The Register-Herald, Beckley, West Virginia

Local News

December 11, 2012

Oak Hill mayor resigns

OAK HILL — Citing a new position with the West Virginia Army National Guard and pressure from his employer, the mayor of Oak Hill, Jon Nick Lopez, has resigned after a year and a half at his post.

On Monday, Lopez cast his first vote as mayor on his last day on the job, breaking a tie between two council members nominated to take over the position — Fred Dickinson and Bruce Coleman.

By a vote of 4 to 3, Dickinson was chosen to fill the remainder of Lopez’s term, which expires in 2015. Former mayor Anna Lou Holt received a nomination and one vote.

Lopez says his decision to resign came with “mix-ed emotions.”

“I have great pride in wearing the Army uniform on a daily basis now, but having to resign from a position that the citizens entrusted in me to fulfill brings a feeling of disappointment for not finishing out my term,” Lopez told other council members at a city council meeting Monday.

Lopez says he was elected as mayor months before his decision to join the Army National Guard in November 2011. He says his mayoral position did “weigh in” on the choice to join the Guard, but in the end it was a “family decision.”

A promotion to state training officer at the National Guard in October of this year led the agency to ask for the resignation, according to Lopez.

“This opportunity allows me to serve my family, city, state and country in a role that is very fulfilling,” he says. “However, with this new adventure, I have been asked by the WVARNG to resign from my duties as mayor.

“My heart is always with the City of Oak Hill, no matter where I go, and I will always find a way to serve our community in some form when I can,” he added.

Oak Hill has a city manager form of government, meaning that most of the real work of running the town is entrusted to Bill Hannabass, who is on salary as city manager. The mayor presides over council meetings, breaks ties, signs official documents, and serves as a figurehead at special events.

Dickinson, who says the appointment came as a surprise, was a little reluctant to lose his vote on council. But he says he’s devoted to the new position.

“The city has always been very good to me, and in my retirement years I want to give something back to the city,” he says. “I just want to see the city of Oak Hill move forward, and I’ll devote myself to that in any manner needed to accomplish it.”

Dickinson served in law enforcement for 35 years as an officer with the State Police, Fayetteville Police Department, and as chief of the Oak Hill Police Department. He has served on city council for seven years.

Lopez has served on council and as mayor for a total of five and a half years.

At a council meeting in October, a citizen called on Lopez to resign, complaining that he was passing off his duties to acting mayor Bruce Coleman, while still accepting pay for his role.

Lopez has been absent from the majority of council meetings since the appointment of Coleman as acting mayor in January. The plan was for Coleman to serve in that position for one calendar year while Lopez underwent training and candidate school.

With Dickinson now in the mayor’s seat, council is also charged with filling a place in its ranks. The new member of council can be any citizen who resides in Ward 1, which encompasses the southern half of the city.

Council tabled the matter until their next meeting Jan. 14. No formal interview process will take place; council members will simply nominate whoever they feel would be good candidates, and a council vote will decide the outcome.

In his prepared statement to council, Lopez thanked Hannabass and Coleman for their support.

“I appreciate your service and your time as mayor of Oak Hill,” Hanna-bass said. “I always told you I wanted you to do what you know in your heart is best for the city of Oak Hill.”

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