After 14 years, it was time for Clifton Mayor Jim Chesley to say farewell.
During the monthly Clifton Town Council meeting on Tuesday, June 6, Chesley and the other members of his board, Mac Arnold, Brant Baber, Trish Roberts and Lev Buller, took their turns reflecting on the time they served on the board as part of their final meeting.
“I wanted to thank you for all your years of service that you’ve given to the Town of Clifton,” said mayor-elect Tom Peterson, standing with the aid of crutches after his recent knee operation. “You’ll have your day in the sunshine after July 1.”
Peterson said he and the other members of the new Town Council, which will not contain any currently serving members, have taken advantage of the fact that they’re not officially serving yet to meet and discuss their plans for the future of the town once they are sworn in on June 26.
“We want you to know that Clifton is going to continue,” Peterson said. “We do ask you to be actively involved in the town.”
Before leaving office, however, the council had some business to conduct, some last questions to ask before the new council took over.
“There’s been a serious pothole on Chestnut Street since last Sept. 19. Has anyone been actively following that problem?” asked resident Marilyn Stoney.
Chesley said it’s best for individual residents to call the Virginia Department of Transportation and report problems they see firsthand.
“If VDOT doesn’t respond, then have the mayor call and look into it,” Chesley suggested, mentioning to Peterson that this was the type of thing he should continue to check on in the future.
“No one in this town is in charge of things like this because the roads are owned by the state,” Baber said.
MOST OF THE hour-long meeting was a love-fest, with Baber introducing a resolution that would authorize a plaque listing the names of the current and former board members to commemorate their service.
“I got to thinking the other day about the people who have served this town for a long time,” Baber said. “Mac, for example. He’s been here since his hair was — wait, what color was your hair?” he jokingly asked Arnold, whose hair is all white.
“I thought it’d be nice for the town to say thank you to those who serve on the council and it would provide people a way to look back at the council and remember,” Baber said.
Buller abstained from the vote, saying it was a “conflict of interest” for the board to approve a plaque in their own honor. He offered his support of a bigger plaque which would list the names of all former Town Council members.
“This way, we’re not playing favorites,” Buller said.
Chesley suggested that idea would be a good one for the new council to discuss.
Baber also introduced resolutions thanking Fawn Freeman, who has served as town clerk for several years and who handed in her resignation on May 10; for town attorney Gifford Hampshire who resigned on May 4 but will stay with the new council until they find a replacement.
“We also need to express our heartfelt thanks to Supervisor Elaine McConnell (R-Springfield) for her help,” Baber said. “She’s been a great friend to this town and a lack of active support is not something you want,” he said to the new council.
WHEN THE MEETING came to a close, Chesley took the opportunity to thank his fellow council members for their time over the past 14 years he’s served as mayor, in addition to the years he served as a council member.
“This is close to the 300th time I’ve sat behind this table at a council meeting,” Chesley said. “I’ve been on 12 different councils with lots of different players. I’ve seen an immense amount of work done here since I got here, and we all know the town wouldn’t be what it is today if it weren’t for the people who live here.”
With the town’s small population, little difference exists between elected officials and ordinary residents, he said, and participation by all residents is needed to maintain the town’s heritage and future.
“This has been a lot of fun,” he said. “This town will survive, it will go forward. People make the difference here.”
Looking up from the table, tears filled his eyes.
With a shaky voice, he dismissed the meeting, wishing the town “good night and good luck.”