BRISTOL, Tenn. — West District Representative Lea Powers earned the nomination of outgoing Mayor Michelle Dolan and the votes of her City Council peers during reorganization Tuesday night, becoming the new mayor and the fifth woman city executive in the city’s history.
The annual vote saw Powers, who joined the council following her win in the May 2013 city elections, take the mayor’s seat in the predicted rotation that the governing body has followed through the decades. Additionally, Chad Keen was nominated and chosen as vice mayor for their next term.
“I feel so privileged to be able to serve in this capacity,” Powers said moments after her selection. “I am looking forward to keeping our positive momentum going and I really think that the best is yet to come for our city.”
Powers currently serves with Dolan and Margaret Feierabend— three of the five women who earned the post including Feierabend selected in 1997 as the city’s first female mayor. Sue Ojanen and Trish Bane have also served in Bristol's top government position.
The new mayor said continuing development of The Pinnacle retail complex in the exit 74 area is a component of future growth but said her focus in the coming 12 months will be fiscal responsibility of city funds, recruitment of industrial jobs to Bristol along with the formation and funding of a new Vance Middle School.
“In this economy, we are not in full recovery yet. It is important to bring in as many jobs as we can,” Powers said.
Industrial recruitment also is part of Keen’s agenda but he said items like the statewide epidemic of drug abuse and expanding the city’s tax base are also on the council’s radar in upcoming sessions.
“We need to build on what is here with existing business and recruit more, higher-paying factory jobs to come to Bristol. With the foundation that the council has built in these past 12 months, I think we have a lot of things to look forward to,” Keen said.
A bit of history was made following the nomination and brief recess to celebrate the new appointees when the six previous mayors, including Dolan, Feierabend, Joel Staton, Kelly Graham, John Gaines and Pat Hickie, joined Powers in the Slater Center cafeteria to extend their congratulations.
“Six mayors in one room — that’s pretty special,” City Manager Bill Sorah said as the group of city executives gathered for a photo.
In other action, the council voted 5-0 to appoint local attorney A.D. Jones Jr. to the bench as Bristol, Tennessee, Municipal Judge.
Jones had been interim judge for those sessions following the departure of Judge David Tipton, who took the office following the death of Judge Bill Watson in February. Tipton won the May election for District 4 Sessions Judge in Sullivan County.
Jones will now hold court Monday and Thursday mornings to hear violation cases and will receive an annual salary of $16,650 and benefits, according to Sorah.