Mayor: Larry Preston, Nell Harrison 'good, natural choices' for City Council seats

by: MARK MILLER - Nell Harrison (right) takes the oath of office to become a member of the City Council of Columbia City Thursday, May 1. Administering the oath is Leahnette Rivers (left), city administrator and recorder.Two new members of the City Council of Columbia City were appointed last month, replacing council members who left the council midway through their first terms in office.

Larry Preston and Nell Harrison were named by Columbia City Mayor Cheryl Young to succeed Shannon Fitzgibbons and Casey Wheeler, respectively.

Both Fitzgibbons and Wheeler were elected in 2010. Fitzgibbons announced her resignation in March because she was moving out of the city, while Wheeler left the council last month due to “lack of time to devote to doing the job to the level that the citizens of Columbia City expect from their elected officials,” he told the Spotlight.

by: MARK MILLER - Columbia City Council Member Larry PrestonPreston took office on April 3, while Harrison was inaugurated Thursday, May 1.

“I’m really happy, because they both love the city, and their goal is to work hard,” Young said Monday, April 28. “They were good, natural choices.”

Both Preston and Harrison were sitting members of the Columbia City Planning Commission, as well as the Columbia City Parks Committee, at the time of their appointment. As the city does not allow anyone to serve on the City Council and Planning Commission simultaneously, they were required to step down as commissioners.

Young indicated both appointees’ experience on the Planning Commission weighed strongly in their favor when she decided to name them to the City Council.

Preston is also assistant project manager for the Columbia City Veterans Park, the dedication of which was recently pushed back from this Memorial Day to Memorial Day 2015.

Young said Preston attended many City Council meetings as a member of the public, which she took as a sign of his interest in city government.

“Bringing him on when he has shown such an interest ... it just was a natural choice,” Young said.

Preston said his background is in the public sector, managing water districts and working for a county in California before retiring. He moved to Columbia City about two years ago, he said.

“I’m kind of excited about doing it,” Preston said of serving on the City Council. “I’ve always been on the other side of government — that is, an employee of government. Being involved at the decision-making level, policy-making level is very exciting, and this is a fantastic little town to get involved in.”

by: MARK MILLER - Columbia City Council Member Nell HarrisonHarrison, a longtime Parks Committee member, was appointed due to her experience with city government as well, according to Young.

“She seemed like a logical, clear choice, because we wanted somebody who could step in and fill Mr. Wheeler’s shoes,” said Young.

Harrison said she has valued her time on the Parks Committee.

“I have enjoyed that so much, seeing the results,” Harrison said.

Both Fitzgibbons and Wheeler’s terms of office were to expire at the end of this year, meaning their seats will be up for election in November. Neither appointed council member said they have decided whether to seek reelection, but Young expressed hope they might.

“I feel very comfortable that we’ve got two experienced and knowledgeable people to step in and take over,” Young said. “And perhaps if they like it, they’ll run again.”

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