Former leader disrupts Plum Grove search for new mayor
PLUM GROVE – An outgoing mayor trying to deliver her swan song faced repeated interruptions from a predecessor Monday during a sometimes contentious City Council meeting.
Although the council had plenty on its plate, including a discussion about the Police Department, that didn’t stop former Mayor LeeAnn Penton-Walker from interjecting a stream of comments from the audience.
During the session, the council appointed Mary Arrendell as mayor after Mayor Barbara Norris read a statement citing health reasons for stepping down from the dais.
Norris had actually replaced Arrendell in May 2021, bringing the selection process full circle.
“I’d like to say thank you to the great employees here,” Norris said. “Y’all have been great and very supportive. Council has been awesome, Fire Department, Police Department, everybody’s been great. I’ve made some lifelong friends.”
As Norris read from a prepared statement, Penton-Walker pounded her chest and directed comments at the departing mayor from the floor.
At one point a brief altercation broke out among listeners, but tempers cooled after one attendee was escorted outside.
Norris resumed her statement, telling audience members that health and her family took precedence over her municipal duties.
“My next chapter in my life is going to be bigger and better, so thank you for the opportunity,” Norris said to a round of applause.
Mayor Pro-tem Diane Chunn then took over the proceedings so the council could consider a replacement for Norris.
Penton-Walker, who had been allowed to speak during a portion of the meeting set aside for residents’ comments, not only lapsed afterwards into uttering several off-the-cuff comments, but also argued the council was violating guidelines for filling vacancies for a city the size of Plum Grove.
Chunn told Penton-Walker her time to speak had passed.
Council members then invited those interested in the mayor’s job to address the dais. Arrendell stepped up, offering to serve as mayor once again.
“I’ve been here before. I’d like to give it a try again. Maybe we won’t have so many bad vibes this time because, apparently, I wasn’t transparent enough,” Arrendell said.
Several audience members asked if she still lived in town, which she does, as well as other questions related to her family’s relationship to Colony Ridge, as the city is currently involved in legal action against the developer. She said there has been no connection for nearly a decade.
When no one else indicated a willingness to be considered, the elected leaders affirmed Arrendell’s appointment to fill the vacancy.
She took the oath of office and finished the meeting as the new mayor.
At the close, Penton-Walker, who made continuous claims of her “righteousness,” objected to comments about City Secretary Melissa Pouncey’s work to complete needed projects in recent years.
The former mayor said she was responsible for seeing those projects to fruition.
“I did. I did all of it,” Penton-Walker said as she left.
In related business, the council also heard from Police Chief Brandon Frazier, who said the force needed a reserve program.
Other issues he brought up included working to improve technical issues at the department, keeping track of evidence and streamlining the evidence-logging process.