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Politicians, city leaders and Wilson residents had a veritable fire brigade with buckets of praise for Mayor Bruce Rose on Thursday.
“Bruce has not just been a public servant. He has been a servant leader,” City Manager Grant Goings told the hundreds who gathered at the newly renamed C. Bruce Rose Headquarters Station on Hines Street. “Bruce, I want to thank you for your great service as fire chief to this city and thank you for being an exemplary mayor. I want to thank you for being my friend, but most of all, I want to thank you for the man that you are. We love you and we know you are not going anywhere, but I want to congratulate you on a job well done.”
The Wilson City Council surprised Rose in November by announcing the renaming and declaration of Dec. 5, 2019, as Bruce Rose Day. Councilman James Johnson said he believes Rose has done his best every day of his life, adding that it is nice so many came out to show their appreciation for the 84-year-old man.
“You have served the citizens of our community with excellence, and I join your family, friends and colleagues in recognizing all you have done to make Wilson what it is today,” Sen. Thom Tillis wrote in a letter read during the ceremony. Tillis’ staff also presented a flag that was flown over the U.S. Capitol in Rose’s honor. “Your career has exemplified the highest standard of leadership, effectiveness and professionalism. North Carolina is fortunate to have your positive influence.”
Sen. Richard Burr and Rep. G.K. Butterfield also sent regards congratulating Rose on his years of service. Fire Chief Albert Alston said he recognized Rose’s leadership as heroic, but went one step further.
“Superheroes go the extra mile. When Mayor Rose could have hung his coat, went home and relaxed to enjoy retirement, he decided to continue to give,” Alston said. “And this superhero continued to be a friend of the fire service. He continued to be a friend of first responders. This superhero continued to be a friend of the community.
“He put others first throughout his whole life and I stand here today representing the 100-plus men and women of the Wilson Fire/Rescue Services to say thank you to one of the greatest chiefs who has ever walked the face of the earth.”
The department presented Rose with a framed memento of the badges he wore throughout his career, both as they looked then and what they would look like now. The sign for the building was not ready in time for the celebration, but Rose was at a loss for words as he saw a rendering of the station.
“I was just happy doing what I’ve done to help this city,” he said. “And yes, it is the greatest city on God’s green earth. You got that right.”
Earlier in the event, Goings recalled a bit of shock early into his career when he heard Rose adamantly propose the faith-driven statement about Wilson. He said he soon paid attention to the audience’s reaction and realized the proclamation was not a political statement and shouldn’t be judged as one.
“That was the general truth coming from the man’s heart, so lesson No. 1 was that he speaks his heart and No. 2 from that example is that everybody in the room understood that,” Goings said as a tear came to his eye recalling all the lessons Rose had taught him. “They didn’t care what the words were because they read the man and they read his commitment and his passion. That was a profound observation for me and I’ve tried to capture just a tad of that spirit and let it power me through when we have rough days. I admire you so much for your commitment.”