Council member resigns



Bill Sweeney smiled after making a motion to adjourn the Dec. 18 Brownstown Town Council meeting.

That officially marked his final action as a member of the council.

Since he was moving out of Ward 4, he had to resign from his seat. He and his wife already have settled into their new home five blocks away. It’s in Ward 5.

Sweeney, a Democrat, was appointed to the council in the mid-1970s and served until 1983 when he finally had opposition from the Republican Party and was defeated by a slim margin.

He ran again in 1995 and won, and he had served ever since, giving him a total of more than 30 years filling one of the five seats on the council.

“I’ve really enjoyed it, and I feel like I’ve done Brownstown a little bit of good,” the 80-year-old said of his tenure with the council. “I feel like I’ve partially paid Brownstown back. I put in a lot of hours for Brownstown.”

The Jackson County Democratic Party conducted a caucus Friday, and Mark Reynolds was the only candidate to file. He was sworn in that day by Clerk-Treasurer David Willey. His first council meeting will be Monday.

Reynolds will fill that seat until it’s up for election in 2019.

“I felt it was my time, and I still think it’ll be good for change for somebody,” Sweeney said. “I know I’m going to miss it. My wife keeps telling me, ‘Now, you’re going to miss going up there every other Monday.'”

Sweeney grew up in town and graduated from Brownstown High School in 1955. He wound up becoming a bricklayer.

At one point, he and his family moved to Greenwood, and they stayed there until moving back to Brownstown in August 1964.

Sweeney then took a job as a carpetlayer with Zabel Furniture Co., where he worked until retiring in 1999.

In the mid-1970s, Henry Knott had been on the council a few months when his job forced him to move to Seymour. One of Sweeney’s good friends, Eugene Scott, asked if he would be interested in filling that vacancy.

Until that time, Sweeney said he had never thought about getting into politics.

“I was on the volunteer fire department for 25 years, and I really enjoyed doing it, so I really wasn’t interested in any of this town board business because I didn’t know anything about it,” he said.

Plus, he had three young kids at the time.

“They were all in grade school. I was really interested in them, and my oldest boy, he was in Little League already, and he had started that,” he said.

He, however, finally was convinced by Scott to join the council.

“I did it as a favor to a real good friend,” Sweeney said. “They actually had to move the ward line from one side of the street to the other to make me eligible.”

While he said he never liked the political aspect of the council, Sweeney said it was a good opportunity to interact with the other members over the years.

“After I did it, I was tickled to death because it was fun with the right people on there,” he said.

For a few elections in a row, Sweeney didn’t have opposition.

Then in 1983, his next-door neighbor and good friend, Bob Goss, decided to run as a Republican and won.

Goss served two four-year terms until Sweeney was encouraged to run again.

“I was out two terms, and here comes Eugene Scott again, ‘Let’s get the old gang back together and beat these Republicans,'” Sweeney said.

He won the seat back in 1995 and only had opposition once — from Reynolds — since then.

During his time with the council, Sweeney said one of the biggest projects was about a year into his service. It was time to update the town’s sewer plant.

“You talk about meetings,” he said of the time the council spent meeting to discuss the project.

Another big project came in 2014 when the town landed a grant to buy a 0.45-acre lot at 121 E. Walnut St. and tear down two feed mill buildings and a silo. The town then received a couple of grants and some donations to create Heritage Park and construct a pavilion on the lot.

“I was glad to get rid of that mill down there. That was an eyesore for years,” Sweeney said.

He also said the council benefited from attending annual roundtable meetings, where they were able to talk to government officials from other Indiana towns and cities.

“Every once in a while, you would pick up on something that would work for you, too,” Sweeney said.

Over the years with the council, Sweeney said he experienced several changes.

For one, the five members used to sit behind a table in a small room at the town hall, and anyone wanting to discuss something with the council would come in one at a time. Now, they meet in a larger space at the town hall.

Also, he said the process has changed when the town applies for funding.

“There’s so much red tape that you’ve got to go through,” Sweeney said. “You might get a big-time $500,000 grant, but they are going to tell you how to spend that money.”

When Sweeney learned he would have to give up his council seat because of his move, he shared the news with county Democratic Party Chairwoman Jeanette Hackman. She asked him to talk to others in Ward 4 to see who would be interested in serving on the council.

Once he talked to Reynolds, he expressed an interest.

Sweeney said it will be important for Reynolds to take the position seriously and listen to the people in his ward and others in the community.

“I hope (Reynolds) does a good job because there are people down in his ward that need him,” Sweeney said.

Even though he’s no longer on the council, Sweeney said he will still be involved with the town by serving on the board of zoning appeals.

He also will stay involved in his church, and he said he will continue to play golf every morning in the summertime.

“I have my same foursome,” he said. “I’m 80 years old, and I’m the youngest. The oldest is 85.”

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