CARY — The spread of binders on Julie Robisons porch must have filled a closet once. She had unearthed dozens of them, tens of thousands of pages of utterly mundane history, for a final inspection.
I think Im the only person on Earth who has a copy of this stuff, she said. It was a decades worth of officialdom budget overviews and land-use plans and the resigning councilwoman seemed a little hesitant to part with it all.
Robison, 53, on Thursday ended a 10-year run on the Cary Town Council, attending a last meeting before moving to Morgantown, W.Va. for her husbands new job. During almost 11 years on the towns governing board she saw the political pendulum swing back and forth, won election three times and lost once, and had her say about miles of new construction that have redefined Cary.
In real life she built and trained governments across the world, including post-war Iraq, where she shaped the village council system. In Carys politics she was a citizen advocate, the council member who most often sided with residents when they fought the pharmacy coming in next door. Her legacy also includes a founding role in the towns School of Government and a successful push for an environmental sustainability manager.
Robison is a warm-hearted woman who admits shes prone to tangents and tardiness the Town Clerks invitations to Robisons send-off gently reminded the honoree to arrive on time. Yet, excepting the occasional late arrival, the former councilwoman missed only a fraction of the tens of thousands of hours of board and committee meetings over the last decade, even while serving weeks-long stints for work everywhere from Benin to Bulgaria.
The Wisconsin natives elected career began a few years after she and husband Dan moved the family to Cary. She joined a crowded field in 2001, including future state representative Nelson Dollar.
During those early years she began to establish the residents-first stance and detail-raking eye that would bedevil more than a few developers.
She held the bar very high for development to not impact those that were already there. That was the true measure of Julie in a lot of ways, said Jack Smith, the councils longest-serving member.
The critique of Julie, he continued, was that she held the values of citizen rights so high that it made it difficult to compromise. Its like a two-edged sword.
Honoring her work
Beyond policy victories and party lines, Robisons fellow council members on Thursday honored her for opening a door to Town Hall for Cary residents.
When we had an issue come up, we had no idea where to go, who to call, Councilman Don Frantz recalled of his prepolitics days. You were one of the first ones to reach out and help us understand how government works, so we could understand how to work with it.
Robisons husband has already begun work at West Virginia University, while her eldest daughter is headed to American University to study journalism this fall. Robison doesnt plan to re-enter politics she might open a flower shop instead.
Kenney: 919-460-2608 or twitter.com/KenneyOnCary