New year means new appointments, future possibilities for Winchester City Commission

Published 10:27 am Thursday, January 5, 2023

At City Hall on Tuesday, Jan. 3, the first City Commission of the new year took place.

However, it was far from the only new occasion.

The event featured Kenny Book and Hannah Toole making their debuts as city commissioners, while former City Commissioner and current Winchester Mayor JoEllen Reed oversaw her first meeting.

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“Welcome to Kenny and Hannah…Congratulations Mayor [Reed], I’m very proud of you”, said Kitty Strode, one of two returning city commissioners along with Shannon Cox. “I think we’re going to have a great year…and move forward here.”

“I’m just excited to dive in and get my hands dirty,” said Commissioner Toole.

Book was happy to be back on the commission.

“I’m glad to be on the board after four years absent,” he added.

In addition to city government officials, others were welcomed with appointments.

Among them was Brian Sewell.

With his wife and youngest daughter present, Sewell – who had previously served as interim public works director – was promoted to take the department’s big chair full-time.

The vote favoring the appointment passed unanimously.

Mayor Reed spoke in favor of the appointment, as did City Manager Mike Flynn.

“Brian’s done a very good job during his interim and, even before that, has performed well,” said Flynn. “As a manager, you’re only as good as the people you put around you. I just wanted to take a moment to thank Brian for that.”

Flynn also stated that city leadership was in good hands thanks to the efforts of Fire Chief Chris Whitely, Police Chief James Hall, and others.

Possibilities for future actions got discussed also.

One example is taking action concerning the addition of a traffic safety sign where the new gas station and grocery, Mustangs Mart & Liquor, is located along Carol Road.

“There’s going to be some bad wrecks there. We need to really take another look,” Strode said. “I know we’ve asked before, and either [must] try to have a right [turn] signal or a stoplight or something. It is a mess out there.”

Additionally, concerns about street lights being out was brought up by Book.

Flynn, who recently worked with newly-appointed Public Works Director Brian Sewell to study the streetlights, addressed some of those concerns.

Speaking about recent charity-driven efforts through the Salvation Army and other organizations, City Commissioner Shannon Cox provided positive data.

“I did get another [Salvation Army] donation today, so by the time it’s over with, we will probably be ahead of last year. Nationwide, the Salvation Army was down about 8-10%, so for us to be within 1-2% now of what we got last year…we’re amazing”, he said. “We [served] 793 kids through the Angel Tree program, which is another new record.”

In the end, Mayor Reed expressed optimism for work to come in the upcoming year.

“We’re going to try to move this community forward even more, and bring more opportunities in, and renew a spirit of enthusiasm for what we’re doing,” she said.