Thursday, June 11, 2009

Billings appointed mayor

A long-time Point Pleasant fixture has accomplished a life-long dream in becoming the city's mayor, making him the third in less than two years.

Tonight, during a special meeting, the city council appointed Brian Billings to replace Leonard "Buster" Riffle as mayor. During Monday's regularly scheduled council meeting, Riffle announced his resignation due to unspecified health reasons.

His resignation is effective Saturday, June 13.

Billings, who was elected clerk in the May 2007 city election, was appointed mayor by an 8-2 vote. Councilmembers M. Leota Sang and Sam Juniper cast the dissenting votes.

Sang and Juniper also voted together on two motions Sang made prior to the council's vote on Billings. The council shot down motions she made to first table any consideration of a new mayor pending a 30-day comment period by the public, and then another to appoint former Mayor Ed Woomer to his old seat.

Woomer was appointed mayor in 2002 after then-Mayor John Roach resigned to return to work in the private sector. Woomer lost the nomination for mayor to then-7th Ward Council Jim Wilson during the city Democrat's 2003 caucus.

During that May's general election, Wilson defeated his Republican challenger, then-Clerk Marilyn L. McDaniel, by 17 votes. A recount of the ballots narrowed Wilson's victory to 13.

During that election, Billings, who was then general manger of The Point Pleasant Register, was successful in winning one of the two at-large seats to council. In June 2006, Billings resigned as general manager when the council voted him 5-4 as the replacement for fellow Republican Stan Burdette, who resigned as clerk to take a job in St. Clairsville, Ohio.

In the next year's general election, Billings was successful in winning a full-term as clerk. He was part of a GOP ticket that included McDaniel staging a comeback to defeat Wilson for mayor, and take nine of the 10 council seats.

The victory was sweetened due to voters approving a change in the city charter to move future municipal elections to coincide with the state primary beginning in 2012, giving all those elected an extra year in office.

However, less than a year later the victory soured when in March 2008 McDaniel resigned amidst allegations of mismanagement of city resources, and a pending wrongful termination suit filed by Harriet Nibert who served as excutive secretary for mayors Roach, Woomer and Wilson.

A week after McDaniel's resignation, the council appointed Riffle as mayor. In the interim, Billings served as the city's acting mayor.

Prior to his appointment as mayor, Riffle served on council from 1966 to 1999. Billings officially takes the city reins on Sunday, June 14.

He will serve as mayor until the next general election.

During its 15 minute special meeting, the council left unresolved the issue of Billings' replacement as clerk. It is unclear if another special meeting will be called to appoint his replacement or if the position will remain vacant until the next regularly scheduled council meeting on Monday, July 13.

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