New mayor, councilman weigh in on priorities
This story has been updated from a previous version to include additional interviews and information.
During a special meeting Wednesday evening, the Washington City Council voted unanimously to name Mayor Pro Tem Donald Sadler as Washington’s new mayor, and appointed 2019 city council candidate Mike Renn to fill the remainder of Sadler’s unexpired term.
The appointments follow the passing earlier this month of former Washington Mayor Mac Hodges, due to complications from COVID-19.
“It is my honor to accept this appointment, but it is also painful to serve under these circumstances,” Sadler said after the vote. “I pray God strengthens me to serve Washington well.”
With City Clerk Cynthia Bennett administering the oath of office, Sadler was sworn in from his home via Zoom, an unprecedented event in the Washington’s history. As mayor, Sadler says he hopes to focus on a variety of projects, such as overseeing completion of the downtown streetscape, partnering with the Washington Housing Authority to expand low-income housing in the city and addressing safety concerns on 15th Street.
“Mac and I discussed a lot of things that were some of his ideas and some of my ideas,” Sadler said Thursday. “We were looking at some of his ideas with the streetscape, and we had also started working on a plan to work with the Washington Housing Authority to possibly do some low-income housing, because there is a shortage of housing here in Washington.”
Additional priorities for Sadler include improving sidewalks and making the city more pedestrian-friendly, bringing in more jobs through economic development and improving activities for young people in Washington.
FILLING THE GAPS
Once Sadler was sworn in Wednesday night, the position of mayor pro tem was immediately vacated, as was his seat on the city council. The council then proceeded to vote 4-1 to appoint Councilman Richard Brooks as mayor pro tem, with Councilman William Pitt voting against.
“It’s a privilege to serve the people of Beaufort County and the city,” Brooks said Thursday. “I really didn’t expect it until a few hours before. I’ve always wanted to be a person to help others get higher, and I think my role, being an older council member, is to help those who come on board to be better councilmen. With this role they’ve given me as mayor pro tem, I accept it gladly, and I’m humbled that they thought of me that way to give it to me.”
Finally, the council considered two nominations to fill out the remainder of Sadler’s unexpired term. Councilwoman Virginia Finnerty nominated former Councilman Roland Wyman, with a second from Councilwoman Betsy Kane. Pitt, meanwhile, nominated 2019 City Council candidate Mike Renn, with a second from Brooks.
The deciding vote ultimately came down to Sadler, who voted for Renn. After a brief recess, City Attorney Franz Holscher reported that Renn had accepted the appointment over the phone. He will be sworn in at a later date.
Wyman and Renn were the first- and second-place runners up, respectively, in Washington’s 2019 city council election. Wyman and Pitt tied for the fifth seat on the council with 621 votes each. Pitt won the seat after his name was randomly pulled out of a basket at the Beaufort County Board of Elections. Renn, who was the next runner up, amassed 597 votes in that election.
For Renn, priorities include bringing the streetscape project to a timely conclusion to fully reopen downtown, as well as working with the Washington Historic Preservation Commission to incentivize property owners in the city’s historic district to repair and take care of dilapidated homes.
“I’m very excited about the opportunity,” Renn said. “I was excited when I ran in November and disappointed when I was unsuccessful. I’ve tried to be involved and do whatever I could to help out the council, so that excitement remains. I’m looking forward to getting going, and I’m honored and humbled that the city council decided to have me join their team. I hope to live up to their confidence.”