End of an era: Chelsea bids farewell to Mayor Earl Niven after two decades

By ALEC ETHEREDGE | Staff Writer

CHELSEA – The Chelsea City Council met at a regularly scheduled meeting on Tuesday night, Oct. 25, a meeting that saw several touching tributes to outgoing Chelsea Mayor, Earl Niven.

Residents and officials from all over the city and county piled into city hall to pay their respects to a man that has grown Chelsea from small town to one of the top places to live in the state.

The meeting started out with the normal council business during which Niven declared the month of October breast cancer awareness month.

His wife is a seven-year survivor of the deadly disease and it was only fitting that this be one of the last proclamations he makes.

“This is home, this is family, this is Chelsea,” Niven said. “That’s the way we want Chelsea to be. It has been an honor to serve as this city’s mayor and with this council, and the many other councils I have worked with over the years.”

To show the success he has had growing the city, during Niven’s first year as mayor, the city started out with a budget of $32,000, which has since grown to a whopping $7.4 million.

He was loved by so many over his 20 years of service and for this reason, a special tribute took place during the council meeting.

This program saw people from the current council and people from across the city and council speak.

David Ingram, who will be the only member of the current council returning, kicked things off by presenting him with the Chelsea Youth Club award due to his hard work to make life better for kids in the community, including the new sports complex that is set to open soon.

Fire Chief Wayne Shirley followed and presented Niven with his very own fire helmet, which read “Chelsea Mayor 31.”

“You gave me the opportunity to do a job that I love,” Shirley said. “I still wake up every morning and look forward to serving this community. A lot of good things have happened in my 16 years here and I am grateful I have been a part of it all.”

Following Chief Shirley, was none other than City Clerk Becky Landers.

Holding back tears she read a proclamation from Governor Robert Bentley who declared Tuesday, Oct. 25, 2016 as S. Earl Niven Sr. day in the state of Alabama.

As if he didn’t already feel loved enough, Alison Nichols and newly elected Mayor Tony Picklesimer introduced a proclamation signed by the entire council that thanked him for all he had done.

“This is a very special council because you can look and see all of the special things we have accomplished,” Niven said. “Our new community center and the new sports complex have both been built in this council’s four years. We were always unanimously in favor of our votes.”

Next several speakers from all over came up and spoke nothing but great words about Niven.

Shelby County Sheriff John Samaniego, retired sheriff Chris Curry, pastor Tim Cox, Vincent Mayor Ray McCalister, Probate Judge Jem Fuhrmeister, Harpersville Mayor Theo Perkins, Chelsea city attorney Mark Boardman and Niven’s son S. Earl Niven Jr. all shook his hand, gave him a hug and talked about his accomplishments over the years.

“In Chelsea it really is always about family,” said Nevin Jr., who served on the council from 2000-04. “He has treated this city just like he would us as a family. We always had visions for this city and they have always been accomplished.”

The council then surprised Niven with a video, which showed his accomplishments over the years and included a lot of family photos, ending with the caption “family.”

His final meeting came to an end after Landers and City Councilwoman Juanita Champion presented the mayor with a plaque that had a gavel mounted on it.

He then adjourned the meeting and went on to enjoy a specially made cake designed to look like the city hall and read, “Mayor Earl Niven thank you for all your hard work and dedication to the city of Chelsea for the past 20 years.”

“I never had a daughter. Chelsea ended up being that daughter,” Niven said. “She is now 20 and getting married, and I’m having to turn her over to another man.”

Growing the city budget from $32,000 to $7.4 million and growing the number of residents from 900 to just over 11,000; he isn’t just tuning over his daughter to another man, he’s turning over one of the most successful and fastest growing cities in the state.

Tony Picklesimer, it’s your turn.