SUMMERVILLE -- The man who has been the face of this town for nearly a half century is stepping down.
Mayor Berlin G. Myers, 94, won't run in the May election for the post he has held for 10 terms. A town official said Myers informed him of his decision today.
"It's going to shock a lot of people," said Ricky Waring, the town's mayor pro tem. "It will be the biggest change the town has ever seen in its political history. He's been in office 45 years, half his life, longer than most people are old. Somebody has got some big shoes to fill."
Myers began a term on Town Council in 1965. He is the oldest and one of the longest-serving mayors still in office in the state. He has served three years longer than Charleston Mayor Joe Riley. He is such an emblem of the town that a sculpture of his likeness was unveiled at Town Hall last year.
The lumber company owner has run the place with courtly graciousness and a steely businessman's eye. He oversaw its growth from a little town of 3,000 people to a suburban hub more than 13 times that size, surrounded by subdivisions of people attracted to its old-fashioned charm.
In an interview earlier this year, Myers said he wanted to build it up. He wanted to take a place of about 3,000 residents, whose children were moving away, and make it a place where people wanted to live.
Myers can tell you this day what the budget was when he began and count the employees on both hands, said Waring, who grew up under Myers' tutelage and worked as a town employee for more than 30 years. Myers is so much a part of the place, that the the mayor pro tem stopped cold when asked what the town will be like without Myers running.
Myers keeps his eyes on the books and comments in council meetings mostly when it is a matter of dollars and cents. Otherwise, he sits quietly as council members debate volatile issues. If the vote comes in tied, he announces his breaker vote with a simple rap of the gavel and moves on to other business.
"He's run a tight ship most of my career. He could be tough when he needed to be, but he was a great person to work for," Waring said.
Myers is man of his traditions, always filing for re-election the day filing opens and then not campaigning. If the people want him, they'll vote for him, he'd say.
On Tuesday, when filing opened, he didn't put in his name and speculation began. Waring said Myers has been wavering over the decision.
When asked today about the speculation, Myers said coyly, "I'll have something to tell you tomorrow."