City's next election? Council's choice for mayor

Janie McKinney

Sam Shipley

By Thomas Wilson
star staff

  Now that the city election is over, the real political battle can begin.
  The city of Elizabethton's new mayor should be determined today at a special meeting held after a swearing in ceremony for the newly elected City Council members.
  Sitting Mayor Sam LaPorte ends his term in office today. Council members will choose the city's next chief executive officer through a nominating process.
  Council members Sam Shipley and Janie McKinney were both elected to council in 1998 and were re-elected in 2002. Councilman Bill Carter won a two-year term to council in a special election in August. He was appointed to council last year to serve the term of Diane Morris. Pat "Red" Bowers, the council's longest serving member, held the mayor's office from 1993 to 1996.
  Shipley, who works for the U.S. Postal Service in Elizabethton, has served as mayor pro tem since 2000. McKinney's selection would keep the mayor's seat in the hands of a Citizens Bank representative. She is a vice president of consumer lending at Citizens; LaPorte, a lawyer by profession, serves on the bank's board of directors.
  A highly popular pick with city voters, Shipley led an 11-candidate field running for council in 1998 and winning 1,874 votes. He led the field again in 2002 picking up 2,672 votes.
  McKinney's own showing at the polls has not been shabby. Her 1,483 votes placed her second behind Shipley in 1998. She ran third among candidates in 2002, winning 2,155 votes.
  Councilman Richard Sammons also plays into possibilities. He won the third at-large seat with 2,248 votes in the Nov. 2 race to capture his second term. He will be sworn in Tuesday along with newcomers Charles LaPorte and Curt Alexander who won council seats in the election.
  In recent city history, the sitting mayor pro tem has been elevated to the mayor's position.
  Ken Wandell was elected to council in November 1996 and was unanimously elected mayor pro tem by his council peers after he led all candidates in total votes for that election. He was later appointed the city's mayor in 1998.
  LaPorte was appointed to council in 1997 following the death of J.I. Cornett. He was named mayor pro tem in 1998 after winning a special city election. He ascended to the mayor's position after two years as pro tem, and opted to the hold the seat for four years once appointed by council members.
  The voters' opinion at the polls, however, has not always been reflected by council decisions in recent years.
  In the November 2002 city election, Morris won the third at- large council seat by only two votes over Sidney Cox after the final votes were tallied.
  Councilwoman Nancy Alsup publicly endorsed Cox pointing out his finish in the election. Despite Cox's popular support - he won 1,600 votes - a majority of council members apparently were unmoved and appointed Carter to fill Morris' seat.
  Bowers has made the motion nominating a council member for mayor in recent years. Once the nomination is made, Bowers has immediately followed with a second motion to cease all further nominations.