BERLIN – Troy Purnell was sworn in at Monday’s Berlin Mayor and Council meeting and took his seat as a councilman, giving the body a full roster of elected officials for the first time since May.
“It felt good. Definitely a different view,” said Purnell of his swearing in and first meeting as a sitting council member. “I feel a lot more weight on my shoulders.”
Berlin Councilwoman Paula Lynch acknowledged this meeting was the first time the entire dais has been full at town hall.
“I welcome Troy,” said Lynch. “I think it’s great that for the first time in almost seven months we have a whole complement of folks up here.”
“I’m pleased we’ve got everybody in place,” said Berlin Mayor Gee Williams later.
Williams, a vocal Purnell supporter, said that Purnell’s experience made him a good choice for the council.
“We had two excellent candidates in both Phil [Cropper] and Troy,” Williams said. “Troy should be up to speed very, very quickly.”
Phil Cropper was second to Purnell in the election. Former Mayor and council member Rex Hailey also ran for Williams’ vacant seat, after his defeat in the recent mayoral race against Williams.
The empty seat left on the town council by his own move to interim mayor, then elected mayor, did not prevent the work of the town from getting done, Williams maintained.
“I feel we’ve gotten a lot done in the last several months,” Williams said.
The only decision Williams held in abeyance was the appointment of new members to town commissions and boards, which should take place in January. Council members are closely involved in those decisions.
Lynch suggested changing the town charter to prevent any such gap from occurring in the future.
Under Berlin’s charter, Williams could not resign his District 1 town council seat before the mayoral election in October, which left the seat empty while Williams served as interim mayor after Mayor Tom Cardinale’s unexpected death in early May.
Williams could not resign until the mayoral election was over, which forced a special election, instead of adding the District 1 seat to the regular election in October. District 1 voters had to show up for two elections, the regular vote in October for mayor and the special election in December for their council member. A charter change would prevent the need for a special election.
If Williams had resigned his council seat, he could not have continued to serve as interim mayor, a post he held by virtue of being the vice president of the town council.
Lynch lauded Williams’ desire to resign his council seat before knowing the outcome of the mayoral election.
“You shouldn’t keep your feet on either side of the fence,” she said. “You make the commitment to run for office.”
“It’s also more considerate of the voters,” Williams said.
The town attorney will look into the charter change.
Purnell said now is the time for the council to get to work with most of its key appointed and elected vacancies filled.
“Now it’s time to get the facts. The council’s never been in a position where it has the resources with all the positions filled to have all the facts,” said Purnell.
Finance Director Jo-Ellen Mason-Foley produced the recent year-to-date budget report very quickly, Purnell pointed out, which would not have happened in the past.
“I don’t open my mouth ‘til I got all the information. That’s always a good rule,” Purnell said. “It’s obviously going to be a learning curve for me.”
Councilwoman Lisa Hall said the town is positioned well for the new year.
“I’m really looking forward to the first of the year,” said Hall. “I think we can really sit down and get some business taken care of. It’s a fresh new time now we’ve got two new people up there.”