Councilwoman Margaret Harto is retiring at the end of her term next year. To honor her, the council decided to name a pavilion that is going to be put in Covington Community Park after her.
The ribbon cutting for the grand opening of the park is set to happen this August.
This idea was proposed to the council by Laura Morrissey, the chair of the Parks and Recreation Commission.
Harto was astounded and had no idea they had agreed to have this to happen. She was sick on the day the council voted in favor of doing this.
“I was totally blown away. What happened after that Tuesday night Regan (Bolli, the city manager) got worried because it was a public meeting and because I wasn’t there (and) I would ask for the minutes (later) and of course Laura’s report would be in the minutes,’ Harto explained. “So I think it was Thursday morning, he called me and he said, ‘Margaret, I have something I want to talk to you about,’ and I thought, ‘Who died?’ Or are we in financial trouble — you know my heart just skipped a beat.”
But what Bolli followed up with changed Harto’s worried reaction to happy tears.
“He said the parks commission wants to name the pavilion after you, and I started to cry. I could not say anything, I did not know what to say and my husband was standing in the kitchen and he hears me crying and he knows I’m talking to Regan — and you know he thought was I initially thought you know, ‘Who died?’” Harto said.
She continued with, “He walks over and he’s bringing Kleenex and at first it was kind of just little tears and then I just, I couldn’t stop crying. I eeped out a ‘thank you,’ and Regan had sense enough to know I wasn’t going to say much else.”
According to Harto, he called her because he did not want her to find out from someone else.
With a loss for words and her husband handing her tissues, Harto almost forgot to say the words “thank you,” that is until she felt a little reminder.
“I told him later, my first thought I wanted to say was ‘I’m not dead!’ Then I wanted to say, ‘Oh you’re joking!’ I had a list a mile long and then I told him, I kind of felt this little poke in my back, I know it was my mother, who has been gone for four years at the age of 94, but she said to me, ‘Margaret, say thank you.’ And I said that’s all I could say,” Harto said.
Mayor Jeff Wagner, said he couldn’t think of a better person to name the pavilion after that Harto.
“She’s just been extremely involved in Covington. She helped form and shape Covington before we were even thinking about becoming a city,” Wagner said. “It’s like she’s gone out of her way to make sure that the youth in our community are taken care of (and) she’s always had a passion about doing what’s right for Covington.”
Looking back at her years as not only mayor for 10 years and being on the council for 18 years, Harto said she has a lot of favorite memories and it was hard for her to pick just one, so she picked two.
“One is when I first came on the council was when we purchased the property of Covington Community Park and to actually be able to cut a ribbon and open those soccer fields. When we became a city we had no parks. And then to purchase property outside of our city limits people thought we were nuts,” Harto said. “So that and Multicare the hospital. The groundbreaking for the hospital is very significant for me because my grandmother was a physician a century ago, more than a century ago and there was just a connection for me.”
She said she wants to tell her grandmother, “Look what I’m connected to now, grandma.’ It’s amazing.”
Even though Harto loves every aspect of being on the city council,” she said the hardest part of it is time.
She said the time it takes to get from the beginning to a project, to the end.
She used the time it took Covington Community Park built as an example.
“When you think about the time we bought the park property till we cut the ribbon, it was ten years,” Harto said.
Although Harto was not born in Covington, she said she has been here for over 50 years and looking back at her life then and now, she said she could never have guessed this is where she would be.
”There just are no words. It’s just, Larry (her husband) and I moved with our four children into this community 50 years ago. We were a young couple in our middle 20s with four kids, so they grew up here,” she said. “I never pictured myself doing what I do today and so to have something like this happen is just beyond anything.”
Harto said even though naming the new pavilion after her is not something she would have agreed with because she said she feels everything that has been done in the city has been a group effort. She said she is grateful for the community and the city for all that they do and for giving this honor to her.
“This (Covington) has always been my place, my place. Not just my town where I live, but this is my place and I love it, I would do anything for it,” she said. “So I guess if your name is on something, it should stand for something more than ‘Margaret Harto,’ it should stand for the things that were created with and for and by, not just me, but with our whole community.”