CONCORD -- Sam Leder held seat on Concord City Council since he was elected to represent District 1 in 2015.
His chair was left vacant during Thursday’s council meeting.
A North Carolina Tar Heel flag was draped on the back of the chair with a photo of Leder out in front for all to see as a tribute to the late Concord Mayor Pro Tem.
Leder died unexpectedly of a cardiac event at his home on June 30.
The Whiteville native and UNC Chapel Hill graduate was described by his fellow council members as a leader, trustworthy, a friend and a family man.
“Our city lost a great man. We lost a great leader,” Concord City Manager Lloyd Payne said. “Sam, may the Tar Heel blue sky keep a smile on your face, that smile that we’ve always loved.”
Leder’s was honored at Thursday’s city council member.
Family members, including wife Shannon and sons Bennett and Matthew, had reserved seats in the front row as a video tribute played on the projector screen.
Then, before the session, council members offered their condolences to the family and took an emotional 10-minute recess.
“Sam was a good friend,” Council member Terry Crawford said. “He took me under his wing. He’s the reason I am standing here today. Sam was a leader. I always tried to follow the leader. I was running for office and he led me a long way. I think we will always hear Sam’s leadership in his voice as we guide ourselves moving forward.”
City council announced that Brian King, who represents District 2, will fill in as Mayor Pro Tem on an interim basis through the November municipal election.
“I love Sam so much. He was a great friend of mine,” King said. “He’s done a great job for this city, not only on council, but in volunteering and being a friend to everybody.”
Friends and council members said Leder had a unique, but rare and genuine laugh.
He was involved in the Rotary Club and volunteered any chance he could.
“The quality I liked the most of Sam was his humility. He was a rare, humble person,” Council member J.C. McKenzie said. “My mom would have said he didn’t have a pretentious bone in his body, and I loved that about him. That’s where his laugh came from. It was rare and genuine and it was Sam. I wish I could hear it again right now.”
Council members said Leder had integrity and accountability and took his position on council seriously, and was often the voice of reason.
“People see us up here once a month, but it’s deeper than that,” Council member John Sweat Jr. said. “We go to closed sessions and we talk about some hard issues that are going to upset some people. Sam was that steady course that we needed.”
Leder isn’t the first council member to die while serving on Concord City Council.
In 2006, Allen Small, the late husband of council woman Ella Mae Small, died while serving on council. Then, in 2013, Dr. Hector Henry died while on council.
Leder served as Mayor Pro Tem since last December when the one-year title was appointed by council on a rotational basis.
“(Sam) did an awesome job. With his financial background, Sam always kept us on our toes,” Payne said. “He is familiar with local government. He has done audit work for governments in the past. He was intimately involved in the numbers and finances.
“A lot of his questions, concerns and issues would always center on finances – how were we going to pay for it? How do we generate these revenues? When he talked, he had something important to say and people listened.”
King, who has filed for re-election, was next on council’s Mayor Pro Tem rotation and will fill in on an interim basis until December. Then, if he is re-elected, he would serve as Mayor Pro Tem for a full year.
“The biggest role that they (Mayor Pro Tem) plays is if they mayor is out of town or is unavailable for some reason, they would fill in,” Payne said. “It’s a government term for assistant mayor. For example, if the mayor is on vacation, councilman King would perform mayor duties in the absence of the mayor.”
Leder’s seat is up for election in November.
As of Friday, two candidates have filed for his seat on city council.
Payne said council members and Mayor Bill Dusch are discussing whether to fill the empty council seat on an interim basis.