WEST ALEXANDRIA — Village council appointed a new mayor and swore in new and returning council members at its bi-monthly meeting Jan. 6.
At the top of Monday’s meeting, village solicitor Aaron M. Glasgow announced newly elected mayor Dan Utsinger would not be taking office, citing a “change in work situation” that would not allow Utsinger to perform the duties required by the post. Council received a letter from Utsinger about a month previously, according to Glasgow, outlining his inability to serve as mayor as a result of his new work responsibilities.
Utsinger was elected in November 2019, after being appointed to fill former councilman Doug Crouse’s seat in May of that year. Utsinger was due to be sworn in during the Jan. 6 meeting as well. Instead, councilman Jeff Hickey was elected Council President, resulting in Hickey immediately being sworn in as mayor.
Councilwoman Holly Robbins nominated Hickey for the post; the nomination was seconded by Ashley Myers, who was sworn in just minutes earlier by Glasgow, along with newly elected council member Zach Shafer.
“This is not how I pictured myself sitting here,” Hickey told the council and assembled residents after taking the oath of office. “I actually voted for Dan Utsinger! But I promise I’ll give it my all.”
Hickey went on to say that a special election will be held in November, at which point he will have to run if he wants to retain the post.
Councilman Shafer then nominated Ashley Myers for the office of Council President. The nomination was seconded by Robbins and approved by council by unanimous vote. Robbins and Myers then nominated Dan Utsinger to fill the seat vacated by newly appointed mayor Jeff Hickey, an act council also approved; Utsinger will serve out the remainder of Hickey’s term, which expires in Jan. 2022.
Representatives of two local businesses operating in West Alexandria spoke during the public participation portion of Monday’s meeting. Ron Gard, of Girton Schmidt & Boucher Gard Funeral Home, sought to “put to rest any rumors” that the company would be closing Lindloff-Zimmerman funeral homes located in Gratis and West Alexandria after recently purchasing the company.
“We do not in any way intend to close these locations,” Gard said. “They will continue to operate as they have for the past 100-plus years.”
Mark Mays, an elder at Community Christian Church in West Alex and a senior executive at Wilmington, DE-based Church Funerals Direct, spoke to council about leasing a 15 by 15-foot space within the church building to serve as a holding room for prepared bodies; this would allow CCC to be licensed as a funeral home facility, according to Mays, though no embalming or other preparation of bodies would take place there.
This would require the church building to be rezoned, a request previously turned down by the local zoning board, Mays said, because they felt a “church should be a church and a business should be a business.”
Mayor Hickey set a special meeting for council to debate whether or not to uphold the zoning board’s decision. The meeting will take place Feb. 3.
Hickey also gave council an ultimatum concerning the hiring of a new Village Administrator, saying he would appoint a Board of Public Affairs if they were not prepared to take action on that issue at their next meeting. The village has been without an administrator since the resignation of Steve Weigold in May of last year.
“We can not go on without one or the other,” Hickey said.
West Alexandria Village Council meetings are held the first and third Monday of each month at 7 p.m. in the Twin Valley South Middle School Media Center.