By David Palmer
The Cullman Times
It’s often been said that Colony would be entering uncharted territory when its mayor and council left office on Nov. 5, leaving the town’s affairs to a new administration short on the number of elected officials needed to legally conduct business.
But in the week since the town transitioned into the unknown, things have been happening fast.
On Friday, Gov. Robert Bentley appointed two new town council members, clearing the way for the local government to reorganize and reopen services to the public.
The appointments filled two vacancies, bringing the council up to a full five members — enough to meet, to establish rules of procedure, and to vote on appointing a mayor. The new council will be sworn in at 6 p.m. Monday at the Colony town hall. Sheriff Mike Rainey, who’s been holding the keys to the shut-down municipal building, will be there to open the door.
Colony was left without a mayor after the two remaining candidates — former council members Patrick Ward and Donnis Leeth — tied, both in an October runoff election and in numerous subsequent council attempts to choose between them. The outgoing council left office without having chosen a mayor, and with no mechanism for a designated town official to handle financial matters. The town hall has been shut down ever since.
State Sen. Paul Bussman (R-Cullman) said he received official confirmation from the governor’s office Friday that Bentley had appointed Parish Fitts and Crystal Wilson to the vacant council seats.
“We had five people recommended, but two who had at first expressed interest said they no longer wanted to be considered,” Bussman said. “We tried very hard to get people on both sides of the issue to serve.”
Bussman, who had offered to assist the outgoing council in negotiating the unprecedented legal obstacles the town would face after failing to usher in a new administration, said Monday’s meeting should yield decisionmaking progress sufficient to get the town up and running again.
“The first thing they will have to do is elect a pro tem of the council,” Bussman said Saturday. “That pro tem will then be in charge of running the meeting, and has the power to conduct business, to hire and fire, until they can get a mayor elected.
“At that point, they have to appoint, or reappoint, a clerk, and they have the opportunity at that time to elect a mayor — and the mayor can come from anywhere in Colony. He does not have to come from those two candidates.”
* Staff writer Benjamin Bullard contributed to this report.