By Rachel Dove
WILLIAMSON - After serving the city of Williamson as its mayor for nearly nine years, Darrin McCormick conducted his final council meeting Thursday evening.
McCormick recently resigned from office in the wake of a federal investigation unrelated to his position with the city.
Representing his ward for the last time was Councilman Matthew Thornsbury, who tendered his resignation after announcing his family’s plans to move to Pike County, Ky. Judy Hamrick was chosen to fill the vacancy left by Thornsbury and will begin serving in that capacity on May 1. Steve Knopp, a local attorney who has served as the municipal judge for Williamson since 2011 was appointed by the council and McCormick to serve as the next mayor, also becoming effective on May 1.
Both Knopp and Hamrick were present at Thursday’s meeting, as were all seated council members.
Williamson Police Chief Barry Blair asked the council to pass over the two names on the civil service list for hire making this the third time the request was honored, which removes the names from the hire list. The chief requested permission to give the test again as soon as possible to hopefully find qualified candidates for the position of patrolman.
Councilman York Smith asked the public to pray for Elliot “Spike” Maynard, a former circuit court judge in Mingo County and a state Supreme Court justice, who is listed in critical condition at Charleston Area Medical Center. According to Smith, the former judge, who is 67 years old, has spent 17 days in the hospital after being diagnosed with pneumonia and heart failure. Maynard is currently relying on a ventilator to assist with his breathing.
Smith also spoke about the oil residue that accumulates on the side of the railroad underpasses after dripping from the wheels of trains as they travel over the structures. In past years, Smith stated that NS Railroad would power wash the concrete walls at least once a year, but no longer do so. At one time, protective tarps were put in place that would collect the dripping residue from the trains, but the councilman said large trucks attempting to travel through the underpasses had ripped them down, and they were not replaced.
When you drive through the underpasses when it’s raining, the oil and debris from the walls drip down on your vehicle, causing a mess,” Smith said. “I would like to have Norfolk Southern do the power washing again to alleviate this problem.”
Councilwoman Sherry Brown spoke to the police chief regarding complaints she had received from numerous individuals, especially females, about men asking them for money in front of the BB&T Bank on Second Avenue when they stop their vehicles at the four-way intersection, and said they appear to be part of the small homeless population that live under the bridges in town.
“They are also following them through town when they’re on foot, and that can be an unnerving experience for anyone,” Brown said. “The daughter of a local attorney was so scared by one following her today that she ran in her parent’s office and locked the door.”
“We have warned several of them to stop doing this and we’ve issued citations,” Blair said. “I need to get with the city attorney and see exactly how the ordinance regarding loitering and soliciting reads. If it’s an arrestable offense, that’s the route we will take.”
“Sometimes, the way the law is written, it ties our hands and we can’t do a lot.”
Councilman Thornsbury asked if more signs could be installed on Second Avenue to make it plain to drivers that it is a one-way street, saying that you can see vehicles going the wrong direction on a daily basis. The mayor assured him the signs would be installed and said there are several already in place.
Councilwoman Connie Rockel spoke with Blair about her plans to check the street lights in West Williamson for outages and also addressed the need to repair potholes in several different locations in her Ward.
Ralph Hall, an employee of Veolia Water who ran for city council in 2012, addressed the mayor and council about their decision to replace Thornsbury with Judy Hamrick, when he was the candidate who originally sought the seat.
“We made the decision we felt was best for the city,” McCormick said. “Judy is extremely knowledgeable and is a good fit for the council position.”
“Why was I not considered?” Hall asked.
“You were considered; your name did come up but we chose Hamrick instead,” replied the mayor.
“Just because you run for an office doesn’t mean you have to be chosen to fill it if it becomes vacant,” Smith said.
“I have a lot of respect for Judy and I think the world of her, this is nothing personal against her. I just wanted to know why she was chosen instead of me,” Hall said. “I wish her all the best as a member of the Williamson council.”
At the conclusion of the meeting, the outgoing mayor addressed all those in attendance.
“It’s been an honor and privilege to serve the citizens of the city of Williamson,” McCormick said. It’s been a pleasure serving with these council members, as well as those I have served with in the past.”
“I love my hometown, and I hope that in the future I can once again serve in some capacity to continue working to move Williamson in a positive direction,” he said.
“I want to say thank you to all those who have supported me and my family, and who have extended kind words over the past two weeks. Your kindness and friendship means more than I can say.”
McCormick encouraged the public to continue to attend council meetings, saying that being active in local government is what it takes to see positive results.
“You have definitely been a working mayor,” Smith said. “There’s a lot that you have accomplished and set into motion that most people don’t even know about.”
Smith summed up his feelings regarding McCormick’s resignation in one sentence: “You will be missed.”
The next regularly scheduled meeting of the Williamson City Council will take place at 6 p.m. May 15.