Jean Nelson named new Thorsby mayor (updated)

Published 7:00 pm Monday, November 5, 2012

The Thorsby Town Council voted Monday to name Jean Nelson the town’s new mayor.

The mayoral seat had been vacant since former mayor Dearl Hilyer died Oct. 16.

Nelson was nominated by Neil Benson.

New council member Randall Higgins nominated and voted for himself. The four other council members voted for Nelson.

Nelson has served as council member from 1996-2000 and again from 2004-12. She ran for mayor in 2004 but lost by 17 votes to Tom Bentley.

Nelson touted her experience before the vote was taken to name the next mayor.

“I would work real well with our employees…and could lead the town,” she said.

Higgins drew a parallel between himself and Hilyer in trying to garner support.

“He came in with no experience to run the town, and he did a good job,” Higgins said.

Higgins and Nelson weren’t the only two people at the meeting to voice their opinion on the situation.

Bentley presented a letter to the council that was read by John Hollis Jackson, the council’s attorney who had been given authority to conduct the meeting until a new mayor could be named. Bentley’s letter urged the council to put off naming a new mayor.

A second letter presented to the council contained the same opinion, but the council was ready to vote.

With no discussion other than Nelson’s and Higgins’ brief pleas, the council voted in favor of Nelson. She needed three votes but received four: her own and Benson’s as well as those of Marvin Crumpton and Roger Marcus.

Nelson was immediately sworn in by Jackson in her second such ceremony of the evening.

Before the beginning of the regular meeting, the new council was sworn in at Helen Jenkins Chapel.

Nelson, Benson and Crumpton were all returning to the council. Higgins and Marcus are newcomers.

Hilyer’s absence casted a pall over both of the gatherings.

“Mayor Hilyer will never be forgotten,” Nelson said, holding back tears, from behind a podium in the middle of a large room at the dimly-lit chapel. “He has left a moral compass that will shine in our town forever.”

In other business, the council:

•Appointed Benson as the mayor pro tempore. Benson was nominated by Marcus.

•Declared a vacancy for Nelson’s former seat. The council is tasked with finding a replacement within 60 days. They could do so as soon as the next meeting.

•Re-hired all the town’s department heads.

•Allowed Police Chief Rodney Barnett to hire a part-time officer to cope with the absence of two regular officers. One will be out of work because of surgery, while the other is taking a planned vacation.

•Passed an ordinance establishing procedural rules for the new council.