Parsons becomes mayor of merged ECC-Sunnyside
But mayor of what? New city has no permanent name yet
The East Carbon and Sunnyside City Councils came together for the first time Tuesday night taking the area's first official steps toward consolidation. After nearly three hours of meeting in front of a packed house, an empty council seat had been filled and the town's new mayor had been selected. But the new 11-member council could not decide on a name for Carbon County's newest city.
For the time being, the town's temporary name will remain East Carbon-Sunnyside, as directed in the consolidation documents. East Carbon City Attorney Jeremy Humes advised the council that no matter what they decided, a change in the city's moniker would have to take place.
The council decided to table the manner for further discussion and input.
Larry Wood was voted in as the city's new council member and Doug Parsons received the necessary six votes to install him as the city's first mayor.
The historic session began when all 12 members of the East Carbon and Sunnyside City governments were sworn in as the governing body of a new city which encompasses the boundaries of East Carbon, Sunnyside and the subdivision of Columbia. They will serve for the next two years, working to make two sister cities - who have bickered for much of the last century - a single entity.
Following the swearing-in, Humes advised the council to elect a mayor pro tem to conduct the session until a new town mayor could be decided upon. Since David Maggio expressed no interest in being the new mayor, and has served as pro tem on many occasions in East Carbon, he was selected.
Following Maggio's appointment, the council decided that six members would make up a quorum and be considered a majority vote.
The body then heard from seven applicants seeking to fill the council position vacated when Barbara Robinett was elected East Carbon City Mayor. The applicants were given five minutes to address the joint board and provide their background. The council heard from residents Sam Sanderson, Ruby Cordova, Vincent Coffin, Larry Wood, Andy Urbanik, Jennifer Carter and Harold Smith.
Several candidates were voted on including Urbanik, Cordova, Smith and Coffin before Wood was nominated and received a six vote majority. He was then immediately sworn in and took his seat.
As Robinett and Parsons were the only officials who expressed interest in being the town's new mayor, they took five minutes and addressed the council. Following several nominations in which neither Robinett nor Parsons garnered the necessary votes to become mayor, the town's residents began to weigh in. During each of the first five public ballots, each council member voted in line with the city they were elected in and the mayoral candidate they came with.
"You're still divided, nothing has changed," said one of the 50-plus residents who filled the meeting chamber. "You're voting like you're still two separate cities."
As the citizens began to yell out comments, they were directed to announce themselves and be recognized before commenting.
When the situation appeared to be at a deadlock, Humes advised the council that they could choose to draw straws. Just when it appeared that chance would dictate the choice of the city's new mayor, Humes left the chamber to speak with Sunnyside City Attorney Craig Bunnell and the town's residents once again addressed the situation.
Phillip Holt, who was newly elected for this term had abstained from the mayoral vote. He serves as East Carbon's Police Sergeant and stated that because the mayor would be his supervisor, he felt that there was a conflict of interest. The residents who spoke stated that they understood his position, and wanted him to vote anyway.
"What concerns me about you not voting is this, how often are we going to be faced with a situation in which you don't vote because of controversy within the city?" asked town resident and Planning and Zoning Chair Liz Ferguson. "There have been many council members who have sat on city councils and I guess I'm just a little concerned that this is happening during the first meeting."
Holt explained that he would be voting for his boss and he didn't feel that it was proper. He had campaigned under the promise that he would indeed recuse himself from matters which affected his employment.
"I understand that Phil, but I think this is a very important vote and I think that we all need to weigh in," she continued. "Sometimes we have to take a stand and that's just the bottom line."
After the council members changed seats and several more residents pushed for Holt to vote, he chose to appease his constituents and moved for Doug Parsons as mayor. His vote, combined with the five Parsons had carried, gave him the support needed to become the new city's first chief executive.
As the session continued, the council voted to meet on the first and third Tuesdays of the month and concluded that their meetings would be held at the East Carbon City Hall Complex. Mayor Parsons closed the session by appointing Barbara Robinett, David Avery and David Maggio to an executive committee which will meet with the mayor on the Thursday prior to council session in order to discuss upcoming projects and issues.