Laura Graff, who covers city government for the Winston-Salem Journal, attended her last city council meeting tonight.
The meeting, a public hearing on the city manager’s recommended 2012-2013 budget, was mostly an opportunity for council members to listen to the public, but Councilwoman Wanda Merschel, who chairs the finance committee, said council members might make remarks on one topic.
Merschel persuaded the visibly embarrassed Graff to stand and come up to the podium. Members of the audience spontaneously applauded the reporter.
“We just wanted to take the opportunity to thank you,” Merschel said. “You have always, I think, been fair, and you’ve worked really hard to get the material for your column, and I know Jeff Green knows he is losing a valuable asset to Winston.”
Merschel kidded Graff about being nervous at the podium considering how many citizens she’s written about who have stood in that spot.
“I’ve really enjoyed covering you guys,” Graff said. “I think that all of you have been really helpful.”
Graff told council members she’s returning to her home state of Ohio to work for “a really awesome newspaper” in Columbus – presumably the Columbus Dispatch – but her brother lives in Winston-Salem, so she’ll be back to visit.
“Laura’s one of the best reporters we’ve had covering City Hall in my many, many years being in City Hall,” Mayor Allen Joines said. “Very fair, but a talented writer. And a tough reporter, as she should be. So best of luck in Ohio.”