Come gather round, children

Published 2:00 pm Monday, November 5, 2012

Incoming Mayor Mark Hall speaks with outgoing Mayor Sonny Penhale after he presided at his last City Council meeting, as Police Chief Doug Jones and former councilman Jerry Pate look on. (Contributed)

By LAURA BROOKHART / Community Columnist

Come gather round, children Wherever you roam. And accept that the waters Around you have grown. I needn’t quote the well-known chorus from the Dylan classic. You are now singing it in your head.

These are timeless words and applicable on many levels, including the changes that we will be seeing in our humble town as residents adjust to the fact that new leadership is in place.

Our new mayor, Mark Hall, will be working with a City Council that, for the first time in Helena’s history, has the final word.

Because our population exceeds 12,000, as per Section 11-43-42, Code of Alabama (1975), the council can override mayoral veto by a two-thirds vote.

With three new council members, the council has held open-to-the-public work meetings to acquaint themselves with their duties. These have garnered extra public interest.

Residents hope that cooperation and consideration will affect decisions that will move Helena forward in the best ways possible, although reaching that consensus may be challenging.

At that last council meeting, Penhale made these closing remarks: “It’s been an honor for me to serve this city a total of 48 years — four years on the council and 44 as mayor.”

In 1968, then-mayor Dick Davidson was killed in an airplane wreck. His term was completed by Grady Wilson.

Then, Penhale was first elected to office.

“From the bottom of my heart, I thank all of you for what you have done over the years and the support you have given me. I appreciate it.

“I’m not going away, I’ll be right down there where I live. With God’s help, we will see our city continue to improve. I know Mark Hall will do a great job. I know Mark well; you have no worries about that,” Penhale said.

“People tell me all the time they love Helena — I don’t know where we could find a better place to live.”


Laura Brookhart can be reached by email at