Mayor, vice mayor may face off in Bluff City

J. H. Osborne • Feb 16, 2013 at 11:42 AM

BLUFF CITY — Things may be about to get interesting in the city’s upcoming election, especially in the race for the top post.

With less than four business days until the filing deadline, as of Friday afternoon no one had filed completed paperwork to get on the ballot as candidates for the Bluff City Board of Mayor and Aldermen, according to the Sullivan County Election Commission’s website.

But in recent days, Vice Mayor Lon Gene Leonard and Mayor Irene Wells have each picked up the necessary paperwork to potentially run for mayor.

Bluff City voters will go to the polls in May to cast ballots in elections for city government.

Would-be candidates for slots on the BMA have until noon Thursday to meet a qualifying deadline for the May 21 ballot. Candidate petitions have been available for pickup from the Sullivan County Election Commission since Nov. 23.

Bluff City voters will elect a mayor and two aldermen on May 21.

The alderman seats currently are held by Robert Miller and Sheena Cornwell.

Miller and Cornwell each have picked up a petition — as has potential challenger Richard Bowling. But as of Friday none had filed.

Wells and former aldermen J.C. Gentry and Mark Weaver appointed Wells mayor at a called BMA meeting three days before Gentry and Weaver left office in mid-2011. Town voters had rejected Gentry’s re-election bid in May of that year, and Weaver did not seek re-election. Their terms expired June 30, 2011.

On July 1, 2011, new BMA members elected in May officially took office, joining Wells and two aldermen who are halfway through their own four-year terms.

At the first meeting of the new board that night, a called meeting that Wells refused to recognize as legitimate, aldermen Melvin Carrier, Robert Miller and newcomer Bryan Mullins voted to name Lon Gene Leonard — a former BMA member elected to a new term by voters in May — as the town’s vice mayor.

A majority of the board later voted to name Leonard as the BMA’s designee for signing checks, and eventually named City Recorder Judy Dulaney also to serve as city manager.

Wells has voiced discontent with those and other decisions, which left her with little authority as mayor.

Within months, Wells filed a discrimination complaint with the Tennessee Human Rights Commission, against the town and fellow town officials.

The HRC dismissed that complaint in November 2012.

“Examination of the evidence indicates that there is no reasonable cause to believe that (the town of Bluff City) has engaged in a discriminatory practice,” HRC Executive Director Beverly Watts wrote in a notice of determination dated Oct. 30. “Therefore, the complaint in this matter is dismissed.”

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