The Stanly News and Press (Albemarle, NC)

January 14, 2013

City honors retirees, discusses council position

By Brian Graves, Staff Writer

Monday, January, 14, 2013 — “This is a night for celebration,” said Locust Mayor Steve Huber as most of Thursday’s council meeting consisted of appreciation for two citizens who have served the community.

It was a meeting filled with emotion and a look forward.

The emotions were evident when the council passed a resolution giving retiring Capt. Charles Connell his badge and service weapon in honor of his 34 years of law enforcement service.

“Captain, we are definitely going to miss you,” said Locust Police Chief Frank Hartsell making the presentation.

Hartsell read Connell’s professional resume. He has been in Locust since 1978 except for stints serving at Stanfield.

“He gave me my first start in law enforcement,” Hartsell recalled.

Hartsell presented Connell with his captain’s badge and sidearm along with an engraved crystal award.

The U.S. Secret Service also presented Connell with a plaque acknowledging his assistance with several cases.

“I’ve enjoyed working for the city and we have the best group of officers here in Locust we’ve ever had, and I have talked to every one of them,” Connell said.

“I might be leaving the job, but I’m still going to be close by. I’ll be there anytime if you need anything.”

Connell also received a plaque of appreciation from Stan Priest and his family after which Connell received a standing ovation, joined by several members of the Locust police force, that lasted for several minutes.

The Priest family also presented a plaque to former mayor Scott Efird for his years of service.

An award of appreciation was given to Michael Harwood for his years serving on the city’s ABC Board.

“He has been with ABC since it came to Locust, either  as a board member or as chairman of the board,” Huber said.

“Thanks to his leadership, our ABC store continues to set records for sales. We are appreciative for his years of service and we’re sorry to see him go.”

Harwood said he enjoyed his time on the board.

“It’s in great hands now they’re doing a great job for the city,” Harwood said.

He also tipped his hat to Connell, saying it was people like him “that makes communities like this safe.”

After celebrating the past, the council focused on the future, discussing how they will proceed in filling the vacancy on the council left when Efird resigned to take the position of city planner and Huber was elevated to the mayor’s post.

Huber showed council an application for citizens interested in filling the seat.

City Manager Tim Fesperman said it really was not an application, just a way to keep things in order.

“We are a bigger town and everyone doesn’t know everybody,” Fesperman said.

Huber said council members had shown an interest in having the position filled by the next council meeting.

Councilman Harry Fletcher said he was uncomfortable with the process.

“In general, I don’t have a problem with that. For the appointed boards, I think (an application process) is very necessary,” Fletcher said.

“City Council is an elected position. I’m not sure that council should be in the position of using its will to fill a vacant seat as opposed to the voters. When I first came on council 12 years ago, a vacancy was filled by the next highest vote-getter in the previous election.”

Mayor Pro-Tem David Walker said he felt it was appropriate to have the application.

“It is the council that makes the appointment and the more information council has about the backgrounds of anyone who is interested, the more informed the decision can be,” Walker said.

Council voted unanimously to accept the time frame of an appointment at next month’s meeting, with interested parties filing their applications with the council by 10 days before the next council meeting.

Huber said the application would be posted on the city’s website and would also be available at City Hall.

Councilman Mike Haigler said the city’s new economic board would be sworn in at the next meeting and would have an organizational session after the council session had ended.