By Rick Kennedy, managing editor
A famous song lyric once proclaimed “Meet the new boss, same as the old boss…” Such will be the case next Tuesday night, January 8, at 7 p.m. at Hope City Hall.
As he did two years ago in January 2017, District Court Judge Tony Yocom is scheduled to be on hand to administer the traditional oath of office to Hope Board members who were elected during the 2018 election cycle.
Three out of four are already familiar faces on the Hope City Board of Directors, including the current Mayor, Steve Montgomery of Ward 6, Don Still of Ward 7, and Mark Ross of Ward 1.
The fourth director to be sworn in Tuesday is an equally well-known name in Hope in a family known for public service. Dr. Linda Clark assumes the Ward 4 seat, succeeding retired incumbent, Don Hall, who himself assumed the seat in 2002, when J.C. Winemiller retired. Clark did not have an opponent in 2018, when she filed.
Clark is the Social Services director in the Hope Public School District, and she is the current president of the Hope Lions Club, the state’s largest in membership.
Clark is the daughter of longtime Hempstead County Justice of the Peace Doris Brown, who has served representing a district within Hope for years, and she is the mother of the Honorable Doris L. Pryor, now a United States Magistrate Judge in Indiana.
Montgomery, who first joined the Board in 2007, and Still, who has been on the Board since 1992, are longtime incumbents, while Ross succeeded the retired Doodle Franklin in 2014 and now enters his second four-year term. Ross was unopposed during 2018.
Montgomery in Ward 6 and Still in Ward 7, however, had election challengers during the 2018 election cycle from within their individual wards. Montgomery defeated challenger Carla Bryant 201 to 116, while Still turned back challenger Peter Maggio 224 to 63.
While Montgomery also served as Hope’s Mayor since 2017, and Still as Vice Mayor, under Hope’s system of government, neither were subject to a citywide election. Their respective reelections came from voters, who resided in their individual wards.
On Tuesday night’s agenda, “Election of the Mayor” and “Election of Vice Mayor” are listed, but as in 2017, there will be an expected executive session. In a statement regarding the process, City Manager Catherine Cook said, “the elections of Mayor and Vice-Mayor for the City of Hope take place in public session as they always have. The Board does usually have an executive session to discuss the issue, but the nominations for the positions and the votes occur in public session. ” Two years ago, Cook briefly presided over the meeting until the new Mayor and Vice-Mayor were officially named.
In 2017, when Montgomery was selected as the new Mayor after a 10-minute closed executive session, he said “Anyone up here could have served in any of the positions; in Hope, the post of Mayor is mostly ceremonial. We have a professional staff and administration.”
Cook, who heads the professional staff, was given a contract extension as city manager in October 2018 and will serve into the year 2020.
Serving in staggered terms, the Board Class of 2018 joins the three incumbent board members, who were all products of the Board Class of 2016, Kiffinea Talley of Ward 2, Reginald Easter of Ward 3, and Dr. Trevor Coffee of Ward 5.
Easter, similar to Ross and now Clark, assumed his seat in Ward 3, when another longtime incumbent, Willie Walker, retired after 2016.
Talley, who is also employed by the Hope School District like Clark, first joined the Board in 2013, and then defeated a challenger, Joseph “Jay” Kopecky, 141-54, in 2016 for reelection.
In the same 2016 election, Coffee, a well-known Hope Dentist, defeated businesswoman Sharon Caldwell 225-168 to claim the open Ward 5 seat as Dennis Ramsey, the longtime director and Hope Mayor for 40 years, also retired.
In other items on the agenda Tuesday, Cook will deliver her City Manager’s report, and the board will consider a grant for the Hope Police Department from the Edward Byrne Memorial Justice Assistance Grant Program.
By Rick Kennedy, managing editor