It was an evening of tributes and good-natured ribbing — but mostly sincere expressions of appreciation for a career that has spanned 36 years of service to the city of Waxahachie.

Decorated in a ’70s motif in honor of the decade Nancy Ross began her career as city secretary, the Crape Myrtle Room of the civic center was packed Thursday afternoon with co-workers, family members and residents wanting to honor Ross who will retire today.

During a special program held during the community reception, Waxahachie Mayor Joe Jenkins issued a proclamation on behalf of the city council declaring Sept. 27, 2007, as “Nancy Ross Day” in the city of Waxahachie.

“Today is a red letter day filled with celebration and sadness,” Jenkins said. “While we celebrate Nancy’s well-deserved retirement, it is also a day of sadness knowing that we’re not going to see her each morning to answer our multitude of questions.”

Jenkins, along with each of the presenters, praised Ross as “the person you go to when you have a question.”

“She is a great reservoir of information for the city,” Jenkins noted. “When I returned to Waxahachie and began getting involved in community service, I was told that, if I had a question, go to Nancy Ross. I have done that over and over and over again. It has always amazed me how she always had the information I needed.

“Nancy,” Jenkins said as he looked at Ross sitting next to the podium. “I know that tomorrow is your last day. I’ll be in early in the morning to get my last questions in.”

The mayor also thanked Ross for being a mentor and a friend to everyone in the community.

“You are a blessing and a treasure to Waxahachie,” Jenkins said. “You are a friend and a treasure to all of us. I love Nancy Ross and I know all of you do, too!”

Waxahachie Councilor Buck Jordan also praised Ross for being a mentor.

“We all know who trained Bob Sokoll. It was you,” Jordan quipped, referring to the former city manager who retired last year after nearly two decades of service to the city.

Sokoll was on hand to add his words of appreciation — as well as set the record straight.

“When I announced my retirement, there was a lot of speculation over my decision,” he said. “The real reason I retired was because I knew this day was coming and I didn’t want to leave after her.”

In reminiscing, Sokoll talked about “the other side of Nancy” that many in the community might not be aware of.

“I think it’s fair to say that we have some employees who have a reputation for being a tough character. Not to name names, but (building and development director) Sanford Smith is one of them.

“All it takes is one ‘Listen, Hun Bubba’ from Nancy and Sanford melts into a pile of mush,” Sokoll said, drawing a roar of laughter from the audience. “We all thought the department heads loved her. Really, it was intimidation.”

On a sincere note, Sokoll said Ross was a V.I.P.

“To me personally, as well as everyone in the city, she is without question a very important person,” he said.

All sitting members of the council, including several former elected officials, praised Ross’ ability to help keep the city running smoothly by providing assistance to all.

Jackie Brown, who served on the city council when Ross was hired in May 1971, recalled the council’s dilemma when the previous city secretary resigned.

“We were told that we needed to talk to this Nancy Ross lady,” Brown said. “I have to tell you, Nancy, hiring you was the best decision we made.”

In praising Ross’ ability to find information quickly, Waxahachie City Manager Paul Stevens said she has never failed to come through with an answer.

“I’ve never been able to stump her,” he said. “I’ve never been able to come up with a question that she didn’t have the answer for off the top of her head or could obtain within an hour.”

Noting that Ross has never been shy to speak up when someone was “messing up,” Stevens said everyone at City Hall has come to know her as a surrogate mom who not only provides encouragement and assistance, but an abundance of mentorship as well.

During the ceremony, Ross was recipient of numerous gifts from various city departments.

“Nancy, all of your co-workers at the city took up a collection and we wanted to give this to you so you could spend it on anything you wanted,” Stevens said. “I would like to point out that it’s a lot more than what we collected for Bob (Sokoll).”

Waxahachie Fire Chief David Hudgins told the audience the fire department wanted to present Ross with a bumper sticker for her car, as he held up a sticker that reads “KEEP BACK 300 FEET.”

Touched by the outpouring of affection, an emotional Ross thanked everyone for being a part of her life.

“It’s just now starting to sink in,” she said, wiping away tears after getting a hug from Stevens. “I sure am going to miss everyone. I have truly enjoyed the past 36 years with the city. But I’ll be back. Look for me at the city council meetings ’cause I plan on speaking out during the citizens’ petition and request part of the agenda.”

E-mail Neal at neal.white@waxahachiedailylight.com