The agenda may have been shorter than usual at the Dillon Town Council meeting Tuesday night, but it was a significant gathering nonetheless.
First item of business was the swearing in of the newest council member. Mark Nickel began the meeting sitting in the chairs set up for members of the public. He was then called forward, raised his right hand and swore to serve the town as its newest council member.
Nickel went through an application and interview process before being unanimously voted in at the April 2 council meeting. Nickel will be taking the place of former Councilman Jason Smith, filling out the one-year completion of Smith’s term.
Smith’s reason for leaving the council has to do with his permanent address. At the end of April he will be moving to a location that is not within the town limits of Dillon, which means he cannot serve as a town council member.
“Jason was a very analytical person, that would really think through issues and he did it … not just from a business perspective or just from being a resident but also from a family perspective, and really for what the community itself looks like,” said town manager Joe Wray. “So Jason had a vision of a family-oriented environment that was very welcoming to everyone.”
Family is also important to Nickel, who spends a lot of time in town with his 11-year-old daughter.
“I enjoy the family atmosphere of the town and all the activities and the parks and the rec and the marina and things that we have available there,” Nickel said. “We spend a lot of time biking and walking through town and going to the parks.”
While Nickel doesn’t have a specific agenda or any major changes in mind, he said he’s interested in delving into ways to improve the town in general.
“I live in Dillon and have respect for the town and a viewpoint for the potential, the upside of what Dillon can become. It’s a great city — the marina’s fantastic, the recreational opportunities, the location and everything — it’s just a great place to live,” Nickel said.
One thing Nickel mentioned he’d be interested in focusing on is increasing the presence of art in the town.
“I’d like to see more art studios, artist galleries, little things like that in the town,” he said.
He’s also interested in improving the walkability of downtown Dillon, making it a more attractive place for visitors to come, park their cars and walk around.
“I think we’re going in the right direction, we just need to continue to progress and put in a plan,” he said.
After being sworn in, Nickel walked around the table to the single empty seat, taking his place with the other council members.
The second action of the council Tuesday night was to elect a new mayor pro-tem, a position also left empty by Smith’s departure.
Mayor Ron Holland nominated Councilman Kevin Burns for the position, which was seconded by Councilman Tim Westerberg. Burns was approved by a 6 to 1 vote.
Burns has been a member of the town council since April 2012.
“He has a very extensive background in politics. It’s just natural for him to progress in this manner, being a part of different committees in the town and coming on to town council, being elected to that position by the citizens, and then taking the mayor pro-tem position,” said Wray.
At the meeting, Burns thanked the other members for their support. In an interview later, he added that he is excited to explore the position further.
“I just got interested in the job when Jason announced that he was going to be stepping down. I enjoyed my year on council and I think I have a good working relationships with both Joe and Ron and I just through it would be a good way to get more involved in doing good work for the town of Dillon,” Burns said. “Everyone on council was really supportive, especially Jason and Ron, both were really encouraging in having me pursue this opportunity and I decided to put my name out there and see what happened.”
In addition to the usual duties of a regular council member, the mayor pro-tem must be ready at any time to step in as acting mayor. This includes when the mayor is absent for normal and expected reasons, as well as if the mayor is otherwise incapable of performing his duties.
“It can be a challenging position,” Wray said. “It’s more than just ceremonial.”
Burns, however, said he’s looking forward to such challenges.
“I’m looking forward to it,” he said. “I’m curious myself to see exactly what the position is going to entail on a day-to-day basis. It’s new territory for me but I’m excited to take part in it and see what happens.”
The next council meeting, with its new member and newly elected mayor pro-tem, will take place May 7. Wray said that he is looking forward to seeing the group work together as a whole.
“We have a town council that really thrives on the synergy that each one brings and they are very respectful of differing opinions,” he said. “That’s what makes them so dynamic.”