Wednesday, April 11, 2007

TOP STORY >>Council picks retired mayor to serve again

Leader staff writer

Former Sherwood Mayor Bill Harmon is back at the helm again and plans to be there for a long time. In a specially called council meeting Tuesday evening to pick an interim mayor, aldermen took just 15 minutes in executive session to pick the person most in the fully packed chambers thought they would—Harmon.

Mayor Danny Stedman resigned April 5, just four months into the job, citing health reasons.

City Attorney Steve Cobb told the council and the hundred-plus residents attending the meeting that state law required the council to pick an interim mayor and set a date to elect a new mayor. He said because Stedman served less than six month of his four-year term, an interim mayor could not be appointed for the entire length of the term. He said city residents would have to elect a new mayor. The council set July 10 as the date and residents planning to run for mayor can start filing as candidates on Friday. The last day to file for candidacy will be noon, May 2.

Harmon, 80, who was Sherwood’s mayor from 1992 through 2006, didn’t run in the last election, citing that it was time to retire.

In accepting the interim post Tuesday, Harmon said he had been retired “long enough” and was ready to get back to work for the city. Sherwood District Judge Butch Hale swore Harmon in Tuesday evening.

Harmon also said that he planned to run in the special election “and maybe this time my son can vote for me.” His son, Alderman Charlie Harmon, abstained during the council’s roll call vote for Harmon as interim.

Resident Tom Brooks already had a “re-elect Bill Harmon” placard on his car parked outside the city hall.
But Harmon isn’t the only one planning to run for mayor.

City Clerk Virginia Hillman says she plans to file first thing Friday morning. “I’m ready and know I would do a good job,” she said.

A number of other names came up Tuesday as possible candidates. If the field grows large, that increases the chances of a runoff. The special-election will cost about $10,000, and a subsequent runoff slightly less. Stedman, 58, announced his immediate resignation in an April 5 letter to the council.

“With the strong recommendation of my doctor, the demands of my wife, family and close friends, I resign from the position of mayor,” Stedman’s letter stated. Stedman butted heads in February over a department head hiring and was soundly chastised by the council. He’s also been working hard with council members and others to determine what options the city has in the pending sale of the North Hills Country Club for residential development.

Shortly after a meeting over the golf course issue March 28, Stedman was rushed to the hospital with chest pains, missing the council meeting that night. He was hospitalized overnight for tests and observation. Doctors said he did not suffer a heart attack.

“I deeply appreciate my friends and supporters,” the mayor said in his resignation letter, “for their steadfast backing, however; in the final analysis, my health, the health off my wife, a two time cancer survivor, must be my number one priority.”

Before his resignation Stedman did sign a contract with W.P.D. Golf Management out of Horseshoe Bay, Texas, to perform a feasibility study of the North Hills Country Club to see if city operation of the course is a realistic option. The 100-acre facility has supposedly been sold to a group of developers who want to turn the acreage into a high-end residential community.

This wasn’t the first time in Sherwood’s history that the city has had an interim mayor. When longtime Mayor Jack Evans died in office in 1991, the council appointed the city’s human resource director Brent Chambers to the post and set a date for a special election.

Alderman Becki Vassar, who was on the council at the time, said the council was divided on a choice for interim mayor; when Chambers’ name was brought up it solved the dilemma. “Everyone liked Brent,” Vassar recalled.
Then-alderman Bill Harmon won that special election.

Stedman, himself, was originally appointed to the council when Alderman Brad Holmes moved out of the ward. Stedman then won reelection to the council seat before running for mayor.