Melville becomes Derry Council chief on 4th vote
It took four attempts and a break for an executive session, but Derry Council finally agreed on Monday on a new president — veteran council member Kristine Melville.
The third time was the charm for Melville, who failed to gain sufficient votes when she was nominated twice earlier in the meeting. She eventually garnered support from all but one of her fellow council members — John McCreary, whom she has replaced in the leadership role.
Three other councilmen — Vice President Jim Byers, Chuck DeRito and Joe Morton — previously had opposed Melville as president. They finally joined Jim Ritenour and Chad Fabian in voting for her after council emerged from a 24-minute executive session that was called to discuss personnel issues related to the borough zoning officer.
After Melville's first nomination failed, DeRito suggested that Byers assume the role of president. Byers, who was chairing the meeting at that point, abstained, and Mayor David Bolen broke a resulting 3-3 deadlock by voting against Byers assuming the leadership position.
Melville and Byers initially got into a sharp exchange when Melville questioned the council vice president's qualifications to take over as president.
Melville faulted Byers, who chairs the public safety committee, for not acting sooner to initiate talks for a new borough police contract. “It took you six months to be able to negotiate,” she said. She chided Byers for not knowing that the acronym PEMA stands for Pennsylvania Emergency Management Agency.
“I would prefer to have a head of council who knows what they're talking about,” she said.
“What was the rush?” Byers asked concerning police negotiations. He noted officers are continuing to work under their previous contract, which expired in December, while efforts continue to pin down a new labor agreement.
Later in the meeting, borough solicitor Lee Demosky reported that “things are going along well” with the contract talks and said borough negotiators planned to meet with police representative Sgt. James Friscarella to “take one last stab at working things out.”
Melville said she planned to join Byers in meeting with Friscarella.
In support of his bid for the president's seat, Byers acknowledged that he wasn't familiar with some acronyms such as PEMA, but he said he hoped to “clean the town up, bring more business to town and keep taxes where they're at.
“Whether I'm going to be a good president, only time will tell,” he said, adding, “The people of this town will let me know,” based on whether they elect him to another term on council.
After the executive session and the change of heart that resulted in Melville assuming the president's post, Byers was deferential to Melville. He asked if she wanted him to continue as vice president.
“Jim, you're OK to stay,” she replied, indicating she would soon hand out new committee assignments.
Commenting on his decision to end his term as council president, McCreary said he had always intended to serve just one year in the post and then allow others on council to have a turn in the leadership role.
Jeff Himler is an editor for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 724-459-6100, ext. 2910 or firstname.lastname@example.org.