BY BOB RODRIGUEZ
New council member Pam Hopkinson, a fourth-generation Byronite who was seated Dec. 11, was appointed mayor of the Town of Byron on a 3-1 vote during a special meeting due to the resignation of Marie McCollam, who was appointed mayor on Dec. 11.
Hopkinson, a 1967 graduate of the former Byron High School, returned to the community in mid-2011 after a 40-year absence.
“This is my hometown,” she stated after the meeting, “and I have a great love for this community. I will do the very best I can as mayor.”
The council chamber in the town hall was packed with more than 40 persons during the off-calendar session on Tuesday night, Jan. 29. There were two agenda items: appointment of a town mayor, which took six minutes, and a review of a forthcoming sewer project, which dominated the gathering with 42 minutes of discussion led by Councilman Alan Bair.
Bair, who previously served two terms as mayor, opened the meeting with a statement that as there is no mayor pro tem “because the past administration didn’t appoint one,” he would “kick off” the meeting. He added that he had conferred with “senior councilman Dennis Cozzens” and that he agreed with his position.
Neither Bair nor Cozzens were interested in serving as mayor. Bair first asked for volunteers, then asked Cozzens if he wanted to be mayor, who replied, “Nope.” Bair responded, “I respect your answer because I don’t want it either.” He then moved to appoint Hopkinson as the new mayor. Councilor Sydney Hessenthaler, who was sworn in with Hopkinson on Dec. 11, seconded the motion.
Prior to the vote, Cozzens said that “during the past few days I’ve been really disappointed the way the council has gone about doing business. I’m not going to blame the council, but I’m disappointed that a small group has been pushing … I want to see us get back on track and do (business) the way it’s supposed to be conducted.” He then cast the lone “no” vote against Hopkinson, who is a cousin. After that he addressed the new mayor saying, “I think you’ll make a real good mayor (eventually), but I don’t think you are ready. But I will back you.”
Hopkinson replied that she appreciated his comments and that she “is banking on the council” to support her in the leadership role. She then took the oath of office administered by Lovell Police Chief Nick Lewis, who serves as the town’s municipal court judge. Afterward, she shook hands with Cozzens, Hessenthaler, clerk/treasurer Donna Booth and Bair. The mayor’s term has two years remaining, as Bret George resigned the post Nov. 13. He cited fatigue due to what he described as having to deal with continual contention. The council now will need to appoint a replacement for Hopkinson’s seat as a councilman.
Booth said prior to the meeting that McCollam, who served nine years on the council, submitted her decision on Jan. 23 around noon. Her full letter reads, “As of Jan. 23, I, Marie McCollam, Mayor of the Town of Byron, am submitting my letter of resignation.” Contacted after the Jan. 29 meeting, McCollam stated, “All that needs to be said is that my family and business responsibilities and obligations are my top priorities.”
After the meeting, Hopkinson’s family members including her husband, Glen, daughter Holly Huish and sister Dottie White, surrounded her with hugs. As well, many in the audience converged at the council platform to offer congratulations. Punch and heart-shaped cookies were provided in honor of the new mayor, courtesy of her sister.
Hopkinson also reported that she and Booth would leave Wednesday morning for a three-day training conference in Cheyenne sponsored by the Wyoming Association of Municipalities.
The 42 minutes of sewer talk consisted primarily of Bair’s “14 questions and concerns” about aspects of the project that will involve work in the areas of Riverview Avenue and Pyror and Central streets. He urged taking “a deep look before digging deep” because he feels that perhaps some material is too costly or inappropriate and that maybe some work isn’t needed now. He observed that, “Unlike Washington, D.C., we’ll be responsible for the money we’re spending.”
Bair stated several times that he “doesn’t have all the answers,” but that he feels the questions need to be asked about the project. Four bids were opened on Jan. 21 with O’Dell Construction of Sheridan emerging as the apparent low bidder. The project is bid in three sections so that the council could pick and choose. Phase 1 is bid at $54,102; Phase 2 at $74,545; and Phase 3 at $88,293.
The council’s conclusion is that a meeting will be arranged as soon as possible with the engineering firm to review the project prior to the council’s next regular meeting scheduled for Feb. 12.