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Bill Stuart in 2006.

Bryce “Bill” Stuart retired from his post as Winston-Salem city manager in 2006, but his reputation has lasted long past his career. It’s proper to mourn the passing of a committed community servant and praise the good work he did as Winston-Salem’s longest-serving city manager.

Stuart died last week at age 79.

Our city leaders — the Board of Aldermen at the time — snagged him from Charlotte, where he had worked as an assistant manager, in 1980.

“We were very pleased and happy when we hired him,” Mayor Pro Tem Vivian Burke said in a statement. “We were all in agreement. He was very, very committed. He said he could move this city forward.”

And he did. He guided the city through difficult times that included our change from a tobacco and manufacturing powerhouse to a city with a more diverse economy. He handled challenging budgets, unpopular annexations and city layoffs. On his watch, Winston-Salem became the second city in the U.S. to receive a AAA bond rating from all three national rating agencies, which allowed Winston-Salem to borrow money for construction projects at the best possible rate.

Fairly or unfairly, the buck often stopped at his desk. But he handled the city’s challenges with equanimity. He was “calm, thoughtful and reliable,” Councilman Dan Besse said when Stuart retired.

Former alderman and state Rep. Larry Womble said at the time that Stuart deserved credit for many things, from putting the city on firm financial ground to opening the door for minorities to take leadership positions in city government.

Following a nationwide search for Stuart’s replacement, his assistant, Lee Garrity, was chosen as the next city manager. He’s served ably ever since.

Stuart had a special relationship with Allen Joines, who, before becoming mayor in 2001, worked as development director, assistant city manager and deputy city manager under Stuart. When he became mayor, their dynamic shifted.

“He made it very easy for me,” Joines told the Journal last week. “The day after I got elected, he called a staff meeting and told everybody ‘From now on, he’s not Allen. He’s the mayor.’ Bill was the consummate professional.”

Winston-Salem would not be the city it is now without Stuart’s contributions. We appreciate his hard work, steady leadership and the example he set for public servants.

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