Guilford County Commissioner Carolyn Coleman, who faced several health issues in recent years, passed away this week and it’s no surprise that there was an outpouring of love for her.
But what especially says a lot about Coleman and her life is that even those who were fierce political adversaries spoke movingly about her.
Coleman, who was perhaps the most liberal Democrat on the Guilford County Board of Commissioners, frequently got into verbal tiffs with the Republicans on the board over the years.
However, after her death, those adversaries were united in their praise of the fiery, outspoken Democrat who agreed with them on virtually nothing.
Republican Commissioner Justin Conrad posted on his Facebook page, “Carolyn and I were political polar opposites but developed a mutual respect and friendship over the years. We sat next to each other for six of the seven years I have been on the board and more than one chairman threatened to separate us. She would often tell me I was her ‘favorite Republican’ and I would remind her that was a low bar for her. While her body had failed her for years, her wit and sharp mind never left her.”
Conrad, who’s often out deep sea fishing when not working, added: “I will miss our honest and frank conversations, her sense of humor, and our mutual love of the ocean and all things related to it.”
Former Guilford County Commissioner Hank Henning, who was often the subject of a rant by Coleman at commissioner’s meetings when he said something she didn’t like, said this week that he will miss Coleman and even miss those political battles they had.
“Politically we didn’t agree on many things,” Henning said, “but I will miss her,”
Guilford County BJ Barnes was another adversary of Coleman’s. In fact, before Coleman was a commissioner, Barnes arrested her at a protest. Barnes said she never forgot about it, and, after she became a commissioner, almost always voted against his requests for the Sheriff’s Department because of that arrest.
Even during the arrest the two got along.
“I brought her a cup of coffee as she waited to be processed,” Barnes said. “She was dumbfounded.”
After her death, Barnes posted on the Rhino Times website: “She would not back down, though small in height, she was large in heart,” and he added. “If Carolyn makes it to heaven, and I hope she does, she will be organizing a march or demonstration of some kind. Rest in peace Carolyn. It won’t be the same without you.”
Coleman’s most heated arguments during her two decades as a commissioner were unquestionably with the ultra-conservative former Guilford County Commissioner Alan Branson, who this year is running to regain a seat on the board. The two of them got into it so often that their battles became a running joke for the rest of the board.
Sometimes they looked really mad and sometimes they seemed to be arguing just for the fun of it. Branson always knew exactly what to say to get under Coleman’s skin and get her going. But, this week, Branson had very kind words for his political nemesis.
He wrote in a Facebook post: “It is with great sorrow that we have lost a trailblazer in Guilford County. My prayers are with Mrs. Coleman’s family and friends. It was an honor to serve on the Board of Commissioners with her for eight years. The words I will always remember her saying are, ‘I will pray for you Mr. Branson,’ and then she would chuckle. Rest In Peace Mrs. Carolyn Coleman.”