Commonwealth Journal

Local News

June 16, 2010

New Burnside councilor sworn in

Burnside — Burnside citizens have a new city councilor to whom they can turn for help — one who adds a bit of diversity to an overwhelmingly male city government.Lula Jean Thompson-Burton was chosen by the other five members of the Burnside City Council on Monday to fill the seat vacated by Craig Rich-ardson. She becomes the first woman to serve on the council since Becky Huff, who opted not to run for re-election in 2008.

Richardson, who received the highest amount of votes two years ago when he was elected, recently moved out of the city, meaning he had to vacate his place on the council. The remaining councilors set about gauging the interest of various community members in stepping in and serving the rest of Richardson’s term.Three names were brought forth for consideration: Thompson-Burton; Frank Deniro, owner of a local construction company; and Eddie Phillips, operator of the water treatment plant at Woodson Bend Resort.

Thompson-Burton received four votes Monday night against Phillips’s one. Deniro did not receive a vote from the council.The votes were anonymous, though Brian Watson was responsible for bringing Phillips’s name forward.

Councilor Ron Jones brought the names of both Thompson-Burton and Deniro to the table, but cast his vote for Thompson-Burton. He said he did so in part to bring something different to the city council.“I thought it might give a little diversity to the council to have a woman’s perspective,” said Jones. “I’m looking forward to (having her on the council).”

Thompson-Burton isn’t a token, however — the woman has been around her share of politics. Her father, Dexter Thompson, was the county’s deputy judge in the early 1980s for former judge-executive Darrell BeShears.She’s also a tremendous caliber of person, according to councilor Dic Gaskin, who also voted for her.

“I’ve known Lula Jean just about all our lives — we grew up together,” said Gaskin. “I know her dedication to the community. I’ve known her to be a person of integrity and truthfulness, and she’s very straightforward. When you ask her a question, you get a straight answer. She’s an intelligent person (and) well-educated, and I just thought she was the right person for the job.”Thompson-Burton has been a part of the educational system in Pulaski County in Burnside for a long time — after graduating from the old Burnside High School in 1978, she became a counselor at Burnside Elementary. Serving in that job for 22 years, Thompson-Burton is now at Eubank Elementary, but still calls Burnside her home. Thompson-Burton is married to Sam Burton and has two children, Allison and Logan.

“I’m very excited,” said Thompson-Burton following the special-called meeting. “I think with all the progress that Burnside is looking forward to ... we’ve got the possibility now of it being the town we hoped it would be.

“I think this will be an excellent council to work with,” she added.

Thompson-Burton said she didn’t know whether or not her appointment would be likely, but she found out quickly — it was the first order of business on the evening. She was whisked into Richardson’s empty seat, and even got to vote on an item of business — transferring ownership of a piece of empty property with which it was difficult for the city to keep up maintenance to sewer manager Richard Troxtell (the measure was unanimously approved).

“I enjoyed it,” said Thompson-Burton of her quick start. “It’s just in my blood, I suppose. I’m just looking forward to working with Burnside and helping it prosper and grow.”

In other city council business:

ª A first reading was given to the 2010-11 budget ordinance, and a budget amendment increasing or decreasing specific line items.

Burnside’s budget projects at $1,508,888.39, down a bit from the last fiscal year at $1,576,621.45, and two years removed from the largest budget Burnside has ever had, over $1,644,000.

No action has taken on these ordinances, being only the first reading. Another meeting will be held next week to get them passed before the beginning of July, when the new fiscal year begins.

• Burnside police officer Mike Hill was promoted to sergeant, and was congratulated by Police Chief Craig Whitaker.

“For a young man (the responsibilities of being a police officer) is a lot of times a lot to take on,” said Whitaker. “A young smart officer will look to those seasoned veterans around him for guidance, wisdom and experience. I had the privilege of watching Mike when he first started ... and I’m proud to tell you that (he) is now the officer that the younger officers look up to.”  

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