The Asheville City Council’s Dec. 11 meeting—the last one in 2007—saw some shuffling of seats as the newly elected Bill Russell replaced outgoing Council member Bryan Freeborn, and incumbent Jan Davis got the nod as vice mayor.
Russell, a Republican who came in third in the November general election, was sworn in alongside Davis and fellow incumbent Brownie Newman.
Following an unsuccessful run for Council in 2005, Freeborn was appointed by Council to complete Terry Bellamy‘s term after she was elected mayor. He spoke briefly after Bellamy presented him with a resolution of appreciation.
“It wasn’t until losing [the election] that my wife and I began to realize how much time we haven’t spent together,” said Freeborn. “I look forward to getting to re-know my wife and my family.” As for his time on Council, Freeborn spoke about “the good things and the few bad things,” concluding, “I’m impressed with our record.”
In her send-off, the mayor complimented Freeborn’s championing of neighborhoods and working families as well as his focus on transportation issues.
Russell, an insurance agent, is a political neophyte whose success in the November election came as something of a surprise. “I am just humbled to sit up here with this Council … and look forward to listening and learning,” he said.
Russell added that his supporters, many of whom were in the room, “did an amazing job of bringing a newcomer to politics to this seat.” Then, taking a cue from Freeborn, he said to his wife, “I love you very much—and I’ll see you in four years.”
Davis’ selection as vice mayor (replacing Council member Holly Jones) came on a unanimous Council vote following a speedy nomination process. “I think it speaks very well when so many people want to nominate you,” noted Bellamy.
“It’s a huge honor,” Davis said about his election to a second term on Council. “It’s tremendous to have the support of the community.” To his mother, who he said was watching from home, Davis said, “Mom, you haven’t done too bad over the years.”
Newman, who’s also beginning his second term, called on community members to remain involved in city affairs. “I ask for your support as we serve—and that means your ideas,” he said. “Everyone thinks that their town is the most beautiful in the world, but Asheville is truly a special place.”
City Council won’t meet again until Jan. 9, 2008, but Bellamy said she’s fired up about getting started. “We are going to hit the ground running,” she promised, highlighting gang activity/crime and infrastructure needs as key issues. Council will identify more priorities at its annual retreat (slated for early next year), said the mayor.