Goodbye my friend

I am honored to have served on the Fort Bragg City Council with Jere Melo and lucky to have called him friend.

I put a Jere Melo for City Council sign on our fence in 1996.  Well actually… Jere wouldn’t put holes in your fence so all his signs came with a couple pieces of rebar and four wire clamps.  No messing around with Jere.

In 2000 I decided to run for one of the two open seats on council.  Jere whooped me good that year.  Lindy here squeaked by.  Two years later I won my seat, and ever since I have thanked my lucky stars that my re-elections didn’t come up against Jere. 

Working with Jere on council was lesson in civility.  He would patiently wait his turn to talk, one finger raised signaling he had something to say, watching with a bemused smile as other council members interrupted each other and carried on in a wholly un-respectful manner.  Jere would hold a finger up until the Mayor called on him and it was always:  “Mr. Mayor, if I might”…  Jere was a gentleman.

And Jere kept it light.  Meg Courtney remembers:  “He used to tell me how much he enjoyed it that we could “pull each other’s tails”, as he would call it, and have fun doing it. I always felt we took a little pride in being different but respectful of each other, and working as a team – something you don’t see a lot of these days in politics.”

I was elected Mayor after Jere’s second term as Mayor and he was seated on the right side of the council.  He would often begin with, “Mr Mayor, if I could offer a voice from the far right”… that Jere twinkle and smile disarming you:  Jere and I didn’t always see eye to eye on issues, but it was never personal.  We argued our positions, listened, argued some more and Left & Right were out the window…  the best for Fort Bragg was the order of the day.  And when we nailed down a good direction that took a lot of work, Jere would do a fist pump and grin for all our hard work.

I appreciated fellow councilmember Doug Hammerstrom’s insightful comment when he said:  “Jere always listened closely to what we said, and that made me try to be extra careful to make sure that what I said was the best I could bring to the discussion.”

Last year when the County had to close the Animal Shelter here we had to figure out how to replace those essential services.  … like lots of small towns we have groups of upstanding citizens with long standing feuds… and in Fort Bragg there has been some tension between groups that love animals.  Both doing good works, but talk about cats and dogs.  Jere and I were both on Public Safety.  Well, guess who didn’t hesitate to start leading the discussions on how we can all work together… Jere would wade into anything… with a smile.

The council gets often inundated with paperwork and reports.  Sometimes its all you can do to read the executive summary.  Jere read it all.  He marked it up, and often he shared his thoughts in a written report. 

I was always impressed how Jere was both a regular working guy, and one of the smartest men I have ever met… and effective.  Councilman Dan Gjerde recently wrote: “Right off the bat, Jere always seemed to know who to call, and he’d always do something practical with the call. His phone calls were always geared to lead to a next step, to a finish line.  In recent years, I saw Jere put his years of contacts, organizational skills and tireless work into literally dozens of projects”.

The last two weeks I keep hearing the same thing from people:  “Jere has made me reconsider my life.  I am going to do more for the things I believe in.”

Maybe if we all pledge to spend 1 hr a year for 20 years we can pick up half the work Jere was doing. Or 2 hours… OK,  boss

Jere Melo was  hardworking,  smart,  thoughtful,  funny,  wise, kind,  generous,  humble,  helpful,  stubborn, and he loved Fort Braggers… and, by God, Fort Bragg loved him.