Whenever he was driving by the Millsboro Town Hall late at night and saw the light still on inside, Mayor John Thoroughgood always knew who it was.
It wasn’t the nighttime cleaning crew. It wasn’t a pair of not-so-savvy cat burglars. And it wasn’t left on by accident.
It was Town Manager Faye Lingo, still hard at work.
“So many times I drive by and the lights are still on. Nobody forgets to turn them off — it’s you,” Mayor John Thoroughgood said to Lingo in a speech after Tuesday’s council meeting.
“You’re still there — studying, or you’re preparing for DNREC or DelDOT the next day.”
As of July 29, if that light is on, it will no longer be Lingo, however, after she officially announced her retirement on Tuesday, July 5, in front of family, friends and the co-workers who she’s come to refer to as her “work family” for the better part of the last four decades.
Palpable emotion filled the room during Lingo’s farewell reception, as speeches were made by Thoroughgood and Lingo’s successor, Sheldon P. Hudson, who previously served with Lingo as the assistant town manager.
“Even though I’ve only know you for a relatively short period of time, I can say you are by far the best boss and finest job-related mentor I’ve ever had,” Hudson said in his speech. “You have consistently impressed me — not only with your knowledge and insight, but with how observant and intuitive you are.
“You’re incredibly kind, sensitive, down to earth, and humble — not to mention a whole lot of fun to be around. I look forward to coming to work in large part because I know I will get to see your smiling face and hear your great laugh when I get there.”
Before the surprise reception, and in what would be her last town council meeting, a teary-eyed Lingo recalled the day back in June of 1993 — now some 23 years ago — when she took over as town manager.
“I know I was not sure at the time if it was a good idea — it looked a little scary to me,” she said. “We all took a chance, and 23 years later I’m still here. Councils have come and gone, but I’ve been fortunate to always have a good group to work with. A town manager can’t ask for any more than that.”
After she opened gifts and received plaques and commemorations from co-workers, neighboring towns and organizations that she’s worked with over the years, the council still had one more thing left to do to honor the legacy that Lingo has left behind, officially unveiling the Faye L. Lingo Reception Hall.
“That’s beyond anybody’s dreams,” said an emotional Lingo. “I expected a plaque maybe, but certainly nothing like this. This is nothing I ever dreamt of.”
While the night was an homage to Lingo, she attributed the success of her 38 years serving the Town and 23 years as manager to her supporting cast.
“I have had good councils. That’s all there is to it. Over the years, they’ve had issues, but they’ve always worked it out.”
It’s that supporting cast that made her decision to finally retire such a difficult one — with Lingo putting off the move on a number of occasions over the last year.
“It was tough. But at some point you have to let it be somebody else’s turn,” Lingo said. “It’s just time for somebody else to take it over, and step back and see what happens.”
As for what’s next, while the light may be switching off on her professional career, she’ll be switching a new one on for retirement — enjoying some long-served R&R, along with her friends and family, while every once and a while popping in to Town Hall to say hello.
“I can enjoy doing nothing for a while,” Lingo said with a laugh. “I have certainly enjoyed my service with the Town and want to thank everyone for giving me that opportunity. I know no other job that would have allowed the experience and education that this job has given me. Such a variety has kept my days interesting.”