Through the good and the bad, Councilmember Margaret Harto stuck it out with the City of Covington. And after 17 years, Harto will no longer be on council starting in 2020.
She decided to withdraw from the council race for position No. 3.
“I had come to a point in time where I wanted to do more at home time with my husband, Larry. We discussed it, I thought about it for a long time. I actually did file and then over the weekend after the filing period ended, it was like ‘OK, this is either for real or not for real,’” she said.
When Harto started on council in 2002, she said she didn’t even know she got paid. She only wanted to be on council in her spare time with nothing in return.
Her and her husband are in the process of moving, and while packing and sorting through old items, she actually came across her first pay stub that she had saved.
Covington Mayor Jeff Wagner said he’s known Harto since 1988 when he first moved to the Covington area. And ever since then, she and Wagner have been participating in Covington related groups and clubs to better the community. For example, they both joined the Kiwanis Club of Covington when it first got started.
While the idea of joining council and joining different clubs in Covington was an easy decision for Harto, she said she came onto the council when times were tough.
“I came on at a time when the challenges of seven personalities working together setup a lot of red flags,” Harto said. “It took a long time, I think I would say maybe as long as five years, for the council to regain trust from the community and the two elements that I think were missing and that I think were significant in making that happen were mutual respect and treating each other with dignity. Once those things were in place, then people realized it was genuine. Then things began to happen in a real positive way.”
Now the council is at a point where Harto said she feels comfortable leaving.
She said she thinks Covington Council is awesome because they all come to city hall with the same mindset, doing what’s right for the city and the community.
“It feels good to be able to be able to walk out the door and know that the vision is still firmly in place, there’s a road ahead and it’s good,” she said.
Wagner is going to miss her passion for the community the most when she leaves council.
“(She) helped plant the seeds to where we are today,” he said.
Harto said she’s going to miss the relationships she formed with not only other councilmembers, but also community members as well. And she’s going to miss interacting with the city staff.
The city itself has grown in the best possible way as well, according to Harto. City staff and council have seen more and more people come into city hall, and to council meetings to say “I want to give back. I want to do something for our city,” which is something that Harto finds very “gratifying.”
“In this city we’re always pushing to make our vision come true. I really believe that. The residents of this community and the surrounding area, the ones that call Covington ‘home,’ they have always made it very clear what they’d like their city to be and I would say everyone of our council members is devoted to making that happen,” Harto said. “I think that the city is in good hands. Both from a councilmember standpoint and from staff standpoint. I think that the residents of our city can expect the very best from our staff. They are some of our strongest advocates.”
Wagner said even though Harto will no longer be on council, her legacy will live on and they will continue what she has set forward.