Councilman's residency question dispelled

Friday, February 12, 2010

Inquiring minds in Lewisburg want to know if the only woman on the City Council lives in her ward, according to one councilman who says city residents were asking him about it when calling about the Council's 3-2 vote to disband the Police Advisory Board.

That's what was behind statements from Councilman Quinn Brandon Stewart who took the opportunity on Tuesday night during the monthly Council meeting to confront and "dispel" false information. Mayor Barbara Woods announced that routine part of the Council's agenda when "other business" may be discussed without a vote.

"There is a councilman going around saying I'm living in Chapel Hill," Stewart began. "I just want to dispel rumors of me not living in my ward."

Stewart is living in the house that's been her residence here since she graduated from law school and returned to Lewisburg, she said at the conclusion of the monthly meeting.

A quick survey of the other councilmen resulted in denials from all four.

Because of that, Stewart was asked to name the councilman and she replied that two people had told her that Councilman Hershel Davis had said so.

"You get calls on things like that," Davis said late Thursday morning.

It was something constituents asked when calling about something else.

"When we come through this voting on the police board (which was disbanded on Jan. 12,) people called and talked and gave their opinion and asked a few questions and asked if she was living in Lewisburg or Chapel Hill," Davis said.

Stewart's husband is the proprietor of River Rats, a canoe rental business that's closer to the quarry at Pottsville than Chapel Hill.

Stewart said the River Rats building has two parts: The store; and an apartment. The rental unit is leased to a tenant.

Davis said his callers "asked, 'Do I know where she's at?' I don't even know where she lives... but I have been asked that question.

"Most of it came from these police board inquiries," Davis said.

The calls aren't from city employees or their relatives, he said "but it's been a commonly discussed subject, I think.

"Everybody makes that assumption when you change your lifestyle," the councilman said in an apparent reference to the fact that the Stewarts were married last year. "But it's immaterial where she lives."

Davis declined to say the calls were from people who wanted the police board dissolved, "because I got calls both ways."

He estimated the number of calls at 15-20, but that's "not as many as I got on the garbage" issue regarding landfill expansion.

"Some of them weren't real nice" on the phone when they shared their views about dissolving the police board, Davis said.

"You have to listen to it and it helps you make a decision," Davis said. "You have to have something to go by."

While the other three councilmen emphatically denied that they were "spreading rumors" about Stewart's residency, one mentioned a similar experience as Davis'.

"I've had calls about it," Councilman Odie Whitehead Jr. said, after responding to the question: "No," he's not been spreading "rumors."

Establishing residency out of a ward would disqualify a councilman from continuing to serve.

Lewisburg's next election, including voting in Stewart's ward and the ward represented by Councilman Robin Minor, is in the spring of next year.