Guilford County Manager Mike Halford had a lot of facts and figures to give out during the message on his proposed fiscal 2022-2023 county budget, which he gave last week. But he started off that message in an unusual and touching way. Halford began by paying tribute to former Guilford County Commissioner Carolyn Coleman who passed away in January at the age of 79.

“Before I start, I just want to recognize someone who’s not here,” Halford said in an unusual preamble to a budget message.

“This will be my 17th budget that I’ve done with the county – actually 18th. For 17 of those, Commissioner Coleman was here.”

Coleman and Halford didn’t always see eye to eye in those 17 years, but Halford had a great deal of praise for the late commissioner at the meeting last week.

In addition to serving on the Board of Commissioners for 20 years, Halford said of Coleman, that, among other things, she was a fierce community activist with a legacy of civil rights advocacy.

“I’m going to miss her,” he said, standing at the podium before the board on Thursday, May 19. “I know the community misses her. She was chairwoman when I came to Guilford County way back when, and she gave me a very warm welcome then. I enjoyed working with her over the next 16 or 17 years. I enjoyed that sparkle in her eye and her smile when she came asking me to do something – knowing it was going to take a lot of work.”

The manager added, “But what she did is keep that very constant pressure on us, and making sure we considered equity in what we were doing.”

Throughout her years as a Commissioners, Coleman was always focused on making Guilford County government inclusive of minorities.

Halford said the budget that he was about to present tried to honor Coleman’s efforts of promoting diversity in county government.

Halford proceeded to propose a budget that Coleman no doubt would have liked very much. The former commissioner, who had health problems in her last years on the board, was constantly advocating for greater pay and benefits for county employees and Halford is doing that too in the new budget.