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Betty Slade honored with Leader's Legacy bench

Posted: October 9, 2018 12:53 p.m.
Updated: October 9, 2018 12:49 p.m.
Martin L. Cahn/C-I

Betty Horton Slade (front, center), with her husband, Larry, standing behind her, is surrounded by her family as she enjoys her first chance to sit on a Leader’s Legacy bench dedicated in her honor on Tuesday afternoon. The bench is located under a large shade tree on the north side of Rectory Square. Slade worked with the city of Camden starting in 1982, becoming the city clerk shortly thereafter -- a position she held until her retirement in 2010. Slade worked with five city managers, five mayors and various iterations of Camden City Council.

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Betty Horton Slade, who served as the city of Camden’s clerk for most of the 28 years she worked at city hall, received the honor of having a Leader’s Legacy bench dedicated in her name Tuesday afternoon. The bench is under a large shade tree on the north side of Rectory Square.

According to former Mayor Mary Clark, Slade joined the city in 1982 after being offered a position twice; she was soon promoted to city clerk. Around the same time, Clark recalled, neighbors at a party she was attending prompted her to run for city council.

“I ran and, surprisingly, I won. I knew I was a duly-elected city council member, but there was one problem with this. I didn’t know exactly what I was supposed to do,” Clark said. “That was when Betty came into my life and said, ‘I’ll help you,’ and she told me all the ins and outs of being a good council member. She did not tell me how to vote, but she told me where to get answers to help me with my own judgment.”

Clark noted that, including herself, Slade worked for five mayors before her retirement in 2010. In fact, Clark said, Horton likely holds the unusual distinction of not only working for those five mayors, but five city managers as well.

“You don’t think that’s a difficult job? Just think back over the last five managers and mayors, me included,” she said.
Earlier, Clark said she and Slade had one major similarity: their height.

“Basketball coaches drooled when we entered high school,” she said. “Betty was the tallest girl in her high school. The coach envisioned state championships. Betty could shoot the ball, score well, and could rebound. She led her Baron DeKalb High School to at least one championship.”

Things went a little differently when Clark entered high school.

“The basketball coach also dreamed about championships. Not only was I the tallest girl in school, there was only one boy taller than me. There, the commonality ends. I couldn’t dribble, I couldn’t shoot or pass the ball. If someone passed it to me, I couldn’t catch it, so I’d just kick the ball or the person trying to pick it up. It took only one practice for the coach to tell me, ‘Perhaps you should find something else to do after school,’” Clark said.

According to Clark, before working for the city, Slade worked at First Baptist Church of Camden twice, with a stint at DuPont in between. The former Betty Horton married Larry Slade in 1968, and celebrated their 50th anniversary earlier this year.

Clark said “city clerk” did not really describe Slade’s job at city hall.

“In reality, she was the personal assistant for the mayor, city manager and the members of council. She wrote grants, and, in many cases, shepherded them through approval and had oversight of the grants,” Clark said.

In addition, the former mayor said Slade was also a mother to her son, Robert, and daughter, Laurie, and their families. She said Slade has also been very involved in the community.

“Betty has not slowed down since she retired in 2010. She is now working with the youth choir at Lyttleton Street United Methodist Church where her four grandchildren attend,” Clark said. “She has been active with the Kershaw County Farmers Market from its inception and is now secretary-treasurer of that organization. She is on the board of directors of the Council on Aging, Kershaw County Clemson Extension and is president of the Kershaw County Forest Landowners (Association).”

In closing, Clark noted that those gathered were honoring the first full-time employee of the city.

“As I walk by the bench we are dedicating today, I will always remember a dedicated city employee and think of all the things she has done. At the same time, I will also think of all the other employees who have helped make our city a great place to live,” Clark said.

One of Slade’s friends, Steve Van Horn also spoke, focusing on Slade’s ability to greet almost all experiences with laughter and a witty repartee.

“The tenor of our discussions always seemed to get back to your philosophy as I see it: Laugh it off, it can’t be that important,” Van Horn said. “I’m sure that always worked when a member of the Camden citizenry walked into your office at city hall.”

Van Horn said Slade knew, better than anyone else, how to laugh at herself.

He also called Slade and former City Manager Max Pauling a “dynamic duo” for Camden.

“Of course, they were making it up as they went -- guess you know that,” he said.

Lastly, Van Horn mentioned what he called “the stare” Slade could give someone when she needed to.

“I feel sure Laurie and Robert know exactly what I’m talking about,” Van Horn said. If you’re talking to Betty and there’s money involved and what you say doesn’t quite meet the Betty Slade test, you get ‘the stare.’ Nothing needs to be said -- ‘the stare’ is the equivalent of ‘now, wait a minute.’ You knew right away that something did not sound or smell right quite right, so, immediately, you’ve got to start over.”

Slade reluctantly, and only after being urged by family and friends, emotionally came up to speak on her own behalf.

“I love you all. I’ve had the great opportunity to know all of you well,” she began, “and it’s been my privilege to know you and what you stand for and how you love this town.”

One of her young grandsons interrupted her and asked her if she was crying.

“No,” she replied and then went on. “Without teamwork, we can’t accomplish a thing, so I thank you for being on the team of Camden and Kershaw County to make it one of the best places in the world.”

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