Buchanan council names new mayor for this year
By Alison Graham
The Buchanan Town Council appointed local resident Craig Bryant as mayor Tuesday.
Bryant currently serves as the patient transportation coordinator for Carilion Clinic and as the volunteer fire chief for Buchanan.
Bryant will be taking over as mayor following former Mayor Larry Hall’s resignation, which took effect Dec. 1. Hall announced his resignation at the Nov. 27 town council meeting to the shock of the other council members. He had served as mayor of Buchanan for six years, but said the controversies in the town were causing his wife to become ill.
The town council faced a tumultuous 2017 with not only Hall’s resignation but also the loss of their town manager.
Former Town Manager Mary Zirkle resigned when the council voted to uphold a rule in the town charter that required the town manager to live in Buchanan. Zirkle was commuting from her farm in Bedford County and owned a second home in town.
This and other controversies required at one point last year a mediator to assist with strained relations on the council. This year, its members say, they want to move forward.
“We’ve opened up communication within this council,” Vice Mayor James Manspile said to about 30 residents gathered at Tuesday’s meeting. “That’s what we’d like to see continue.”
The council interviewed three candidates for the mayoral position. If the council didn’t appoint a new mayor within 60 days following the resignation of the previous mayor, the decision would have gone to a circuit court judge.
“We’ve shouldered this burden,” Manspile said. “We wanted to make this decision ourselves.”
At Tuesday’s meeting, the council also officially appointed an interim town manager, Jon Ellestad, who agreed to take the position at the end of last year. Ellestad will serve as the town manager until the council appoints a new one this year.
Bryant will serve as mayor until the end of the year, when Hall’s term would have originally ended.
“I have an interest in serving the community in a big picture sense,” Bryant said following the meeting Tuesday. “I want to move my town forward.”