PROFILE: Niven reflects on 20 years as Chelsea’s first, only mayor
Published 4:19 pm Tuesday, March 15, 2016
In the beginning of their marriage, Earl insisted on placing June’s paychecks in savings and living solely on his income.
Though the sacrifices weren’t always easy, the couple reaped the rewards of their strict saving regimen, as Earl said they would.
“He always had a good financial head,” June said.
Little did they know Earl’s financial savvy would be put to a 20-year test.
Road to incorporation
By the 1990s, the growth potential U.S. 280 held for communities clinging to its concrete corridor was too great to ignore.
In 1995, Earl and a group of other locals spearheaded efforts to incorporate Chelsea to secure its grip on 280, keep other municipalities from taking land and “to provide and protect what was Chelsea’s,” Earl said.
“We wanted to try to provide for our people and protect the area we consider to be Chelsea,” he said. “We wanted to keep revenue on 280 for Chelsea. We started to incorporate and had great support.”
The incorporation committee – Earl, Joe Garity, Chuck Lewis, Jay Jerman, Col. John Ritchie, Rita Smith and others – held meetings and appointed certain people to be in charge.
“I’m sure they included Earl because of his knowledge of the community,” June said. “They trusted him. He sort of was the one they all came to.”
The incorporation committee had to get signatures of people in the area and of registered landowners.
To incorporate, four qualified voters had to occupy every quarter-quarter (40 acres) of land.
The committee had to file a list with the Shelby County probate judge with the intent to incorporate.
After all voters were verified, the judge set up an election for the area encompassing registered voters, who could choose to vote yes or no to incorporating.
“The vote was about 94 percent in favor of incorporation,” Earl said. “We incorporated with 906 people in our area. From that point forward, our city began to look like a plate of chicken fingers; it just started running out in every direction.”