City Councilman Rev. Marcus O. Becton was officially sworn in as Clinton’s mayor pro tem at Tuesday’s meeting, taking the reins from late Councilwoman Maxine Harris.
With his election by the Council and the oath sworn at Tuesday night’s meeting, Becton becomes the first African-American man to serve in the post, Mayor Lew Starling noted during the brief proceedings. Starling administered the oath to Becton, who was elected to the post in a unanimous decision by the Council last month following Darue Bryant’s appointment to fill Harris’ District 5 seat.
Becton, accompanied by his wife Apostle Wendy Becton as he took the oath, has served on the Clinton City Council since 1996. He was first appointed to the board’s District 3 seat, before winning election to the district seat later that same year.
“And I’ve been running ever since,” Becton said with a laugh.
He is now the longest serving member of the Council and the first African-American man to serve as mayor pro tem. Becton was also the youngest member of the Council before Bryant, also an ordained minister, was appointed.
Harris held the District 5 Council seat for almost 20 years before her passing in February. She was the first woman to serve on the Council and the first African-American to serve as mayor pro tem, a post she held since December 2001. Bryant will serve out the remainder of Harris’ term, which expires in December. He was appointed at the Council’s April 4 meeting, at which he took the oath of office. Becton was elected as the city’s new mayor pro tem at that time, but the swearing-in was put off until Tuesday.
Upon taking his seat last month, Bryant conceded that “these are big shoes to fill,” referring to Harris’ nearly two decades of leadership. Starling echoed that sentiment upon the swearing-in of Becton.
“It’s a very, very important job,” Starling said of the mayor pro tem post. “He has very big shoes to fill, but the city could not have a better man.”
Former Clinton Police Chief James “Jay” Tilley was honored at Tuesday night’s City Council meeting, presented with his gun and badge upon his retirement. His last day was Friday.
“He served this city well,” the mayor said of Tilley, calling the occasion “bittersweet.” Tilley thanked the Council for allowing him to serve the city and especially for the opportunity to work alongside the men and women of the Clinton Police Department.
Tilley has served as Clinton’s police chief since September 2012. A self-professed “career law enforcement officer,” he came to the Clinton Police Department as captain in 2009 following a lengthy stint with the State Bureau of Investigation. He took over as chief following Chief Mike Brim’s departure three years later.
Tilley first announced at the beginning of January that he would be leaving at the end of April, extended notice to allow for him to assist city managerial staff, as needed, through the process of finding his successor. A lengthy search process culminated in an assessment center held at the end of March, featuring the four top candidates, however a hire was not made.
The search is now ongoing, with the job opening re-posted through various avenues with consulting firm Developmental Associates, in the hopes a chief can be selected in the coming months.
Capt. Donald Edwards, who serves as assistant chief, is now the acting chief.
“I wouldn’t necessarily say (we’re back) to square one,” City manager Robert Hyatt said last week of the search for a permanent police chief. “We’ve contracted with that firm to find a candidate and we went through that process, and a final selection was not made or we did not come to terms with the applicant that was identified. So, the desire is to go back through that recruitment process and see if there are any other candidates that might be interested in the position before we final down that list again and make an offer to someone.”
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