FOLLY BEACH — Elvis, John Wayne and Clint Eastwood keep watch over City Hall from their perch as larger-than-life murals on an outside wall at Planet Follywood.
They gaze toward the municipal building across Center Street that housed the office of long-time administrator Toni Connor-Rooks, who served four mayors during 17 years.
She is there no more, but not by her own choosing.
“I’m just here to tell you that I love you guys and love Folly Beach. I didn’t want to leave,” she said.
On Wednesday, the woman who supporters described as the backbone of the community was at a surprise party thrown at the bar to mark her reluctant departure from the position she held for so long. She fought back tears as cheers and applause erupted when she entered the place.
“Make me cry,” she said.
It had been a difficult 24 hours for Connor-Rooks, who on Tuesday night told council that she did not want to put off a pending deal for her $100,000 severance package.
“I cannot work under the present circumstances,” she told the elected officials.
On Wednesday night, Connor-Rooks confirmed that the problem was her unhappy three years under Mayor Tim Goodwin.
“I can tell you now it was the most difficult time of my life in my working career,” she said.
Former Mayors Bob Linville and Vernon Knox were at the bittersweet gathering for Connor-Rooks.
“For eight years, she made me look good,” Knox said.
Linville said Connor-Rooks was forced out. So did Councilman Eddie Ellis, who verbally sparred with Goodwin over the issue during the Tuesday night meeting.
Goodwin said Wednesday that he did not run Connor-Rooks away and did not ask her to retire.
“I didn’t do anything to make anybody’s life miserable,” he said.
He said his only expectation of any employee is to show up for work and perform the job. He said he interacts with town employees about 30 minutes weekly.
Connor-Rooks’ attorney approached the city attorney and said she wanted to retire, Goodwin said.
“This whole process was brought to me. It’s not like I made this decision,” he said.
Goodwin said he did have a difference of opinion with Connor-Rooks about whether she could work from home.
During the Tuesday night meeting, Council unanimously approved the severance package for Connor-Rooks.
Before the vote, Ellis said he was so angry over how Connor-Rooks was being treated that he would terminate his contract with the city under which he provides landscaping services.
“I ain’t working for you. I wouldn’t even poop in your yard if I was a dog. And I’m running for mayor next spring and I’m going to beat you,” Ellis told Goodwin.
Goodwin replied, “Well good, now that you’re finished politicking Eddie, thank you very much.”
Ellis said the talk on the street has been that Goodwin and Connor-Rooks had a contentious relationship that led to her desire to retire.
Ellis said his landscaping contract with the city is 40 percent of his summer income and up to 80 percent of his income in winter.
“It’s going to hurt me, but I have faith it will work out,” he said.
Meanwhile, Connor-Rooks will be starting a new life at her James Island home.
“I have a lot of great memories. I love this place,” she said.
Reach Prentiss Findlay at 937-5711