Tuesday’s Fort Payne City Council meeting took on a bittersweet feel as the group bid farewell to two of its members and the city’s mayor for the past eight years.
Mayor Larry Chesser said council meetings are the public face of the job, but they are only a small part of what a mayor does. He was proud that during his eight years leading the city, he always responded to citizens, even when he knew it was occasionally going to be a tough phone call to return. He said he intends to continue interacting with City Hall, particularly in regard to seeing projects like the demolition of the old DeKalb General hospital completed.
Longtime City Attorney Rocky Watson praised Chesser for his tenacity, comparing him to a pitbull who was ever vigilant in reminding state officials and the Alabama Department of Transportation about infrastructure projects.
Mayor-elect Brian Baine presented a plaque of appreciation to Chesser as Chesser recognized outgoing council member Wade Hill.
Watson said that when the new Sports Complex is completed, Hill deserves to be noted at the opening because of the efforts he has put into making it become a reality. Hill also supported the bond issue that enabled the city to make infrastructure improvements and construct the new school campus planned to open next fall. Watson said the hard work Hill and the present council did will manifest in improvements to the quality of life for citizens for some time to come.
Hill said it was an honor to serve on the council, wished his colleagues well in the next term and shared his hope that they will carry forward many of the works that the current council started.
Judge Jeremy Taylor addressed the council on behalf of his father, Council member Gerald “Red” Taylor, who is recovering from illness and was unable to attend the meeting. Taylor declined to qualify for re-election because of his health issues.
“He is getting better,” he said. “He had surgery about a month ago in Birmingham and has been moved closer to home to an in-patient rehab facility. That’s why he isn’t here and hasn’t been here. But the doctors are telling us good things. He’s expected to make a full recovery. It’s just going to take some time. When he was first elected in 2008, he called me the day after the election to say someone called him to congratulate him on being elected to the council and they wanted to know how long it would take to get rid of the chickens in their neighbor’s yard. I reminded him of how hard he worked to get the job, that there would be big and small decisions he would face.”
Along with serving three terms on the council, Taylor joined the National Guard in 1967, serving for nearly 25 years. He became an Alabama State Trooper in 1969 and worked public safety for 31 years. He was also a deputy sheriff, according to Judge Taylor.
“He’s always had a heart for service. Pride that comes from citizens giving that trust is a good thing, but it needs to be tempered with a whole lot of humility. He has lived his life that way and been a council person in that way. Over the years, the citizens of Fort Payne grew to trust him enough to put him in office. He has enjoyed being a city councilman and your friendship. Our family is appreciative of everything you have done working with him over the last 12 years and asking how he is doing,” he said.
Baine and returning council members Lynn Brewer and Johnny Eberhart will be sworn in Nov. 2 to begin the next four-year term, joined by new council members Phillip Smith and John Smith, as well as longtime returning council member Walter Watson, who received the most votes in the recent municipal election.