Wright was found off Rocky Mount Church Road (Talladega County 38) and apparently died of a single gunshot wound, according to Talladega County Sheriff’s Department Chef Deputy Jimmy Kilgore.
A press release from the city said the incident is being investigated by the Sheriff’s Department and foul play was not suspected.
Council President Jim Heigl assumed the office of mayor Friday and Councilman Manuell Smith, president pro-tem, became council president, according to a release from city clerk Patricia Carden.
Police Chief Chris Carden opened Saturday’s meeting with prayer and noted the solemn circumstances. In his prayer, Carden asked for God’s guidance.
The first item on the agenda addressed the vacancy created when Heigl assumed the mayor’s office. Heigl represented District 1 on the council.
The council approved a motion not to fill the vacancy on the council because municipal elections are Aug 28.
Addressing the issue of filling the position of president pro-tem, the council approved Councilman Doug Murphy’s motion that the vacancy not be filled at this time.
“I’ve not given it much thought yet and would like to table this until the next regular meeting,” Murphy said. The council agreed to address the matter at its next work session.
With no further business, the council adjourned.
All of the council members and the new mayor agreed that Wright made a significant contribution to the Sylacauga community and will be missed.
Heigl said he worked with Wright almost every day. “We traveled to meetings together and met often to discuss things,” he said.
“He had a great appreciation for family and friends,” Heigl said. “Sam kept two calendars and checked them every day.”
Heigl said Wright kept a calendar with the birthdays, anniversaries and events of his family and friends. “I’d walk in to his office many times finding him sending a card to someone,” he said.
The other calendar, Heigl said, was to keep up with civic affairs.
Chief Carden said he had great respect for Wright. “When I became interim chief, he bent over backwards to help me succeed,” he said. “He was a great sounding board, a great source of information, and had great leadership qualities.”
Carden said when he sent a letter commending officers, he also sent a copy to Wright. “He would send them one, too,” he said.
“He had a rule: He never wanted anyone to call in with a problem and hear, ‘We don’t handle that,’” Carden said. “Even if you didn’t handle it he wanted you to try to make contacts for them and help them out.”
“He loved Sylacauga,” Carden said.
Murphy said he worked with Wright for eight years and had a lot of respect and admiration for him. “He meant a lot to me these last eight years,” he said.
Murphy said Wright worked for the betterment of Sylacauga. “He is an icon in Sylacauga,” he said.
Councilman Walter Jacobson said, “I think he (Wright) had a very successful tenure. It is tough to think about his untimely death and he will be missed.
“He made many contributions to Sylacauga, not only as mayor but also his involvement as a citizen and in organizing events,” Jacobson said.
“I thank God for the life he lived,” Smith said. “He loved people and touched many lives.”
Councilman Ken Horn said he respected Wright as a friend and administrator. “The last four to five months we have moved closer,” he said. “I was upset when he announced he wasn’t running for mayor.
“We disagreed on some things, but we always put that behind us,” Horn said. “Every time I asked for help in my district he did everything he could to help. He will be sorely missed.”
“It has been my privilege to have worked with Mayor Sam Wright throughout his terms as mayor,” Patricia Carden said. “Sam was a good and generous man with a devotion and love for all the citizens of Sylacauga who lead by example. The city of Sylacauga was a better place because of Sam Wright. I will miss him, we will miss him.”
Former Police Chief Louis Zook was present at Saturday’s meeting and reflected on his time working with Wright.
“Sam Wright has made a large impact on the community, an impact beyond his tenure as mayor,” Zook said.
He said it was his pleasure to know Wright and his family the entire time he has been in Sylacauga.
“Sam is one of those people every community needs to have, should be proud to have,” Zook said. “He cared about people and was compassionate. He always wanted to do things right.”
He said he was a great boss and he really enjoyed working with him.
“His absence will truly be noted in the city,” Zook said. “My heart goes out to the Wright family. They are all such wonderful people. They are suffering right now and I hope Sylacauga will wrap their arms around them, console them, and grieve with them, and help them in the future.”