HURRICANE –There was poetry, prayer and patriotism in the Hurricane City council chambers on Monday as new mayor Nanette Billings and new councilors David Hirschi and Kevin Thomas took their oath of office.
It is the first term as the city’s senior civil servant for Billings, who has been a member of the city council since 2019. As the first mayor of Hurricane, she will chair a council that includes returning members Dave Sanders and Joseph Prete as newcomers Thomas and Hirschi. Thomas previously served on the Council from 2015 to 2019.
On the day of the swearing-in, the parking lot was full and stragglers circled the building’s front and rear parking lots before returning to the street. Despite some stragglers, the lunchtime ceremony started on time with Clint Lawton, a longtime resident reciting a poem he wrote for the occasion. The composition honored the bravery of the old and new city guides, a tribute that is underscored by printed portraits of each of the city’s mayors up until the turn of the 20th century.
“Our founding documents are indeed inspired and protect our freedom and all needs,” said Lawton. âMayor Billings has shown great leadership skills and has guided us with promises that she keeps. The day marks the beginning of a new era, so beautiful because First Lady May has her time to shine. We continue to serve each other as we did before and protect our freedom forever. “
Lawton was assisted by the Boy Scout Troop 1681 Color Guard, who carried both the American and state flags to the front of the pledge room. Next, Raina Thorn sang the national anthem, followed by a prayer conducted by Megan Heaps.
City clerk Cindy Beteag oversaw the swearing in of Billings, Hirschi and Thomas. Hirschi and Thomas then stepped onto the podium to make some remarks, followed by a speech by the new mayor who shared her vision for the future.
Hirschi said he looks forward to being part of a unique leadership team.
“I know that Nanette would be the first to tell you that this is not about gender,” said Hirschi. “It’s not. It’s about her being prepared and working hard and loving the city. But still, it’s pretty historic, isn’t it, that we have the first female mayor in hurricane history?”
Hirschi noticed that he was wearing a patriotic tie that had belonged to his father, the late Tom Hirschi. He said he could not sit down without acknowledging his legacy, referring to the senior Hirschis’ three terms as mayor of Hurricane, which ran from 2002 to 2013.
“I am grateful for his example and his encouragement in so many things,” said Hirschi. âYou know, when he was growing up, watching him, he always did something somewhere, on some board of directors, be it at the Peach Days or the Washington County Fair, the planning committees, the city council, and so on. He always set such a great example and I’m grateful for that. “
Thomas commented on the size of the crowd.
âThe interest in this event is much greater this time than it was six years ago when I was appointed to the city council. I think the only ones in the room when we took the oath of office were the ones of us who took part, âhe said. âAnd that’s a completely different experience. It shows the citizens’ interest in what is going on in our country. “
Thomas said people are under stress, both personally and politically.
“In every aspect of our life things are changing a bit and not the way we want them to be,” he said. âI am humble that the citizens of Hurricane were ready to have me back. I pray that I can listen to people and really represent them. I know I’ll never make everyone happy. But I hope that everyone can feel that I am doing my best, listening and trying to do the right thing. “
Billings began her talk by recognizing her gratitude for John Brammal who was there to deliver the mayor’s torch.
âI want to be able to express my gratitude to Mayor Bramal and his services for all these years. He was a great tutor, âsaid Billings.
She said she would let her love for the city guide her and draw strength from her faith.
“Sometimes we feel discouraged because we are no longer something special, more respected, intelligent, healthy, richer, friendlier or more capable,” she quoted the religious leader Dieter F. Uchdorf. âRight now God will take you for who you are and begin to work with you. All you need is a willing heart, a desire to believe in and trust in the Lord. “
She assured her fellow citizens that she was ready, had a desire to serve and trusted God.
“We need affordable housing, and now”
When it comes to zone requests, Billings has been careful to keep a low density in the agricultural core of Hurricane. That is not to say that she is unaware of the need for affordable housing, an issue that dominated her vision for the future.
Talking about her early years as a young woman and mother, Billings shared how she and her husband William lived “behind the front desk” of one of their Cedar City Best Western motels, then in an RV at a KOA campground, and next in a trailer at a trailer park before moving into their first home in Hurricane.
“We already have locations for higher density,” she said. âI’m going to encourage development in these areas and not change the zones because the developers want to make more money but develop in the areas that are already zoned for the increased density. Because we need affordable living space, right now. “
Billings said the city needs some RVs, tiny homes, and apartments.
“We need a place for people who work in restaurants, grocery stores or garbage trucks, for people who take care of our lawns and our parks,” she said. âWe need places for nurses, teachers, police officers and firefighters. We need a place where they can start. We need a place that is comfortable and affordable. “
It’s going to be a busy month with the new management as the first city council meeting of the year is scheduled for Thursday. After Billings quit her councilor role to take over mayor’s office, there will be an empty space on the podium that evening.
Community members interested in filling the opening can now throw their hats in the ring provided they have lived in hurricane for at least a year, are 25 or older, and have no crime on their file. The council will vote from among the candidates in an election on January 20 prior to the regular council meeting.
The council chambers will also be open on January 24th, when there will be a thank-you party for outgoing Mayor Brammal from 5pm to 6pm. Everyone in the community is welcome to attend, show their respect, and mingle with the people. Brammal has led the city of Hurricane for the past eight years. Before that he was on the city council for 12 years and before that on the town planning commission.
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