At its first meeting with a new member, the Selma Town Council had a full agenda and a packed house that included Legionnaires.
More than a dozen veterans came to see one of their own – Post 414 Commander Mark Peterson – join the Town Council, which later voted 4-1 to buy the American Legion building at 300 N. Webb St.
Petersen said he would soon be taking off the hat of post commander to dedicate more time to his duties as a councilman.
“I’m honored and flattered and very humbled at the trust you’ve placed in me,” he told the audience. “I will do everything in my abilities to live up to your expectations.”
Petersen is taking the seat of former councilman Eric Sellers, who chose not to seek reelection. Mayor Cheryl Oliver warmly thanked Sellers for his service.
Oliver and Councilman Tommy Holmes, who won reelection in November, also took their oaths of office.
“I didn’t go out and promise nobody anything except I’d stand up and be a voice for them, and that’s my pledge for the next four years,” Holmes said. “I’ll stand up and be a voice for the citizens of Selma.”
Oliver expressed how excited she was for the years ahead of Selma and the projects in progress.
“The next decade, I honestly believe we will see a transformed Selma,” she said.
“The year 2016 is a leap year,” Oliver added. “Why not set out and go for the big leaps? A lot of our projects require small steps, but let’s not in taking the small steps forget to look for the big leaps. I’m going to pledge myself to do the big leaps and keep Selma moving forward.”
Additionally, the council elected Councilman Jackie Lacy to continue in her role as mayor pro tem. Brenda Thorne was sworn in as interim town clerk, and the council welcomed its newly hired finance director, Karen Johnson.
So the Legionnaires would not have to wait around, the council altered its agenda, moving the Legion building item higher.
The mayor began by alleviating any concerns that new councilman Petersen would have a conflict of interest in voting on the matter.
She said that when the American Legion voted to accept the town’s offer, Petersen recused himself and turned over the leadership of that discussion to the vice commander.
Oliver said that if a member does not gain financially as a person, he is not obligated to recuse himself from a vote. Two citizens came to the meeting to speak in favor of the town buying the building and converting it to a civic center.
Eric Jackson, representing the Selma history museum, said the new center would not compete with other entertainment venues, but compliment them.
“With that purchase, you are preserving an important piece of the history of Selma, and a civic center will be a compliment to the downtown entertainment complex,” he said.
Jackson suggested the town partner with a private business or property-management company to operate the building when it’s up and running.
The town will take a loan in order to pay for the building in three installments of $20,000 each.
The council voted 4-1 to approve the contract and buy the building for $60,000. Holmes was the dissenting vote.