Society Hill mayor Henry Moree and three of six council members resigned from their seats on the town’s council at Monday night’s regularly scheduled council meeting.
Councilman Les Baker said business went as usual and then the Moree made his announcement.
“It was a surprise,” Baker said. “Normal business was conducted and then during council comments he resigned; then the other two followed after him.”
The council members who resigned included Kelly Wallace, Ann Breckenridge and Lynn Gaskins, who was absent but sent a letter informing the town.
Breckenridge said her decision was based on the fact that the town had changed.
“The town has gone from being close knit and working for the betterment of the community to having people around town planting seeds of discontent for the mayor and people that work for him,” she said. “That makes it hard to do your job. Council has worked very hard for the town, and I enjoyed my two years on council and representing my town, but my town made it very clear that, that’s not what it wanted.”
Both council members Breckenridge and Wallace along with Gaskins’ husband and mayor pro-tempore, Thomas Gaskins, work for Moree at his business MOR PPM.
The resignations are effective Dec. 31, but Baker said that doesn’t stop the town from functioning, just deepens a complicated situation.
“The mayor pro-tem wasn’t re-elected in November, so we won’t have an acting mayor,” he said. “The new members to council will be sworn in at the first council meeting (on Jan. 8).”
Baker said the council would then elect an acting mayor to serve until special elections are held to replace all four people’s terms that weren’t set to expire this year.
Fannie F. Johnson, a life-long resident of Society Hill, said she wasn’t surprised at Moree’s resignation.
“Henry had said he would retire if the people that worked for him weren’t re-elected,” she said. “I was surprised that the rest of them resigned. I don’t know what we’ll get in his place, but I do know a new day’s-a-dawning.”
The council also had first reading on an ordinance to reduce council member’s pay. The ordinance would take council members from being paid $1,200 each year to $700 a year.
The ordinance would also reduce the mayor’s pay from $3,600 to $1,800 each year.
Council would have to hold a special meeting before Jan. 1 to have a second reading on the ordinance in order for it to pass.
There were mixed reactions from residents that attended the meeting: some were upset and some happy to hear of Moree’s resignation and some uncertain about the future of the town.
Baker said more than anything the upcoming year will be a time for the town to heal.
“It will be important for myself and the new members of council to patch up the negative publicity this will bring the city,” he said. “Then from that point run the town as best for the citizens."