If you have visited Leigh Farm Park, Old Chapel Hill Road Park or Sandy Creek Park and enjoy the beauty of the New Hope Creek corridor, you owe former Durham County Commissioner Becky Heron a debt of gratitude.
If you have a deep appreciation for the Eno River, and want to see it protected, you are following in Heron’s footsteps.
If you have adopted a pet from the animal shelter, you can thank Heron for helping ensure construction of the more modern facility it’s in now that benefits its furry residents and the staff and volunteers who care for them.
In addition to advocating for environmental issues and animal welfare protections, she pushed for better services for seniors – and a senior center.
The list of the myriad ways in which Heron has had a very tangible impact on Durham is lengthy.
She was straightforward with colleagues and constituents, blunt on her positions. Former County Manager David Thompson described Heron this way: “You never had to guess, as a manager, about where Becky Heron was coming from. She was really easy to work with because there were no areas of gray.”
Heron was a strong leader and a trailblazer. In 1982 she became the second woman to serve on the Board of County Commissioners, and in 1994 became the first woman to head the elected body as chairwoman.
She was generous with her time and knowledge, mentoring others along the way who also wanted to engage in public service.
Heron represented the best qualities in elected officials. She was responsive and had a reputation around Durham for being the go-to person if you had an issue that needed attention.
Her campaign signs popped up around town every election cycle, emblazoned with the catchy “Keep HerOn” slogan.
She was unabashed about confronting critics and advocating for the causes she held dear. Her decision to step down from the County Commissioners in 2011 marked the passing of the torch to a younger generation of leaders and the end of a political career that had spanned almost 30 years.
She loved this community and served it extraordinarily well. Commissioner Ellen Reckhow rightly called her “a Durham treasure.”
Her death on Thursday brought into sharp focus once again the imprint Heron – known by many as simply Becky -- has left on this community. She gave so much of her life to this county; we owe her so much in return for her years of service that improved the county in which we live.
She has left behind a legacy that will make a difference for generations to come.