Playing musical chairs

Published 2:29 pm Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Regardless of how voters cast ballots Aug. 26, at least two incumbent council members in Pelham will be defeated, possibly by other incumbents.

“Council members in Pelham run at large. We don’t have districts,” said Deputy Clerk Marsha Yates. “A lot of times, they (candidates) look around and see who they think they have the best chance against, even if that person is another council member.”

This year two incumbent council members chose to run for different seats. Willard Payne, who has spent 32 years on Pelham’s council, chose to run against Mike Dickens for the Place 2 seat instead of running for Place 3, while Bob Sullivan switched from Place 4 to run against Karyl Rice in Place 5.

Both men said their opponents would take the city in a direction they did not agree with.

Sullivan said he felt the council already leaned unfairly in one direction.

“We (he and Dickens) never could get anything done against those three (Rosemary Metcalf, Willard Payne and Karyl Rice),” Sullivan said. “I feel it’s about time for some new blood that will give life to a dead council.”

Payne’s opposition to Dickens was more specific. He said he believed Dickens wanted the city to sell Ballantrae Golf Course, the Pelham Civic Center and the Racquet Club.

“He made some statements about what he had in mind for future years, particularly in service areas,” Payne said. “I feel like we’ve worked hard for those things. They at the present time aren’t paying for themselves, but we built them to create a better lifestyle.”

Dickens said it has never been his intention to sell the venues.

“These are facilities I refer to as destinations — a drawing power for the city to bring people in,” Dickens said. “I never said we should get rid of them. I just think we should be very diligent in managing them.”

Dickens said it was irresponsible for the city to let the facilities continuously run in the red. At the election forum held Aug. 12, Dickens said he was happy to see so much competition for council.

“The council, in my opinion, has been nothing more than a rubber stamp for years,” Dickens said. “It has created a very unhealthy environment.”

Current Council pro tempore Karyl Rice said much of the discourse between council members could have been solved in a better way.

“Mr. Sullivan and Mr. Dickens think the mayor is pulling our strings and when he says hop, we do,” Rice said. “I have been on this council for a long time and Bobby (Mayor Hayes), and I have butted heads plenty of times. We simply came to an agreement that we would come to a consensus in the council chambers and not say nasty words in front of the public.”

Both Place 2 and Place 5have other opponents. Sullivan and Rice also face newcomer Maurice Mercer, while Dickens and Payne are running against R.C. Farmer.

Residents will vote at the Pelham Civic Center Aug. 26 from 7 a.m. and 7 p.m.