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Hartselle may be only city with 3 mayors in two days

By Deangelo McDaniel
dmcdaniel@decaturdaily.com · 340-2469

HARTSELLE — Hartselle may be the only municipality in the state to have three mayors in two days.

And John O. Burleson, who was at the center of a contested election, may have served the shortest mayoral term in Alabama history.

Less than a minute after Morgan County Circuit Judge James Bloodworth administered the oath Oct. 5, 1964, Burleson resigned.

The following day, a unanimous council appointed John Reynolds mayor.

So, over a two-day period, incumbent Grady Long, Burleson and Reynolds were mayors of Hartselle.

“Maybe this explains why our election history is so strange,” Council President Kenny Thompson said.

The chain of events leading to three mayors in less than 48 hours started with the mayoral runoff election Sept. 8, 1964. With two challenged ballots cast in his favor, Burleson defeated John D. Long by one vote.

Long filed a challenge to the ballots and “other irregularities” in Morgan County Circuit Court.

Compromise reached

Before a judge could hear the matter, Long and Burleson reached a compromise. Saying they wanted to restore harmony among the citizens, the two agreed that Burleson would take the oath “and immediately thereafter” resign.

Had Burleson resigned before taking the oath, former Gov. George Wallace would have made the appointment.

Reynolds’ appointment as mayor left a vacancy on the council. Civil engineer Carl Pattillo filled it.

Resigned post

Ironically, before completing the term, Reynolds resigned as mayor to accept a position with the Hartselle Housing Authority.

On Feb. 13, 1968, a unanimous council appointed Ernest Maddox to replace Reynolds.

He served until the August 1968 election, when Long overwhelmingly won a three-man race for mayor.

Long served three consecutive terms before opting to run for a council seat in 1980.

Thompson, who is serving his fourth term, defeated Long by almost 600 votes in 1980.

In 1984, however, Long ran a fifth time for mayor and ousted incumbent Don Brown. Since then, no incumbent mayor seeking a second term has won.

Scotty Maples defeated Samie Wiley in the 1988 election.

With Maples as the incumbent, Wiley returned the favor and ousted him from office in 1992.

In 1996, Robert Stephenson defeated Wiley. Stephenson didn’t seek a second term. So, in 2000, newspaperman Clif Knight won over Wiley.

In 2004, Dwight Tankersley ousted Knight in a three-man race.

Maples said he doesn’t know why Hartselle votes out incumbents. He said it takes about half your first term “to get your feet on the ground.”

“By the time you do that, you’re voted out of office,” he said.

“I look at other municipalities and they have some continuity.”

Thompson, who has never lost an election in Hartselle, said it’s hard to explain voters.

“Sometimes I think they vote people out here because it’s easy to do,” he said.

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