Next month, Isle of Palms City Council will turn a new page with longstanding city clerk Marie Copeland retiring on Aug. 2. Copeland is retiring after serving as clerk for 12 years, through three mayors and two city administrators.
Formerly a North Carolina native, Copeland transplanted to Mount Pleasant in the early 2000s. Copeland had a BA in English from Lander University when she assumed the clerkship in May 2007.
On paper, Copeland’s job on a day-to-day basis is to record and transcribe every minute from council and committee meetings. But she say’s in reality it’s to keep nine different councilmembers’ personalities in check. Her peers have labelled her as the “peacemaker” inside the walls of city hall.
At the time of her entrance, former mayor and current District 112 Rep. Mike Sottile was near the tail end of his term. Sottile admitted he didn’t know Copeland as well as his successors, but in the short time he did get to know she left a lasting impression.
Sottile described Copeland as a person of patience and one who always wore a smile on her face but that her kind nature never softened her seriousness for the job.
“She was a professional at everything she did,” Sottile said. “When you went to see her it was about business and we did business; it wasn’t anything else.”
Copeland concurred that Sottile was very business-oriented, he was not one for small talk. Efficiency in the workplace was the priority and the focus was getting the work done, period.
“She was an excellent employee and very dedicated to the city,” Sottile added. “I think we all appreciated her due diligence and seeing things got done in a right way.”
In 2009, Dick Cronin took over as mayor and would go on to serve throughout 2017. Copeland confessed Cronin’s mayoral style was very different than Sottile’s.
“Dick was very methodical, very analytical and I followed his train of thought very well,” Copeland said. “He was always very thoughtful and always had a funny story he could tell you. He was a world traveler and knew all kinds of things.”
In the eight years getting to know each other, the longest time spent with any of the mayors, Copeland’s tastebuds recall Cronin being a superb cook. She highlighted the sweet taste of his homemade crembrule at Christmas time.
Cronin was unable to be reached by the time of this article’s publication due to travel.
In 2018, previous councilmember and island real estate agent Jimmy Carroll was elected mayor. Copeland, once again being the observant fly on the wall, noted his leadership tactics were quite the contrary of Cronin’s.
“Jimmy is a doer and Dick was a thinker,” Copeland said.
Copeland says one of the most distinguishing characteristics about Carroll in comparison to his predecessors is that he always presents himself in a relaxed manner. When the two aren’t conducting business they’re talking sports, specifically college football.
She says one of her favorite things about Carroll, besides his quirky personality, is his accessibility to the residents of the island. She notices no matter how busy his agenda is, he always makes time to talk, whether it’s council related or personal business. Carroll, too, is quite fond of Copeland’s character. Although the duo has only been together a brief time, their relationship has blossomed over the past year.
“She’s a sweet lady, she does her job the best she can and puts up with everyone,” Carroll said. “I think it’s a very thankless job. I’m grateful for the job she’s done for us.”
Carroll attested that council members will call Copeland on many occasions and ask her what was said at a meeting on such a date. And she always provides an answer.
“To me, it’s one of the toughest jobs at city hall. It’s hard work,” Carroll added. “Marie has seen the good, the bad and the ugly through it all.”
One of Copeland’s most remarkable assets in Carroll’s eyes, besides her organization skills and good memory, is her calming nature.
“We always look at each other and say ‘don’t worry tomorrow is going to come,’” Carroll said. “She’s got a good attitude about life.”
Although Carroll admits he will miss Copeland dearly, he prefers the next city clerk to be an “inside person” as opposed to hiring outside the island. Administrator Desiree Fragoso and the Personnel Committee are in charge of the hiring process and currently evaluating how to fill the role in the interim. Fragoso didn’t further comment on how long the hiring process is expected to take for the next clerk, but she did reiterate how much she and the city will miss Copeland.
“I am excited for Marie to enter her well-earned retirement and have more time to devote to herself, her family and her interests, but will miss her greatly,” Fragoso said. “Marie’s hard work and contributions during her 12 years serving the Isle of Palms City Council have been invaluable to the success of the city. The city family wishes her the best for the next phase of her life.”
As for Copeland, who’s now in her 70s, she says she’s not quite ready for full-time retirement just yet. She did say she’s looking forward to writing less and waking up later during the weekdays.