Creating change, affecting community, while being a gentleman

“Hello, Melanie,” Cy said as he took his place in his city council seat, always two spots down from where I sit in the chambers.

He gave me a smile and a nod.

“Are you ready?” he asked. “I think tonight’s going to be a bumpy ride.”

I said I was.

“There’s a lot to talk about, this is some big stuff,” he added.

There was a lot of “big stuff” that happened during Cy North’s tenure as a city councilman. The city went to work on the quiet zone, the ballfield complex and took ownership of the convention center – just to name a few projects.

In 2007, he was appointed to the city council when then-mayor, Greg Adams, took a seat in the Nebraska Unicameral. When Adams left for that state lawmaker position, Council President Chuck Harris became mayor and in turn appointed Cy to fill the vacancy after reviewing 25 applications.

Cy already had plenty to do – he had his longstanding business and he was already very busy with memberships to multiple boards within the community.

But Chuck asked and Cy accepted.

It didn’t take me long to realize Cy meant business. He wasn’t there to put another accomplishment on his long resume and he wasn’t there to be popular. He was only there to serve the York community and represent the constituency the best he could.

When topics were murky and uncomfortable, Cy would simply say it was time for him “to play devil’s advocate so we can have more discussion.” Council members would chuckle because that’s how Cy told them it was time to stop skirting around the controversy and handle the topic head on.

After lively conversation, he would simply ask, “Has everyone spoke their peace?” and make the motion.

He never yelled, he never was aggressive. He just calmly asked questions to promote the conversation and worked to find resolve.

In other words, he was a true gentleman.

Don’t get me wrong, he was steadfast in what he believed and staunchly defended what he felt were the right things to do for the City of York. But he was always willing to hear different opinions and consider the other side of an argument. He opened the door for debate, when it would have been easier to shut it down.

I’ve been sitting in my press chair in the council chambers for more than 20 years now and I’ve seen all kinds of personalities come and go. What I remember about Cy’s time on the council and the planning commission is that he was there to serve. He truly wanted to see York grow and its citizens thrive.

Everyone knew what he felt, but he did it in a way that was respectful, calm, professional and with an open mind.

I was so sad Tuesday to learn of his passing. Not only did York lose a great advocate, York lost an amazing man who truly believed in this community and the ability of everyone to work together toward a collective good.

Yesterday, I was talking to Chuck (Harris), Cy’s longtime friend, about Cy’s passing.

I heard myself say, “What I learned from Cy was that you don’t have to be loud to create change. You can be a gentleman and achieve even more.”

That realization sparked this column.

Cy North was a true gentleman in every way, in all his roles, in all those seats he filled in our town.

We were blessed by his service.

 

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