Thursday’s Buellton City Council meeting was the last for Councilman John Connolly and Finance Director Carolyn Galloway-Cooper, who were both honored with accolades from their peers and parting gifts.

Connolly was forced to step down because he is moving out of the city, while Galloway-Cooper is retiring after years of service.

“I worked with John for six years and he has been very dedicated and truly, truly cares about this community … and, boy, are we going to miss you,” Mayor Holly Sierra said to Connolly before interviewing candidates for his replacement.

Connolly said he’s an officer in the Air National Guard, where his increasing duties and responsibilities have resulted in him driving to the base, which is an hour and a half away, every day.

With three or four years left to serve, he said his family recognized the only solution was to move to Santa Barbara.

“I do love to do that — I love to serve — and that’s what I’ve loved to do for you and the people of Buellton,” Connolly said. “I hope that anybody who takes on this position will realize it is not of the self, it is to serve.”

He also had some words of caution for future council members.

“You look at a beautiful city as this is and the wonderful people involved in it, and as it grows, everything needs to be in check,” he said. “If you just let outside developers come in and go crazy, then it goes awry and there’s no control, no balance.

“And I think we’ve done a really good job at monitoring that and maintaining a nice, steady flow and keeping the old-time town here.”

Connolly said anyone who joins the council will be walking in on an “all-star cast” of council members, mayor and city staff.

“So, yeah, it’s with heavy heart that I do make that decision to step down,” he said. “I do love my country as well as this city, and I can’t serve those two at the same capacity at this juncture.”

He said his relationships with everyone have been “stellar,” even though they didn’t always see eye-to-eye on issues.

Connolly also said he hopes to return to the Santa Ynez Valley after his service with the Air National Guard.

“Buellton is always in my heart,” he said.

In his city manager’s report, Marc Bierdzinski paid tribute to Galloway-Cooper.

“It is with another sad heart to announce this is Carolyn’s last council meeting and tomorrow is her last day before she goes into retirement,” he said. “It was one of my best decisions, hiring decisions, I have ever made to get her on board.

“She stabilized our Finance Department and she’s leaving it in great shape for our new finance director, Shannel (Zamora),” he continued. “She’s done the biannual budget now at the direction of council, and we’ve won awards on our (comprehensive annual financial report) in our budget under her direction.

“She also could have retired six months ago, but she stayed on another six months to make sure the Finance Department was in the shape it was in, so I really want to thank her for that. That was beyond the call of duty for us, and I really appreciate that.”

Sierra also had words of praise for Galloway-Cooper.

“You joind us at a very difficult time in the city’s finance history,” she said. “We were getting ready to move over to a new program … and you stepped in like you’d been there for five years already and put everthing in line.”

Galloway-Cooper said she knows Zamora will do a good job for the city, and leaving a good replacement was always one of her goals.

“Many years into my job I just knew I have to think of the future because this city is such a beautiful city, the residents are really friendly and the businesses are thriving,” she said. “I know Shannel is going to take the city to new heights financially.”

Both Connolly and Galloway-Cooper received standing ovations from the council, staff and audience as they were presented with tokens of the city’s appreciation.

Subscribe to Daily Headlines

* I understand and agree that registration on or use of this site constitutes agreement to its user agreement and privacy policy.

Lee Central Coast Newspapers associate editor Mike Hodgson covers Santa Barbara County government and events and issues in Santa Ynez Valley. Follow him on Twitter @MHodgsonSYVNews.