In his later years in particular, Merlyn didn’t always vote with the majority. He strove to have open government and rarely spoke with anything but the utmost respect of the people who came before him and worked on behalf of the county.
More than anything, he became a public official who had a conscience he didn’t always show, but one he was prepared to stand by, regardless of the consequences. One of the things I’ll never forget about him is a time when county pay increases were awarded to all but one employee in the Cass County Government Building. When it was pointed out that only one employee would not benefit from a raise, he tried to rectify the inequity. The council wouldn’t go along with him, but in a matter of days, he had hired the county employee to do some work for him to make up the difference for the employee’s loss of additional income.
Most public officials, regardless of party affiliation, would probably be ought of sight and out of mind on this issue, but that wasn’t Merlyn.
His trademark wit was never ceasing. Anyone who knew him couldn’t help but be a target of it, myself included. On one occasion after I suffered a black eye in a basketball game, I showed up at a council meeting, only to have Merlyn stare at me and pretend to wipe away a tear from his eye as if he thought I’d been crying. It was a gesture he repeated for years every time he saw me.
He was a Republican, but he extended his political good will to Democrats. He even purchased a car from one of his former Democrat council colleagues, Charlie Kinsey.
While council members were elected and defeated during his tenure and Merlyn probably could have served another one or two terms on the council had he chosen to do so, he left thinking he had served the county as best he could, with no burning issues on the horizon to hold him there. He never sought to be the Strom Thurmond of the council. He just wanted to serve.