Sentimentality is not a regular word in Eric Benson’s vocabulary, but the retiring city manager was flattered and surprised by a party thrown Tuesday after his last Enid City Commission meeting.
“I don’t think you can leave a great team like this without some regret of no longer being a part of the great accomplishments in store, but I’m very proud of what this city council — and more importantly — what this city staff has done,” Benson told the Enid News & Eagle.
Benson will retire Dec. 31, paving the way for the well-respected Jerald Gilbert to take charge of the city’s day-to-day operations.
A retired U.S. Navy captain, Benson led Enid through dynamic change with dogged determination.
Enid has a strong city manager form of government, and the visionary Benson was the epitome of that model.
Benson’s tenure saw a tremendous uptick in the regional economy and in city sales tax revenue. The city manager could have coasted along and enjoyed the good times, but not Benson. He seized the opportunity to make significant investments and structural changes in Enid, and he pressed for even bolder plans that were not approved by votes of the public.
Enid is a changed community because of Benson’s vision and assertiveness. The Enid Event Center and Convention Hall, especially, stand as a testament to his administration.
In his final months, he pressed the commission to work for a future pipeline to carry water from Kaw Lake, a huge, forward-looking commitment.
Though some were irritated by Benson’s decisions or tactics, Eric worked best while flexing his political finesse outside of the spotlight. He showed tremendous loyalty to his staff and willingness to be a lightning rod to deflect criticism from city commissioners.
Like him or not, Eric Benson will be missed.