Newsoms town council appoints mayor pending legality

Published 10:01 am Friday, October 2, 2015

Newsoms resident Vanless Worrell has been named the town’s new mayor pending clarification of the Code of Virginia by a circuit court judge and the Virginia Municipal League. The code requires that a majority of the body is needed to elect a new major, but because one member was absent, town attorney Tim Drewry’s interpretation is that the three votes Worrell received are not enough.

According to the Code of Virginia, Section 24.2-228, when a vacancy occurs in a local governing body or an elected school board, the remaining members of the body or board, respectively, within 45 days of the office becoming vacant, may appoint a qualified voter of the election district in which the vacancy occurred to fill the position.

Town council members Judith Rose, Joseph Stewart and Donald Bowling voted for Worrell, Vice Mayor Harvey Porter and councilman Shawn Geary abstained and Clayton Gaskins was absent.

“You’re missing one member,” Drewry said. “Now, if the council so wishes me to do so, I will contact VML as to their decision on this and see if they believe [the code should read] that it is a majority of the presiding body and not the majority of the existing body, meaning your entire six. I can ask if three [votes] will allow this body to produce Mr. Vanless Worrell as the mayor.”

If Drewry’s interpretation is congruent with the Code of Virginia, the judges of the county circuit court may make the appointment or allow the town council to do so at its next meeting in which all members are present. The latter may not be an option, though, as Drewry pointed out, because 45 days after former mayor Kenneth W. Cooke’s resignation is Sunday, Oct. 4.

“Recommendation of this body will be presented to the judges and they will consider the candidate for that position,” Drewry said.

Worrell, a native of Newsoms, graduate of Southampton County Training School and Paul D. Camp Community College, veteran of the United States Army and former town council member, had a brief statement regarding his appointment. He also ran for mayor in November 2014.

“Regardless for my disdain of how this thing turned out, I’ll still do the same thing I’ve done for the last 16 years,” Worrell said. “I’ll be here.”