Who doesn’t love a good surprise? A room full of people, all eager to see your face as you open the door to a celebration in your honor is one of the most heart-warming experiences in the world. And if you’re caught too off guard, it can bring you to tears.
In the community room of City Hall, balloons inflated and tables were dressed as City staff filed in one by one in anticipation of the arrival of the woman of the hour. As old school jams played softly in the background, Inglewood’s very own Ethel Austin walks through the door greeted by a cheerful surprise that almost brought a tear down.
In celebration of her contribution to the community she has proudly called home for the last 30 years, Ms. Austin is taking her talents back east to Nebraska, where she will be staying with family.
City Treasurer Wanda Brown presented a special commendation honoring Ms. Austin for her contributions to the City of Inglewood during her residency, and shared a few words about her experiences with her. “Years ago, Ethel recruited all the students for my student intern program, it was about 10 of them, because I didn’t have any students at all. So, I told her I would give her a commendation for it, but she never actually showed up. But anyhow, I took her to breakfast and got the information from her.”
Organizing the event was, Assistant to Mayor James Butts, Melanie McDade who opened the floor to City officials to say a few words about Ms. Austin. First to take the opportunity was Mayor Butts who stated, “It was a long journey and Melanie is your Guardian Angel, we’re gonna miss you, you’ve really been a force of nature here.”
After his remarks, Mayor Butts presented Ms. Austin with her very own Community Ambassador badge. Ms. Austin, overjoyed said, “Now I get it!”
District 2 Councilman Alex Padilla joked about his first time meeting Ms. Austin, “Back when I was running for city council, is when I first met the Ethel Austin. I got to know her after I got in office, and I gotta tell you, she’s a sweetheart!”
Hollywood Park Project Manager Gerard McCallum talked about his first time meeting Ms. Austin, “Ethel and I met when we were first starting Hollywood Park. Talk about a force of nature, she wasn’t letting anything come over that track until we cleared it with her first! And once she got it, she was one of our biggest supporters.”
Inglewood Police Chief Mark Fronterotta, Councilman George Dotson, and Chief Financial Officer David Esparza all wished Ms. Austin safe travels, and told her how much they’re all going to miss having her in the city.
Assistant City Manager Michael Falkow shared his experiences with Ms. Austin as well stating, “I have a special relationship with Ethel, she’s always been there for me. I was going through some pretty tough times here at the city before we were blessed with the mayor and council. And the special thing about Ethel that I will always have is she gave me my pet name, “Jamaican Mike.”
Last to share her first experience with Ethel was Melanie, who said, “The first time I met Ethel, was when I was working on Mr. Butts’ campaign. I’m sitting there and this lady comes in with a cape on, a plastic cap with cellophane colored dye in her hair, and she says, ‘I wanna help Mr. Butts!’ She came by his office and we’ve been cool ever since!”
Since everyone shared their experiences with Ms. Austin, it’s only right that I share my first encounter with her. Before the current council I decided to come to my very first city council meeting. Little did I know it would last until nearly midnight, but I remember this fiery woman giving council an earful. I was there to raise the issue of multiple accidents on Crenshaw Blvd. and she pulled me to the side and gave me some words of encouragement and vowed to help me as I set out to establish myself in the community. She’s been a big supporter of me, and my work from the very beginning. I hate to see her go.
Ms. Austin, it’s obvious from your recent acknowledgements that you are loved and appreciated. May your travels back east be blessed and prosperous, and we hope you impact Omaha the same way you’ve impacted Inglewood. Farewell!