ROCKINGHAM — Former mayor Steve Morris will be rejoining the City Council.
Morris was elected by the council Jan. 11 to fill the remainder of John Hutchinson’s term.
Hutchinson defeated Morris in last November’s election for the Rockingham mayoral seat.
Morris was sworn in Tuesday in a non-public “very informal” ceremony by Town Clerk Sabrina McDonald.
Morris said the decision to get sworn in early was “spur of the moment” so he could go ahead and get started and “be up to speed” when the council meets again in February.
“I was very pleased and honored,” he said about his selection by his fellow council members. “We’ve worked together before and I know that we’ll work together well this time, too.”
Morris, the former owner of Helms Jewelers, spent a total of 25 years on the City Council.
He first served four years in the late ‘70s and decided not to run again, but rejoined the council in 2000 and was appointed mayor in 2013 to fill the unexpired term of Gene McLaurin, who was elected to the N.C. Senate.
Morris’ photo, listing him as a City Council member, was on the city’s website on Tuesday evening.
He said he “hopes we can continue to move Rockingham forward.”
Applications for the council seat had to be submitted to City Manager Monty Crump by Dec. 31.
According to Assistant City Manager John Massey, five other people submitted applications: Gus Bellamy, Jeff Benson, Michael McRae, John Carter and Terry Ward.
Benson ran for the council in last year’s election and McRae ran against Morris and Hutchinson for mayor.
Morris’ swearing-in was so informal that Hutchinson said he was unaware of it until after it had taken place.
“My goal is to work with people for the benefit of Rockingham,” Hutchinson said. “As I pointed out throughout the campaign, Rockingham has done a lot of things right, but the time has come to kick things into high gear. That’s where our team needs to focus its time and energy.”
Also during last week’s meeting, the council voted to update its wrecker fee schedule for the first time in more than a decade.
Based on a request from Police Chief George Gillenwater, the council voted to increase the cap that wrecker services in the city can charge for the following tow services:
- $135 (from $75) for a tow from 8 a.m.-5 p.m. under “normal conditions.”
- $165 (from $100) for a tow from 8 a.m.-5 p.m. that involves a rollover or other extenuating circumstances
- $185 (from $125) for a tow from 5 p.m.-8 a.m. that involves a rollover or other extenuating circumstances
- $225 (from $150) for heavy duty wrecker service from 8 a.m.-5 p.m. under normal conditions
- $300 (from $200) for heavy duty service from 5 p.m.-8 a.m.
Gillenwater said in a letter that the fees were “antiquated” and hadn’t been updated since 2008.
The council also approved a proclamation to honor Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.