April 14, 1950 - January 3, 2020 Wanda Merschel, Neighborhood Advocate and City Council Member, Spearheaded Downtown Revitalization. Wanda Merschel left her family on January 3, 2020 after a prolonged illness. In 1989, John and Wanda Merschel moved to the city's West End neighborhood and began refurbishing their early 1900s home. Interest and involvement in preserving the historic nature of the West End -- along with its gateway proximity to downtown -- spurred two decades of public service for Wanda who would serve as President of the West End Association and become the longest serving female chair of the City Council's Finance Committee. Born Wanda Sink in 1950, she was the daughter of the late Edith Russell and graduated from West Forsyth High School. Upon graduation she began a long and distinguished career in banking retiring from Piedmont Federal Savings Bank in 2015 as its senior vice-president and chief marketing officer. Drawing on her love of classic movies and desire to expose more people to downtown, Wanda and her team created Piedmont Federal's "It's a Wonderful Life" campaign in 2012. Those who visited downtown during that holiday season were wowed by elaborate window displays on Fourth Street and free screenings of the holiday favorite at a/perture cinema. In return, moviegoers were asked to support local charities. The campaign just completed its 7th year with free screenings and charity support in Wilkes and Watauga Counties. As President of the West End Association, the city's oldest neighborhood association, Wanda guided the organization as it established the city's first Historic Overlay District a designation that allows for appropriate development and stabilizes and enhances property values for homeowners. In 1997, Wanda was successful in her election to what was then the Winston-Salem Board of Aldermen. In 2001, she became chair of the Board's (the Board of Aldermen became City Council in 2003) Finance Committee navigating through some of the city's most financially difficult years, while still maintaining its AAA bond rating. Along with the mayor and key members of city staff, Wanda was instrumental in creating innovative, yet fiscally responsible, economic assistance packages that created jobs and grew the city's tax base. During her 16 years on City Council, Wanda was known as a consensus builder and a straight shooter who viewed issues through the lens of the city's citizens always asking what would be the impact on neighbors? She frequently guided new council members through the complex machinations of committee meetings and council sessions, while forging respectful bonds with more seasoned colleagues and city staff. A walk through downtown will highlight many of Wanda's greatest achievements. She often called downtown "a living room for the community," adding "you can't have a vibrant city without a vibrant downtown." Tapping into her finance background and her sense of aesthetics, she pushed for initiatives that allowed for a more vibrant downtown ranging from redesigning walkways and planting trees to the construction of BB&T Ballpark. She initiated "Restaurant Row," which breathed life into downtown, making it a top destination for new businesses and culinary entrepreneurs. Through the use of tax credits, she worked to help finance the residential conversion of the historic Nissen Building and infrastructure improvements in the Wake Forest Innovation Quarter. In 2013 after she announced she would not seek re-election, the City Council voted to rename the long-planned Civic Plaza to Merschel Plaza to honor Wanda's dedication and contribution to the citizens of Winston-Salem. Now envisioned as Merschel Park, it will be a central gathering place that includes green spaces, areas for outdoor dining and, at the request of Wanda, features that honor the contribution of women to the city's civic life. "I have been fortunate to learn from women of all walks of life who taught me that calmness, patience and serenity will always yield a better outcome," she said. It was her hope that, when completed later this year, the namesake park will be a place where people can reflect on the inspiring roles and qualities that women have brought to public service. In public and in private life Wanda was tenacious and gracious. Her positive attitude and belief that all things were possible guided her professionally and personally. After her years of tireless service to the city, Wanda was happiest surrounded by friends and family at a Wake Forest basketball game, a Winston-Salem Dash baseball game, traveling to see a favorite musician, camping in the North Carolina mountains or the South Carolina coast and enjoying any downtown restaurant. She is survived by her husband John Merschel (and beloved dog Rudy) and children Karen Johnson, Wendy Johnson, Lisa Merschel, Jeff Merschel, John Merschel and Kate Merschel Dailey. A visitation will be held Friday, January 10 from 5 p.m. to 8 p.m. at Salem Funeral and Cremation Services, 2951 Reynolda Road, Winston Salem. Donations in Wanda's memory can be made to the Downtown Winston -Salem Foundation in of support Merschel Park. Donations can be made by mail at, Downtown Winston-Salem Foundation, 305 West Fourth Street, Suite 2E Winston -Salem, NC 27101. Online condolences may be made through www.salemfh.com Salem Funeral and Cremation Service 2951 Reynolda Rd., Winston-Salem, NC,27106
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