By Sarrah Peters
After 32 years, Robert “Bob” Wooten Echols, Jr., attended his last city council meeting as a council member on Tuesday, Oct. 30.
Members of the city council, employees of the city and many others took the opportunity to honor Echols for his many years of service, both at the council meeting and afterwards at a ceremony at The Venue held to honor him.
Gadsden Mayor Sherman Guyton presented Echols with a proclamation at city council, sharing details from Echols’ life and proclaiming Oct. 30, 2018 as Robert W. Echols, Jr. Day in Gadsden.
Echols graduated from Gadsden High School in 1946, going on to attend Snead State Junior College at the University of Alabama-Gadsden Center. Echols worked at Life Insurance Company of Alabama from 1958 until he retired in 2000. He first started serving the City of Gadsden in 1976 by serving on Water Works and Sewer boards. He was first elected to the Gadsden City Council District 4 in 1986, the first year Gadsden had a city council, as it had previously operated with a commission format. Echols served on the council for eight terms until he decided not to run for a ninth term in order to retire.
Guyton recognized some of the contributions Echols made to the city during his terms, including “unity among elected officials, paving and draining improvements, community development,” and providing support to city schools for many aspects of education including technology and the fine arts.
“Councilman Echols saw the need for to improve access for services and assistance for those in need through collaboration and close proximity to agencies and was instrumental in establishing a multi-agency center, which was named the Robert W. Echols, Jr. Family Success Center in his honor,” said Guyton.
After the council meeting proclamation, Echols thanked his family and others.
“If I started trying to thank everybody, we’d be here until Christmas,” Echols said. “But I want everybody to know that most of the time, I was proud of everybody. I was proud of this council.”
Echols also expressed hope for the future of the council.
During closing remarks, each council member expressed gratitude to Echols for his support, guidance and leadership throughout the years.
At the ceremony at The Venue, even more community members expressed their gratitude to Echols.
Executive Director of the Robert W. Echols, Jr. Family Success Center Tammy Jackson thanked Echols for his continued support of the center and presented him with a proclamation for being a “true Family Success Center superhero.”
Ray Renfrow of the Life Insurance Company of Alabama presented Echols with a Letter of Appreciation.
On behalf of State Rep. Craig Ford, Etowah County Probate Judge Bobby Junkins presented Echols with a proclamation.
Guyton presented Echols with the key to the City of Gadsden.
“When he [Echols] speaks, everybody listens,” said Guyton.
City Council President Deverick Williams spoke to the crowd.
“Mr. Echols, I think, in front of all these folks, in front of all these witnesses, you represent greatness in my eyes and I appreciate you,” said Williams. “You should be very proud both as an elected official, as a citizen, as a professional and as a husband and father of all the things you’ve accomplished.”
City Clerk Iva Nelson, who first worked with Echols at the Life Insurance Company of Alabama, presented Echols with several gifts from the city council and city workers including a clock, an engraved pen set and a notebook full of photos and letters from people Echols has served with.
Everyone at the ceremony was invited to write a message to Echols on thank-you cards provided at the entrance to the event.