Former fire chief Bill Carter appointed new city councilman

By Thomas Wilson
STAR STAFF
twilson@starhq.com

   Former Elizabethton Fire Chief Bill Carter was appointed to the Elizabethton City Council at a called meeting held Wednesday night. Carter will serve out the term left vacant by the death of Diane Morris.
   "I'm going to try to help the council in any programs that come in that help the City of Elizabethton," said Carter, 68, who retired as chief of the Elizabethton Fire Department in 1997. "I'll help the taxpayers and also help the employees of the city to make life better for them and benefits for them."
   Councilman Richard Sammons nominated Carter and received a second from Councilwoman Janie Smith McKinney. Carter's nomination was approved by a 4-1-1 vote with Mayor Sam LaPorte and Councilman Pat "Red" Bowers voting yes while Councilwoman Nancy Alsup voted no. Mayor Pro Tem Sam Shipley abstained.
   Carter attended the meeting and was sworn in by LaPorte immediately after the vote. The meeting came on the last day of a 30-day window given to city legislative bodies to appoint a citizen following a sitting council member's death, resignation or removal from office.
   Carter worked as a volunteer fireman in 1952 before joining the city fire department in 1957. He spent eight years eating smoke and was named a fire captain in 1965. He was named assistant chief in 1970 and later became the department's chief in 1982, where he served until his retirement.
   "I enjoyed it and loved that kind of work," said Carter.
   Carter said he would serve out the existing council term and then decide if he would run for election.
   "I'll serve for 18 months and then, if I like it and feel like I can help the city, I'll probably try to get re-elected," he said.
   Carter currently serves on the Board of Directors of the Carter County 911 Communications District. A lifelong resident of Elizabethton, Carter and his wife Roberta have one daughter, Tina, and one granddaughter, Courtney.
   Alsup supported former city finance director and council candidate, Sidney Cox, who lost to Morris by only two votes in the city election on Nov. 5, 2002.
   In a prepared statement, Shipley echoed Alsup's feeling regarding the recent election results and the importance of citizens vote as a barometer of democracy.
   "I feel that the election was so recent and the election was so close, I strongly feel that Mr. Cox should have been given the opportunity to accept or reject this position," Shipley stated. "As far as I'm concerned, the people made the decision during the voting process, and I feel that we should honor their wishes."
   After the meeting, Alsup said her dissenting vote was against the process, not Carter.
   "I think Bill Carter will be an excellent council member, and I will work with him all I can," said Alsup.
   Morris died on Feb. 10 a little more than three months after being elected to her second term on the council. Carter will serve until the next county election scheduled for Aug. 5, 2004.
   LaPorte felt that the council would move seamlessly forward with its full complement of council members.
   "I think Mr. Carter will bring strong leadership to the council and will be a great asset to this city," said LaPorte, who added, "I'm very relieved the full council was able to appoint a nominee rather than me having to appoint someone."
   LaPorte himself was appointed as council member after J.I. Cornett died on June 20, 1997. He was subsequently elected to a two-year term in 1998 and a four-year term in 2000. The appointment came nine months after Cornett won the fourth and final council seat by besting Morris by only 26 votes in the city election of Nov. 1996.
   The city council is scheduled to meet in regular session March 13. The immediate decision facing the council will be how to manage the city's 2003-2004 budget, which stands to lose $275,000 in shared state sales taxes, according to Gov. Phil Bredesen's budget.
   "We don't have any new revenue," said LaPorte. "Our top priority is to try and not have any cuts in our city labor force."