.

Martha Graves, three-term council member, and town employee in various capacities since 1969, pondered the situation for a moment before offering a suggestion: "Negotiate with them and see if they'll replace the 150 extra meters for the same price."

Town Manager Terry Pettit, who inherited the position after Graves' retirement in 2001, started at her blankly for a few seconds before offering his reply: "That's not how this kind of thing works."

After offering her rebuttals of "Why not?" and "It won't hurt to try," a formal motion was made to negotiate with the company. The next month, at the Dec. 14 meeting, Pettit came back to the council with news that the company had agreed to their terms.

"That was a typical Martha move," said Mayor Doug Purdham. "It's that voice crying out in the wilderness; that's what she's good at."

Graves, 71, is a lifelong resident of Stanley who first began working for the town in 1969, as a clerk and treasurer. She ultimately became the Town Manager, serving in that capacity for more than 20 years until her retirement in 2001.

"I started working here a long time ago — It's my hometown, of which I'm proud of," Graves said. "Anything I could do to help, I was more than glad to do that."

Graves was initially appointed to fill a town council vacancy shortly after her retirement.

"I had retired, and six months later they had a council member move out of town and they needed to make an appointment," Graves said. "They asked me, and I thought that I had the knowledge of the town needed for the role, so I went ahead and tried it."

Graves enjoyed her work on the council, and decided to run for election in 2004, 2008 and 2012. She did not win in her bid for re-election this November, losing in a 3-way race for two positions to first-time candidates Jeremiah Knight and Jason Campbell.

She was not surprised by the outcome, and noted that she almost decided not to run for a fourth term.

"I started not to run, but the week before the deadline to register I saw that nobody else had, so I figured I would try it one more time," Graves said.

Youth voters helped Knight and Campbell win, Graves theorized.

"Due to my age, and the fact that a lot of the senior citizens have passed on, and the younger ones may now know me as well as they knew the other guys, I think that why they chose them," Graves said. "But, thankfully, we have two young guys who will step up to the plate."

Graves added that patience and an ability to listen will be essential to the new members success.

"It's a lot to comprehend, and you can't go in and just start doing things without knowing the background," Graves said. "I think they will listen."

Her extensive knowledge of the town's finances was brought up by Mayor Purdham, as well as town employees Leon Stout and Norma Cubbage, as what separated Graves from other council members.

"Martha's financial knowledge will be greatly missed," Purdham said. "She was the go-to person when it was time to consider moving CD's or cashing them to pay for unexpected expenses. That's what she did, and she was excellent at it."

Cubbage also pointed out Graves' dedication to Stanley as a whole.

"The town is of the utmost importance to her," Cubbage said. "You couldn't ask for anybody better. She has taught us all well, and I am forever grateful for that."

Purdham called Graves an "absolute jewel," and that her dedication to the town was second to none.

"I know I used to worry Martha during my early days as mayor, when it came time to get on stage and speak," Purdham said. "She was never sure of how I was going to act, or what I was going to say. She was rather fretful about that."

Purdham eventually convinced Graves that he could be trusted with a live microphone.

"She eventually got to where she trusted me and knew that I wasn't really going to embarrass the town," Purdham said. "She was always worried about how the town was represented when it came time for things like the Homecoming ceremony."

When asked what she believes will be her legacy to the Town of Stanley, Graves gave a noncommittal "Oh, I don't know." After thinking for a moment, she responded: "I did what I could and tried to do the best for the town."

According to the mayor, she did much more than that.

"We will never have another Martha Graves," Purdham said. "She was just wonderful and such a great asset to the town."

More news

Subscribe to our mailing list
Twitter  FaceBook  RSS