McCollam new Byron mayor following challenges by Bair

Following a contentious challenge by Councilman Alan Bair regarding her competence as “a strong leader” and the direction she will lead the community, fellow councilor Marie McCollam was elected mayor during a Byron Town Council meeting in the town hall on Tuesday night, Dec. 11.

McCollam, a nine-year veteran of the council, will complete the two years remaining in the term of Bret George. He resigned Nov. 13 citing fatigue due to what he described as having to deal with continual contention.

New Byron Mayor Marie McCollam, right, greets outgoing town councilman Gilbert Cordova following Tuesday night’s council meeting in Byron.

On Tuesday evening Bair moved to “defer to next January for the next council” the selection of a replacement for George. His opinion is that incoming council members Pam Hopkinson and Sydney Hessenthaler, elected Nov. 6, should be involved in the selection. His motion died for lack of a second. McCollam then was nominated as mayor by Councilman Gilbert Cordova with a second by Councilman Dennis Cozzens. It was Cordova’s last meeting as a council member after serving six years. He stated that he did not want anyone to feel that by his nomination he was indicating that others were not qualified, but that he feels McCollam will fill the bill.

The nomination by Cordova was followed by nearly 40 minutes of comments and discussion as part of the nearly 90-minute meeting overall, as Bair challenged the first vote to make McCollam mayor.

When the question was called, Cozzens and Cordova voted in favor while Bair cast the lone “nay” vote. McCollam abstained from voting. Bair then disputed the 2-0 election, asking if more than two votes were needed. Dwain Jackson, a member of the town’s Facility Usage Committee, read from the town code, noting that only a majority vote was needed. Bair had Jackson repeat the code portion and one man in the audience of 24 persons questioned whether a reference to a majority of two was appropriate, saying that the council had four remaining members and not three.

However, attorney Scott Kolpitcke from the town’s legal counsel of Copenhaver, Kath, Kitchen & Kolpitcke of Powell intervened by noting that McCollam did “not need to excuse herself; she should vote.” Bair then stated, “If we’re going to vote again I want it open to discussion.”

After McCollam explained that although she had stated some time back that she would leave the council she now feels called to the job as mayor. “Since Bret resigned I’ve had massive phone calls and visits at home and my business,” she said. Because of that outpouring of community support, “I will do as the community asks. I don’t have all the answers, but I will take the responsibility” to serve as mayor. She also noted that she realizes that “not everyone supports me,” but that she will listen and do the best job that she can with input from the community and council.

“I think that you are a very fine person,” responded Bair, “and I don’t want you hurt. I thought that Bret did good,” but regarding the contention he cited, “you as a sweet person should stay the hell away from it. I am distracted,” Bair continued, “because we set upon the task of reviewing all policies, and they are extremely important, yet you and Gil (Cordova) have not chimed in” to accomplish that project.

“I’m here because I’m not happy with the way things are going. I want to follow a strong leader and as much as I respect you,” he said to McCollam, “I haven’t seen that and I don’t want the next two years to be as unproductive as the past two years. If that occurs I will be a growly bear.”

Earlier, Bair challenged McCollam as to what she “hopes to accomplish during the next two years.” She outlined her plan “to see all sides of the community,” adding that she sees the mayoral position as “a group leader” of the council and community. Bair was especially concerned as to whether she will be “a different leader than Bret” and the other mayor under whom she has served.

McCollam assured him that she has the best interests of the community in mind. She told Bair that she respects his observations and he replied, “Thank you.” For the second vote to elect a mayor the count was 4-0 in favor of McCollam.

As his farewell, Cordova noted that he enjoyed his time on the council, but that he is planning to retire from Marathon Oil Corp. and doesn’t want meetings to conflict with leisure time. He indicated that he believes the newly constituted council as of January with the leadership of McCollam will be able to work together and accomplish much.