New council appoints city attorneys
An overflow crowd witnessed a changing of the guard as the all-new Russellville city council took its oath of office and took part in its inaugural meeting Monday night.
The outgoing council – Mayor Johnny Brown and Councilmen Burns "Buckshot" Saint, Arthur Elliott, David Kennedy, Craig Grissom and Thomas "Tinker" Malone – gave way to incoming Mayor Troy Oliver and Councilmen William Nale, Lanny Hubbard, Gary Cummings, David Grissom and Jeff Masterson.
"I spent eight years on the council, and I tried to serve the people in my district and the people in the other districts," said Saint, who represented District 3 for two terms. "I enjoyed working with the other council members, and I'm proud we were able to balance the budget every year, improve quite a bit of the parks in Russellville and upgrade the city's equipment.
"I know all of the new council, and I think they will do a good job."
After being sworn in by Circuit Judge Terry Dempsey, the council adopted a resolution to temporarily ratify existing city depositories and authorize check signatures until the budget for the 2008-09 fiscal year, which began Oct. 1, can be approved.
The council members, who will serve four-year terms, voted to split the mayor pro-tempore position into two terms. Nale, the District 2 representative, was elected pro-tem for the first two years, while Cummings, of District 3, will take the lead the last two years.
The final action of the new administration's agenda was the unanimous approval of a legal services contract with the Russellville law firm McDowell, Beason and Hamilton. Danny McDowell, who also represents the Franklin County and Russellville City school systems, will succeed Jeff Bowling of Bedford, Rogers and Bowling as city attorney, while Brian Hamilton was named the municipal court prosecutor.
"We just decided to make a change, and it's not anything Jeff did," Cummings said. "We're starting over, which was a big issue for the voters. And everyone on the council was comfortable with Danny – we know we can rely on him to help us know what we can do."
Besides finalizing the city's budget, the council has also prioritized financial assistance for the city school system, which received only 75 percent of its usual disbursement from the state last month.
"We don't have just one top priority," Cummings said. "Right now our top priorities are helping the school system and getting a budget in place."
Cummings said he was encouraged by the turnout at the meeting, which was immediately followed by a public meet-and-greet that attracted more than 300 people to the A.W. Todd Centre. The reception featured a rousing set by the Kerry Gilbert Band, catered barbecue and chicken and a slew of homemade desserts.
"I'm so humbled by the turnout," he said. "It felt great to have a lot people come out tonight."