By Ally Morrison
Family, friends and colleagues of Mountain Brook City Manager Sam Gaston gathered at Mountain Brook City Hall March 14 for a surprise ceremony during which a new council chamber name would later be revealed.
Gaston thought he was going to a routine City Council meeting. As he walked into the room he had been in just hours before to change a clock battery, Gaston was both surprised and confused to see not only a full room – but a room full of his closest friends and family.
“I walked into a big crowd, and thought, what’s going on? Am I in trouble?” Gaston said.
As Mountain Brook Mayor Stewart Welch took to the podium, he began thanking Gaston for his commitment to the city and people of Mountain Brook.
“I wanted to take a minute to thank you,” Welch said. “To thank you for your years of service, and to thank you for all that you’ve done for our city. I was trying to think of one word to describe you, and my wife came up with two: the rock. I can confidently say that is appropriate, Sam is the rock. He is the foundation for which this city has grown for almost 30 years. Any time I have a question, I know I can go to Sam and get a great answer.”
“So Sam, we wanted to take a second to say thank you, but we actually wanted to memorialize you.”
As chamber members pulled the strings of a banner tacked above the doors of the council chamber, a new name for the chamber was revealed in bold letters: Sam S. Gaston Council Chamber.
“We want you to be recognized for years to come,” Welch said. “We want to dedicate the City Council chamber in your name.”
A roaring applause ensued, and Gaston took to the podium to thank city officials, members of the City Council and others in the chamber.
“This is quite a surprise,” Gaston said. “I am caught completely off guard. I have been a very blessed man, thank you so much. It’s a great pleasure to be with the city of Mountain Brook, and I greatly appreciate this. This is a wonderful tribute and I hope I continue to live up to that tribute in the future.
When asked what it meant to him to be memorialized in such a way, Gaston was almost at a loss for words.
“It’s hard to put it into words,” Gaston said. “It was a wonderful surprise and something I have never expected. When you love what you do and every day is a pleasure, time goes by fast. We’ve built a great team here. I can say this without any hesitation, 95% of the time, it’s not a job. It’s fun.”