The two new members of the Athens City Council are now in leadership roles for the board.
On Nov. 8, Steve Sherlin and Larry Eaton were elected to the council and Dick Pelley retained his seat for four more years. On Tuesday, Pelley and the new members were sworn in and the newest council members became the board’s leaders.
Sherlin was nominated for mayor by Council Member Frances Witt McMahan, Council Member Jordan Curtis seconded and the vote was unanimous. Then, Pelley made a motion to make Eaton the vice mayor, Witt McMahan seconded and it passed 4-0 with Eaton abstaining.
“I’m grateful for the nomination of my fellow councilmen,” Sherlin said. “I did not run to be mayor, I did not pursue it. I am happy to be in this role to help the city.”
Sherlin also addressed the called meeting Monday night that saw now-former City Manager C. Seth Sumner resign.
“Some found it hard, what took place (Monday) night, but it was something necessary,” Sherlin said. “It was above board, it was legal, there was nothing untoward about it.”
Eaton also spoke, pushing for unity after several contentious years between the previous council and several citizens (Eaton included).
“The mayor and vice mayor that just left, I have a lot of respect for them,” he said. “Sometimes we may not see eye to eye, but we all need to come together.”
He added that the new council will be faced with difficult decisions, but he’s confident in how they’ll handle them.
“There’s going to be some tough decisions us five need to make for the City of Athens,” he noted. “There’s nothing we’re going to do that will hurt the city. I will always talk to you no matter what. We’re going to be transparent with everything we do.”
One of the first acts of the new council was to “cease the contract” of City Attorney Chris Trew and replace him with local attorney Bill Buckley on an interim basis. When asked if Buckley was interested in serving, Eaton said he was.
Pelley also spoke after the reorganization of the council, noting that this term will extend his tenure on the council to 24 years.
“All I can say is thank you for giving me another four years,” he said. “I’ve tried to serve this community the past 20 years as a diligent, committed individual.”
The other two returning council members also spoke, with Witt McMahan directly addressing Sherlin and Eaton.
“I’ve been talking to you two for a while,” she said. “I hope that you will do what you fought for ... to do what is in the best interests of Athens — not what your buddies want, not what your enemies want. Do what you said.”
Curtis also spoke of the Monday night meeting that saw Sumner resign. It was revealed during that meeting that Sherlin and Witt McMahan were part of a group of citizens who worked as a conduit between Sumner and Trew, leading up to the city manager’s resignation.
“I appreciate the leadership you showed (Monday) night regarding the difficult decision that faced the prior council,” Curtis told Sherlin. “I look forward to working with this group, I really do.”