A life of public service full of firsts
by CLIFF AND NANCY HILL
To everything there is a season, there’s a right time for everything. For Rockford’s Mary Eadie that time was in making the decision not to run for re-election this year for her incumbent seat on the Rockford City Council.
Motivated, in part, by a desire to go out on top on her own terms Mary tells us, “It was one of the hardest decisions I’ve ever made. But at the same time, I knew in my heart it was time to leave and turn the page to begin a new chapter in the book of my life.”
And what a book it is! Over a decades long period of 32 years (1980–2012), Mary served 12 consecutive undefeated terms on the Rockford City Council. In doing so, Mary established numerous “firsts” while serving on the City Council. Mary was the first female ever elected to the Council. She was the first female Mayor Pro tem (1984-1986). She was the first female Mayor of the City of Rockford (1986-1988). And upon her “retirement” from Council, Mary will have been the longest serving Council Member in the history of Rockford.
Additionally, Mary served as Mayor Pro tem in 1993, 1995, 1999-2000, and 2003-2004.
Mary was instrumental in establishing the Rockford Downtown Development Authority, Rockford’s newly created Public Safety Department, and the implementation of a Five-Year Capital Improvement Plan for the City.
Mary was not alone for those 32 years. At her side every step of the way was the love of her life, her right-hand man, husband Jim Eadie. The couple has been married for 60 years and resides to this day in their first and only home on Main Street in the heart of Rockford. The year was 1952, the couple had met while working together in the original WWW shoe factory (also on Main St.), fallen in love, and married.
“When the kids came along, I stopped working and became a full-time homemaker and mother,” said Mary. Today she and Jim are the proud parents of a son and three daughters (one set of twins) and the grandparents of 13 grandchildren, three of which are currently serving in the Armed Forces.
Mary is especially proud of her children and their achievements. Son James holds a PHD in Pharmaceutical Chemistry and Molecular Biology, daughter Jerri is an emergency room Registered Nurse, daughter Terri is a Registered Pharmacist, and daughter Tracy is a Pediatric Medical Doctor.
Back to work and a life of public service
When the twins, being the youngest, began first grade Mary became a working mom and began a 13-year career (1966-1979) serving as a first ever “Para-Pro” for the Rockford School System.
In 1980, with the kids grown, Mary simultaneously took two new directions in her life. She traded her job with Rockford Schools and became the housekeeper/custodian for her Rockford United Methodist Church home (1980-1998).
(As a side note, when Mary later retired from her duties at RUMC on July 1 of 1998, husband Jim followed suit the following day and, after 52 years, retired from WWW.)
However, being a RUMC staff member was not enough. Mary also felt a need to volunteer in the community and what better way than to run for an open seat on the Rockford City Council. (Volunteer is correct, folks. Even though elected, Rockford City Councilors receive no pay for their public service.)
In 1980 Mary was elected by the voters of Rockford to serve as a Rockford City Councilor, a position she will hold until Election Day – November 6, 2012.
While serving the people of Rockford on City Council, Mary is particularly proud of numerous significant and singular achievements that occurred during her tenure. In no particular order, but all equally important, Mary mentioned the following:
“Our school system is the envy of the State. We’ve established an enduring partnership between the Rockford School System and the City of Rockford. Hand-in-hand we’ve worked together for the benefit of the entire greater Rockford community,” said Mary.
“In another partnership, Rockford joined forces with four surrounding townships to plan, construct, and bring on-line a state-of-the-art waste water treatment facility (North Kent Sewer Authority) that allowed the communities to sever ties with the Grand Rapids system. The accrued savings that will benefit all of us over ensuing years will be substantial.”
“All of these 32 years, Rockford has operated with balanced budgets and lowered its tax millage over the years from 14.7 to 10.9 – one of the lowest in Kent County.”
Mary never fails to mention Rockford’s beautiful and walkable streetscape. “With the help of the DDA and grant monies, we’ve developed a substantial park system with associated trails. Our Dam area and parks are absolutely beautiful and have played a role in Rockford becoming a destination city.”
Fun while in office – you bet! Mary lists performing weddings as Mayor, ribbon-cutting and dedication ceremonies, and participation in Mayor-exchange programs between various Michigan cities to name a few of many. “Being on Council, especially while attending regional meetings, was always an educational learning experience which I absolutely enjoyed. And I’ll never forget when, during the Flood of ’87, I found myself as Mayor alongside hundreds of volunteers filling sand bags at the Rockford Dam to protect the City, and the Dam itself, from the deluge of the century.”
Leaving office, Mary has one additional hope for the City in the near term. “I would love to see lodging brought to Rockford, particularly a boutique hotel. There’s just such a need and I’m not alone in feeling this way. Wouldn’t it be wonderful if Wolverine could find a way to fill some of the vacant green space where the tannery once stood with a place to accommodate the ever growing numbers of overnight out-of-town visitors who are forced to seek lodging elsewhere.”
Now, in the final few days leading up to Mary’s last day in office current Rockford City Manager Michael Young, one of three Mary has worked with over the years, has this to say, “Mary brought a heightened level of grace and dignity to the City that has helped us position Rockford as one of the most desirable communities in the State. At a time where some people are becoming more frustrated with government, Mary is an example of the volunteerism and community spirit that makes Rockford so special. Positive people make positive contributions and Mary has been an example for all of us to follow.”
For Mary’s part she tells us, “It’s been my honor, my privilege, and a total blessing to serve the people of Rockford these many years. I want to thank each and everyone who voted for me for their trust and their faith.”
Your reporters, who have known Mary for many years believe that she was of another era and was possessed of no agenda, personal or otherwise. This singularly outstanding woman was simply motivated by selfless dedication to the City she loved and to the best interests of its peoples.
Towards that end Mary Eadie succeeded greatly!