Changing of the guard

Moving on: Outgoing Vice Mayor Brownie Newman reminisced about his eight years on Asheville City Council and praised the newcomers, sworn in on Dec. 6. Newman will run for a Buncombe County Board of Commissioners seat in 2012. photo by Bill Rhodes.

Asheville City Council Dec. 6, 2011 meeting

  • Manheimer named vice mayor
  • Davis back for third term

The Asheville City Council chamber was packed, and many heads bowed as the Rev. Mark Ward of the Unitarian Universalist Church of Asheville contemplated the state of the city.

“For all the natural beauty of this place, the strength and resourcefullness of its people, there are worrisome pressures in play that can diminish this city and divide its people from one another,” said Ward. “Job losses and economic disparity are squeezing us. Intolerance tears at our city life. Continuing damage to our environment threatens us all.”

In electing Council members, he continued, “We are not seeking saviors who will make everything right, or those who will tell us what they think we want to hear. We are seeking people who will bring watchful eyes, keen ears and compassionate hearts to the affairs of this city.”

Ward sounded a warning note in an otherwise festive occasion, as City Council met Dec. 6 to swear in new members Marc Hunt and Chris Pelly, welcome back Jan Davis for a third term, and bid farewell to Vice Mayor Brownie Newman and Council member Bill Russell.

Mayor Terry Bellamy honored Newman and Russell with plaques, gifts and a proclamation, calling the vice mayor a consensus builder on difficult issues and commending Russell for his “commitment to Asheville's financial stability.”

Newman said serving on Council has been the greatest honor of his life. He praised city staff and called his fellow Council members “a good-looking group.”

The day before, Newman had announced plans to seek a seat on the Buncombe County Board of Commissioners next year (see sidebar, “Not So Fast”).

Russell, meanwhile, said: “I love this town; I'll be here until the day I die. I just hope we can stay a great town where our children have an opportunity to live and work in the wonderful community that we have.”

Women warriors

Council then turned to naming a new vice mayor.

"It's with a great deal of enthusiasm that I'd like to place a nomination for Esther Manheimer," said Davis, who himself served as vice mayor from 2007-09. Council member Gordon Smith seconded the motion, telling Manheimer, "You've demonstrated a lot of leadership, you run some tight meetings, and you have been able to really reach across all the lines that can appear in our city."

The vice mayor fills in when the mayor is absent, which may happen more frequently with Bellamy running for Congress in the 10th District.

"I don't think this city has ever had a female mayor and vice mayor at the same time," noted Bellamy, adding, "I think we just made history."

In fact, however, Holly Jones (now a Buncombe County commissioner) served as vice mayor from 2005-07, during Bellamy's first term.

"I'm honored that my colleagues have elected me to this position, and I plan to serve with vigor and live up to their expectations," said Manheimer.

Davis, who edged out Lael Gray by 35 votes to retain his seat, thanked the public for entrusting him with another term.

In brief remarks, Hunt said “I've already learned so much” during the campaign, adding that “This session of Council will probably be the most positive and supportive one I'll ever experience.”

For his part, Pelly thanked his supporters and campaign manager, noting his newfound appreciation for city staff. “I look forward to going to work on behalf of the citizens of Asheville.”

— David Forbes can be reached at 251-1333, ext. 137, or at dforbes@mountainx.com.

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