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A new but familiar face joins the Pierson Town Council to fill the seat left vacant by the death of Town Council Member James T. Peterson.

D. Gray Leonhard, former chair of the Pierson Planning Commission, was appointed to the Town Council June 22. In order to officially take his seat on the Town Council, Leonhard had to resign from his position on the Planning Commission. 

A lifelong Piersonite, Leonhard said he had previously considered running for a Town Council seat and finally decided to take the plunge.

“Being that I was already involved in town government and my history goes back in this town to the 1800s,” Leonhard told The Beacon.” I decided I wanted to put my name into the ring.”

The Town Council will discuss filling his former seat at their next regular meeting July 13.

Three Piersonites were in contest to take over the fifth seat on the Town Council: Planning Commission Member Paul Martel, former town employee Lambert James “Jimmie” Anderson and Planning Commission Chair D. Gray Leonhard. 

When the Town Council initially discussed filling Peterson’s seat June 8, Mayor Samuel G.S. Bennett suggested Martel and Anderson. Leonhard joined the fray later after submitting a letter in which he asked to be considered.

“I care about the long term best interest of our Town and as we grow into the future I would like to see us keep our small town charm and appeal we have always enjoyed,” he said in his letter to the Town Council. “It would be an honor to serve as a Town Council Member for the Town that has always been my home.”

Knowing each of these individuals personally made it difficult for some members of the Town Council to decide whom to nominate.

“I believe that all three of these gentlemen would serve the town well,” Bennett told the Town Council before welcoming suggestions on who of the three men to nominate. 

“They’re all qualified, I’m sure. A lot of them have lifelong roots here,” Town Council Member and Vice Mayor Robert F. Greenlund said of the candidates. “It’s very unfortunate, and I don’t want to hurt anyone’s feelings, but … sometimes in life, when you’re on a commission, you have to make a decision, and whether people like it or not, I’ve got to go with it.”

So a move was made — Greenlund made a motion to nominate Martel to the vacant seat. 

With no second, the motion died.

The momentary silence in Town Hall was filled by Council Member Sergia Cardenas, who made a motion to nominate Leonhard to the seat. With a second from Council Member Tom Larrivee, the motion went to a vote.

Met by unanimous approval from the Town Council, Leonhard was invited to step down from his position on the Planning Commission, and be sworn in to his new position so he could join the Town Council members for the remainder of the meeting. 

As the meeting wrapped up, Leonhard thanked the Town Council for entrusting the seat to him.

“I just want to thank you guys for placing your confidence in me. I want to thank the other people for expressing their interest in it; they would have also done a great job, I’m sure,” he said. “I’ll do the best I can do. I appreciate your confidence.”

The mayor and the other Town Council members thanked the others for offering their names for consideration, too.

“I don’t think I’ve ever seen a vacancy that was desired more than this one has been,” Larrivee said. “It’s nice to hear that happening.”

Leonhard will complete the remainder of Peterson’s term, and the seat will be up for grabs in 2022.

The Pierson Town Council will next meet at 7 p.m. Tuesday, July 13, at the Pierson Town Hall, 106 N. Center St. 

All Town Council meetings are open to the public.

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