Most Tuesday city council nights, there’s not a big crowd at city hall. The south section of seating is filled mostly with Norman city staff, there to answer questions. A handful of attorneys, engineers, architects, consultants or property owners may also be on hand, depending on the items on the agenda, and how those items might affect them.
There are a few crowded nights when kids get citizenship awards or Boy Scouts lead the pledge or some major controversy — usually involving zoning — brings out residents and stakeholders to voice heated opinions.
But mostly, it’s a thin crowd.
And then there is the handful of council faithful who always attend and often voice opinions or ask questions. They’re a tough lot — these few souls who show up at dinnertime and sit through hours of council deliberations with meetings often running past the 10 o’clock news and sometimes past bedtime.
No one is paying them to be there. They could be home watching sitcoms like the rest of America.
Instead, they’re paying attention.
Seldom has anyone paid attention better and at more length to Norman City Council meetings than Sylvia Martin. The honor will come at the beginning of the 6 p.m. meeting.
Despite the decrepitude of increasing age and all the challenges that come with that, Sylvia never stopped attending council meetings as long as she was physically able. In her last years, she walked with slow dignity and the assistance of a cane and her friend Anne Gallagher to find a seat reserved for her at the back of the room. On a nearby table was often a microphone that Sylvia could pick up and use when she had questions — and she usually had questions.
Tuesday night, Norman city leaders will recognize Sylvia Martin as the 2014 Recipient of the Citizens Honor Roll of Service.
Sylvia was born in Rice Lake, Wis. on April 3, 1920 to Conrad and Emma Hasemann Gerland. She died on January 5, 2014 at the N. C. Little Hospice in Edina, Minn. She was 93.
Sylvia was preceded in death by her husband Ralph Martin. The couple spent their early marriage living abroad then moved to Norman where both were employed by the University of Oklahoma.
When Martin died in January, longtime Norman attorney Harold Heiple called her a fixture at City Council and Planning Commission meetings.
“Sylvia Martin was an ombudsman, constantly alert for any pending government actions that might not be in the best interest of citizens of Norman. The respect accorded to her was evidenced by the fact that she was the only citizen that had her own chair and her own microphone at Council meetings,” Heiple said.
“She took copious notes on lined paper, in longhand. One did not need a computer to check records to see what happened at City Hall on any particular day. Just ask Sylvia. Always courteous, and appreciative of having her questions answered, she could be a bulldog if she thought the City was going down a slippery slope. She was one of a kind, and she will be missed.”
Norman city leaders will also say “thank you” and “good-bye” to outgoing council members Tom Kovach and Jim Griffith on Tuesday night.
Kovach served as the representative for Ward 2 on the council starting in July 2008. He was instrumental in establishing a park adjacent to Monroe Elementary School and worked to address drainage and flooding issues at Lindsey Street and McGee Avenue and other areas throughout Norman.
Griffith also took his first oath of office in July 2008. He represented Ward 6. An advocate for the development of parks in Norman, he served on the Board of Parks Commissioners for 18 years prior to serving on the city council.
Kovach and Griffith each served a year as Mayor Pro Tem.
Four city council members will take the oath of office on Tuesday — for two of them, it will be the first time. Clint Williams will take the open seat vacated by Kovach, while Jerry Lang will take over for Griffith.
Ward 2 Council member Greg Jungman and Ward 8 Council member Chad Williams will take the oath as returning council members.
Other council business will be decided, including a mayor pro tem and the election of representatives for the Association of Central Oklahoma Governments Board of Directors, the Oklahoma Municipal League Board of Directors, and the Board of Trustees for the City of Norman Retirement System.
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