Piedmont council appoints new mayor

The Piedmont City Council accepted the resignation of their mayor and appointed his replacement Friday afternoon.

Bill Baker will complete the term of Rick Freeman, who won election last year and took office in November.{} Freeman stepped down this week after battling health problems for several months.

When a previous mayor, Vera Stewart, died from pneumonia in 1996, Baker completed the final few months of her term.{} He campaigned that fall against six other candidates for the permanent position, but finished in second.

"I have been mayor twice without having been in an election," Baker said with a laugh after being sworn in Friday.{} "The one time I was in an election for mayor, I did get beat in a run-off."

Baker has 22 years experience on the council and was the mayor pro tempore, so he was the interim mayor Thursday before the council's vote.

District 3 council member Frank Cobb made a motion to delay a decision for 30 days, but the council voted 4-2 to go ahead and select a new mayor Friday.{} District 1 council member Ben Keller nominated Baker as mayor.{} Baker abstained from voting as the other five council members were unanimous in favor of his appointment.{} District 5 council member Brenda Spears was not in attendance.

"Excited.{} Happy," Baker said of his selection.

"I was hoping that the council would give me consideration and they did, so I'm thankful, that's probably a better word.{} Thankful."

He told his fellow council members that he will work hard to do the best he can, but reminded them that they are a team and must work together to improve the city.

"First thing certainly is employment opportunities for our citizens. We need more jobs here. We need bigger jobs," he said.

"I would love to see a plant come to Piedmont that would employ 200, 300 people. A lot of our people are going out of town to work. I'd like for them to be able to stay in town and seek employment."

Another goal is a city-wide beautification project.

"We need to strengthen our abatements and clean up our town. I find it hard to attract anybody to town if your town's not looking like you want it to look. I think our town looks very good but we have some areas that need to be improved on," Baker said.