Talk about the ultimate sour losers.
Greenback Mayor Tom Peeler, who was defeated Nov. 6 after 44 years in the office, is effectively a squatter, refusing to give up his seat to the man, former Alderman Dewayne Birchfield, who thrashed him.
Loudon County Mayor Buddy Bradshaw swore in Birchfield on Nov. 20 after the election results were certified, but Peeler isn’t budging. The election was not close, with about half of the 1,100 residents of Greenback voting and 62 percent going for Birchfield.
Peeler, who claimed to have been contemplating retirement and almost didn't run, called his loss Nov. 6 the “happiest day of my life, I kid you not,” adding in an interview with our sister paper, the Lenoir City News-Herald, that “it felt like a big ton of weight got lifted off my shoulders.”
Then he started acting like a petty child throwing a temper tantrum.
Birchfield says the mayor without explanation canceled the regular Nov. 13 meeting of the Greenback Board of Mayor and Aldermen, at which the new mayor expected to be sworn in. That forced Birchfield to wait another week and take the oath outside the confines of the Board of Mayor and Aldermen, one of four of whom is Peeler’s daughter, Robin Blankenship. Meanwhile, Peeler’s wife, Norma, is Greenback’s only administrative employee, serving as recorder, treasurer and director of human resources.
Neither the mayor nor his wife and daughter would comment and explain their rationale for keeping Birchfield out of his rightly earned office.
The nepotistic triumvirate started slinging mud at Birchfield and any would-be supporters, including businesses, well before Election Day, however. Blankenship, who according to Facebook managed her father’s re-election campaign, posted on the social media site that she was boycotting the Corner Market after owner Kathy Brooks signed Birchfield’s petition for candidacy. (Brooks told The Daily Times she also would have signed Mayor Peeler’s petition, had he only asked.)
The next meeting of the Mayor and Aldermen is the second Tuesday in January (the city’s Christmas party is scheduled Dec. 11, in lieu of the regulator board meeting). Birchfield can assume the office at any time, though, because he’s already sworn the oath. The problem is the city’s charter is worded vaguely and does not specify when or how a sitting mayor is to relinquish his office. Loudon County cannot step in and force Peeler to do the right thing because the city’s charter is the ultimate authority.
That loosely worded charter means there is no guarantee that Peeler will step aside even in January, prolonging this sad episode. Peeler needs to vacate the mayor’s office immediately and stop subjecting himself, his family and the Greenback community to further embarrassment.
And the board's first order of business should be to rewrite the city's charter to prevent this nonsense from happening again.