Chase Croft, 26, a funeral director with Hutcheson’s Memorial Chapel and Crematory in Buchanan, will be sworn in as Mayor during the first work session of the City Council. He will fill the unexpired term of the late Mayor Benjamin “Buster” Biggers, who died Aug. 17, 2012, following a short illness.
The special election scheduled for March 19 to fill the mayor’s post will go on as scheduled, since the council had voted last month to add a Sunday liquor sales referendum to that ballot. Croft’s name may appear on that same ballot, but only as a formality; since he is the only remaining qualified candidate, he wins by default.
Croft’s sudden elevation to mayor came about after Kenny Hughes – who on Feb. 15 had resigned his position as city councilman and mayor pro tem to enter the race – abruptly withdrew both his resignation and his candidacy. He was reappointed to his old position during a Feb. 19 special called meeting of the council.
Hughes told the council that he had entered the race only because it appeared no other candidate would qualify for the mayor’s post before the Feb. 15 deadline. Hughes had turned in his resignation from the council and paid his qualification fee shortly before Croft appeared at City Hall to put himself forward as candidate.
On Monday, however, Hughes apparently made it clear to city officials that not only would he discontinue his candidacy, but desired the council to re-appoint him.
“After analyzing my decision to seek the Mayor’s office, I decided that there was much left unfinished,” Hughes said in a written statement released to council members and to the public. He specifically cited the new city park now being built behind City Hall as one of those projects.
“I wish the best of luck for the new mayor, Chase Croft; I know that working together we will continue to move the City of Buchanan forward, as well as expanding the accomplishments that we have experienced over the past three years.”
Even if Hughes had remained in the mayor’s race, the vacancy created on the council would have had to be filled by a council appointment. Special elections are called only when an official’s term is not yet half over; Hughes’ term expires this November.
Croft said he “would have rather the citizens had the opportunity” to elect him, but said he looked forward to working with Hughes and the other council members.
“I think all of us have the best interests of Buchanan in our heart. We will certainly work together to do our best for the city of Buchanan. We’re a small, tight-knit community. I think a lot of all the elected officials in the city, and I hope they feel the same about me.”
Councilwoman Patricia Warren presided over the special called meeting on Feb. 19 in which Hughes asked the council to re-appoint him. The remaining three council members voted unanimously to do so.
At first, it appeared that Hughes might be sworn in to the council post at the next regular meeting of the council – but then a question was raised as to whether anyone was currently authorized to serve as acting mayor, particularly in regards to signing checks and authorizing disbursements from city bank accounts.
That prompted city officials to begin searching for a judge to come to City Hall to administer the oath. After a delay of about a half hour, Haralson County Magistrate Court Judge Judy Cochran was contacted, came to City Hall, and Hughes was sworn in.
After Hughes re-took his seat on the council, Warren moved that Hughes be re-appointed mayor pro tem. That motion passed with Councilwoman Patty Hutcheson abstaining.