Everyone inside the Carmel Council Chambers on Tuesday, Nov. 27, played their proper roles as the city said goodbye to former mayor Steve Dallas and Councilmember Carolyn Hardy.
In turn they welcomed new Mayor Dave Potter and Councilmember Jeff Baron, and congratulated re-elected Councilmember Carrie Theis.
Political opponents were all smiles and wished each other well. There was no mention of the tumultuous year the town just endured. It started with an investigation into Dallas’ behavior, and ended not long ago with the city on the losing end of an expensive public records lawsuit.
Dallas and Hardy thanked residents, and the audience applauded them. On behalf of the city, City Clerk Tom Graves handed Dallas and Hardy bouquets of flowers in a gesture of thanks.
After Potter took the oath of office with his hand on his family’s Bible, he took to the dais and thanked Dallas for his service, the man he beat with 60 percent of the vote to 28 percent on Nov. 6. He also commended Hardy, who came in last in her contest for two council seats. (Baron and Theis won.)
Potter also thanked all the residents who had contacted him and offered their support for the job ahead.
“The one resonating tone I’ve heard was we’d like to work together,” he said. “I think that’s the message I heard the most, let’s try to work together as a community, let’s respect the public process and let’s all be allowed to participate.”
It was all very civil and polite and befitting of a small town of nearly 4,000 Carmelites who run into each other often at the Post Office and Bruno’s Market.
Yet there was an elephant in the room—or rather not in the room—City Attorney Glen Mozingo. As Potter spoke from the dais to a standing-room-only crowd, Mozingo’s chair next to the mayor was conspicuously empty.
Potter told the Weekly on election night that one of his first orders of business will be to call for a review of Mozingo’s $30,000-a-month, five-year contract, approved in August. He signaled he’s ready to find a way to end the contract, despite a requirement in the contract that it can be canceled only with a 4-1 vote.
In her remarks, Theis pointed out that voter participation was 83 percent, the highest in Carmel’s recent history, and possibly ever. She credited a council decision last year to move the election from April to November, but a rejection of two of the incumbents and Theis’ second-place finish to Baron’s high vote count—which bested Potter’s mayoral finish—was also in play.
The special meeting included a reversal in political fortunes for Councilmember Bobby Richards. For the past year he’s consistently been on the tail end of many 4-1 votes. He was sharply criticized by other councilmembers for questioning Carmel's growing legal bills under Mozingo, resulting in an apparent political attack on his character.
Richards was all in for Potter and Baron during the campaign, and Potter did not forget. He appointed Richards as his mayor pro tem, which means the guy who once was on the bottom is now second in charge.