WILKES-BARRE — City Council on Monday reelected its chairman, but replaced its vice chairman, who has been a frequent critic of Mayor Tom Leighton and his administration.
Bill Barrett will handle the gavel in 2014, keeping the chairmanship for another year. However, Tony George, a retired city police chief like Barrett, was replaced by Mike Merritt for the vice chairman’s post.
“I guess I must have offended them by not voting for all of the mayor’s proposals,” George said after the meeting. “I was elected to represent the people, and I will continue voting no when I feel it’s the right thing to do, and I will question issues when I see fit.”
When it came time to vote for the chairman’s position, Barrett was nominated and he voted for himself, along with Merritt and Councilwoman Maureen LaVelle. George abstained, saying he has always tried to do the right thing as a member of council.
LaVelle was nominated as vice chairwoman, but respectfully declined, saying she didn’t feel she would be available to devote the time necessary to being second in command of council. She then nominated Merritt, seconded by Barrett. The vote was 4-0.
Councilman George Brown was absent.
Barrett said he felt council reelected him as chairman because the members were comfortable with him at the helm.
Barrett then talked about 2014 and the issues facing the city.
“I think we all know what the issues are,” Barrett said. “We have to continue to see financial progress and we have to continue to address crime.”
Barrett said the city has made “significant progress” in both areas. He said the city’s one-strike ordinance already has seen positive results in the city.
“As far as crime, we will never eliminate it,” he said. “But I’m sure we will see a safer year in the city in 2014. We have to keep sending a good, strong message.”
Barrett said he was “honored and appreciative” to be given another year in the chairman’s seat.
“We don’t always agree on everything and we never will,” he said. “I appreciate the cooperation council has received from Mayor Leighton and his administration. Our goal is to keep this city as great as it is.”
Council approved the 2014 holiday schedule with 12 holidays being observed. The 2014 council meeting schedule was also approved.