For the second time in two years, a city council member has stepped into the role as acting mayor for the city of Nelson, following the sudden resignation of the city’s mayor Tuesday.
Nelson City Councilman and Mayor Pro-tem Jonathan Bishop became acting mayor when Mayor Mike Haviland resigned Tuesday, City Manager Brandy Edwards said Wednesday.
Until there is an election for a new mayor, Bishop will serve in the position that, like those of the city council, has no salary, Edwards said.
Edwards said she is awaiting a response from the city’s attorney to find out when the election
will happen, but that the city charter appears to state there will have to be an election at the first available special election time, which is in September.
Whether or not an election is held in September, Edwards said, another will be scheduled for November.
Bishop said Wednesday that he has “no interest” in running for the office, but only serving as mayor until someone is elected. In fact, after his term is over on the City Council, he doesn’t intend to run for re-election, he said.
This is the second time Bishop has acted as mayor following a mayor’s resignation, with Mayor David Leister’s last year being the first to thrust him into that office, he said.
But Bishop said now that he’s acting mayor, not much will change for the rural town of about 1,300 people, straddling the Cherokee-Pickens county line.
“The only thing that changes is who’s running (city council meetings) and who’s signing the paperwork,” he said. “Right now, that’s really all that I think has changed.”
Bishop said this light workload and lack of authority for the office of mayor has been an issue in Nelson for some time.
It was one of Haviland’s reasons for resigning, his letter of resignation states.
In Haviland’s resignation letter, he wrote that the efforts of the City Council to change the “powers” of the office of mayor has turned Nelson’s government from one led by a “strong mayor” to one led by the city manager, a “strong city council” and “weak mayor.”
This has contributed to a difficult working relationship between the mayor and City Council and doesn’t serve Nelson well, he said.
Leister also had troubles with the council before he resigned last year to run for Pickens County Tax Commissioner.
He also differed with the City Council on what authorities the mayor should or should not have.
This was illustrated in 2010, when he fired Nelson Police Chief Heath Mitchell.
The City Council rehired Mitchell and later stripped the office of mayor of hiring and firing authorities over city personnel.
Those authorities were shifted to the council.
Prior to last year’s troubles between the council and Leister, the city of Nelson had another personnel issue in 1999, when the city manager, police chief and entire city council resigned, leaving then- Mayor Dennis Lance to run the city with only the help of the city clerk, who later quit, the Associated Press wrote at the time.
According to the Associated Press, a judge then ordered Lance to shut down the city, and Pickens County sheriff’s deputies locked City Hall, putting crime scene tape across the door to keep him from going inside.
This was after Lance and the City Council had butted heads over a city manager, hired by the council and then fired by the mayor.
Bishop said, again, the position of city manager became an issue when the City Council voted to make changes to the city’s charter last year to allow them to hire someone on for the position to oversee much of the day-to-day operations of the city.
Bishop said, though he can’t speak on all history of Nelson government, this was necessary last year so someone who was trained and knew how city operations work could run things, not someone who was simply elected as mayor.
He said he thinks the changes are here to stay, at least for now.
“With the current council, I don’t see that changing,” he said. “We are for the first not losing money in 12 years, I think. Whether or not that has anything to do with making the mayor have less authority, I can’t say. But, we’re moving in the right direction. We’re trying to turn the Nelson ship around.”