Reading from a prepared statement Merkel said the increased demands at his business, Merkel Mountain Shell Food Mart, reduced the amount of time he could spend attending to his duties and said he didn’t think it would be fair to continue as mayor.
Merkel became actively involved in Oak Grove by serving on the Planning Commission from 2000 to 2004 before being elected to serve on the council in 2004. Merkel was elected mayor in 2008 and ran unopposed in the 2012 election.
Merkel said he contemplated not running for mayor because of his concerns for his business and deliberately refrained from qualifying for mayor until he realized no one else was stepping forward to qualify.
“It’s not because the economy’s bad, or because Oak Grove’s businesses are doing well,” Merkel said, “it’s like everybody seemed to be up except my business which basically says to me all these other business owners are paying a lot more attention to their business than I am able to pay, than I had been able to pay to mine.”
In his resignation statement Merkel said, “More than anything I feel we have re-found our identity and our purpose. It’s not to grow uncontrollably into something that wouldn’t be Oak Grove and it’s not to just sit on money and not to do all that we can to serve our residents in the community.
“With a strong council and working as a team, we have accomplished much, survived much, fixed numerous problems and brought one major problem to the forefront. A problem that we now have moving in a positive direction with the creation of the Oak Grove Sewer Board.
“Oak Grove is the most amazing small town. In all my years with Oak Grove I’ve never run across any other town so small with so much capability.”
Councilman David Harris said he agreed with everything Merkel read regarding Oak Grove and he said the council was not just loosing a mayor but also a friend.
“It was a shock to all of us because we are a family,” Harris said, “but I want everybody to know that your resignation doesn’t have anything to do with your performance here. We feel like you have been one of the best mayors this town has ever had.”
What Harris said he appreciated about Merkel is his convictions of things he believed were good for Oak Grove.
“Yet the thing I appreciated and respected you the most for is when the council and you did not agree you respected the council’s wishes and your comment was ‘this is why I’ve got a council.’ You have been an exemplary model for big or small towns to follow and in saying that I want to say I appreciate you.”
Councilman Tony White said, “I’ve really respected you because no matter what the decision was you never took anything personal. It was for betterment of Oak Grove and in the past it’s not the way it always was.”
Councilwoman Mary Carter said, “I want to say good luck to you and hope everything goes well with you but I want you to know you are still a part of my family.”
Both Councilmen Donald Coleman and Carl Armstrong said they agreed with what the other council members said.
After the council accepted Merkel’s resignation, White presided over the meeting until the council appointed him to serve Merkel’s unexpired term.
Harris was selected to serve the position as pro tem
After the council meeting the new mayor said he had no immediate plans until after he got “his feet wet first.”
“You know Mayor Merkel was doing a lot of things going forward with a lot of things and I’m going to get with him and try to implement and carry on what he started,” White said.
“But there are a lot of things I have in my mind that I want to do for the town of Oak Grove with the blessing of the council,” he said.
“I’ve learned a lot from Mayor Merkel,” White said, “and still going to have to learn a lot. “
In other business before the council:
• Approved changing the date of Bloise Zeigler and Older American activities to May 30.
• Approved allowing 40 hours for Carolyn Ziegler to work on a Sewer Board audit.
• Approved the removal of all town signs referring to the Comet Community Garden.
Contact Mark Ledbetter at firstname.lastname@example.org