PROFILE: Niven reflects on 20 years as Chelsea’s first, only mayor

Published 4:19 pm Tuesday, March 15, 2016

Man of faith, family

In addition to being mayor, Earl is perhaps best known for his faith and church involvement.

He has served as a deacon for 48 years and is at Liberty Baptist Church in Chelsea. He and June work with the senior adult ministry, and she plays the organ at the church.

Mike May, minister of music at Liberty Baptist Church, has known Earl for 14 years and complimented his historical knowledge of Liberty.

“Earl has been around here for most of his life,” May said. “He’s a very good historian on our church history. He always keeps us reminded of our heritage.”

May described Earl as “very faithful” and “encouraging.”

“All those things you would want in a church member, Earl is very strong in that, very supportive,” May said. “He is great.”

Earl and June read scripture and pray together every day.

“Not a day goes by that we don’t share our time with God,” June said. “We’ve always been faithful in church. I thank God every day for my husband.”

Earl also dedicates much of his time to his family.

When the couple’s sons were young, Earl insisted on the family taking trips each summer to different states.

“We got all 50 states covered before our sons graduated from high school,” June said. Her daughters-in-law often tell her their husbands talk about the annual trips frequently.

Earl Jr. served with his father on the city council in 2004.

The couple’s 43-year-old son, Brandon Niven, said his dad is someone he admires and tries to pattern his life after.

“Dad has always been there for his family,” Brandon said. “He has shown us not just by words but also by example of living your life for God first, family second and work third. I am not only proud of my dad for everything he has accomplished, but I am most proud of him for the Christian example of a husband and father he has been to our family.”

The stress that came with campaigning for and serving in an elected position wasn’t easy to manage at times.

“You’ll never please everybody, and I know that in life, but it’s harder because people think that you’re the mayor, you can do anything in the city,” Earl said. “(As) the mayor, you can’t get out of being around people that you represent, and you don’t need to. If you don’t love the city and love the people, you don’t need to be an elected official.

“Just like we’re called to be a servant of God, we’re called to serve the people as mayor of council.”

With each municipal election, June said she and Earl maintained the belief that God would only place him in the mayoral seat if he were still the best person for the job.

“I know God still wanted him in that position,” June said, referring to Earl’s re-election to his final term. “That’s the only reason.”

June said he is “at peace” with closing his chapter as mayor this year.

“I told him, ‘Just be sure the Lord is turning you loose, not you turning you loose,'” she said.

June has remained a steadfast supporter of her husband, even through her own trials.

Five years ago, she was diagnosed with breast cancer and underwent treatment. As soon as she was healthy enough, June resumed her attendance at the council meetings to support Earl.

“I like to go and be a part so I can understand what he’s trying to say to me about different things,” she said. “As soon as I could, I got right back up and went.”

On Nov. 1, the day after Earl’s term ends, he and June will leave for a month-long beach trip to relax and visit with family.

Their long-term plans include traveling and focusing on family even more.

“Family is so important,” June said.

Every Monday, Earl Niven and his family gather for dinner at his home in Chelsea.

“We are a very close family,” Niven said. “We have family dinner at my house every Monday night for the entire family. We’ve been doing this for about 15 years.”

Although he is stepping out of the municipal government spotlight, Earl will continue his involvement in––and support of––his hometown.

“Our lives are the city, the church and family,” Earl said. “I was a supporter of the city before I was elected mayor, and I will be a supporter of our city and community after I leave office.”