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In Split Vote, Park Hills Picks New Councilman

By a vote of 3 to 2, Park Hills City Council voted on Thursday to add a new member.

Mark Cooper was selected to replace former mayor and longtime councilman Skip Fangman, who had written a letter earlier this year expressing his need to step down to illness. He died earlier this month.

Council, by law, has thirty days to fill a vacancy before the task is turned over to the governor. The city called a special meeting on Thursday to address the vacancy.

Mayor Matt Mattone asked anyone who wanted to be considered for the position to come up and speak. Cooper was the first, saying he had lived in the city for 12 years, and he works for the Post Office at the Dixie branch. Before that, he told council, he worked with restaurants such as Outback Steakhouse for ten years, as a partner,  and Ruby Tuesday's as a general manager. He stressed his financial background in doing profit and loss statements for the businesses, with $1.2 million and $3.3 million budgets. He likened them to the city's budget, and said he had worked with fixed costs and variable costs.

Cooper told council that some have called him a one-issue candidate, but he stated that he has long been interested in government and he loves Park Hills. When asked if he was willing to give 100 percent to the city, he said yes.

"I will do whatever it takes," he said.

There was also Jason Reser, who waged an aggressive write-in campaign in the 2014 council election and narrowly missed winning a seat. He has been a fixture at council meetings and volunteers for the city. The owner of a bike shop in Newport that bears his name was out of town on business, though, so his wife, Kellie, spoke on his behalf. She quoted Benjamin Franklin, "If you want something done, ask a busy person."

"Personally, I think Jason is your guy," she said.

Mayor Mattone clarified that the person chosen would serve until the end of the year, and in November the seat would be up for election. Council retired for an executive session to discuss the choices and when they came back, Councilwoman Pamela Spoor explained that she thought someone might think she had a conflict of interest because she bought a duplex at 1107 Amsterdam Road from Cooper recently. Legal council told her that there was no conflict of interest but she wanted it on record that there was no problem. She then made a motion to confirm Cooper as the choice to replace Fangman. It was seconded, and Kathy Zembrodt and Greg Claypole voted yes, while Steve Elkins and Monty O'Hara voted no.

Elkins and O'Hara stressed that they would work with Cooper well, but they wanted to give Reser a chance because of all the work he has done for the city.

Written by Patricia A. Scheyer, RCN contributor

Photo: Mark Cooper