Municipal races set for Nov. 8 in City of Norris

At least four of the five current Norris City Council members will be returning for another two years after the Nov. 8 city election, since only six candidates qualified to run by the noon Aug. 18 deadline.

The incumbents are Mayor Chris Mitchell, Vice Mayor Bill Grieve, Loretta Painter, Will Grinder and Robert Sain.

Their only challenger is Charles “Chuck” Nicholson, who now serves as chairman of the Norris Tree Commission.

Nicholson was one of two candidates who applied last October to fill the unexpired term of Councilwoman Jill Ryan, who resigned in September 2021 before completing even the first year of her first term on the council.

The other four council members chose Sain, who is a lawyer, over Nicholson in November to fill out Ryan’s unexpired term.

Nicholson was at odds with now former City Manager Scott Hackler and the council over Hackler’s decision last year to have the historic elm tree in the downtown Norris Commons area cut down over safety concerns.

Councilwoman Ryan joined Nicholson and other members of the Tree Commission in opposing cutting down the tree, even though a tree expert hired by the city said it was not safe and could fall over at any time without notice. The council took no official action on the issue, saying that it was the city manager’s ultimate decision what to do with the tree.

After the November 2020 city election, Mitchell was chosen by a 3-2 vote of the council to continue serving as mayor, even though Grinder came in first in the balloting. Likewise, Grieve was re-appointed vice mayor even though Ryan came in second in the voting.

It had been something of a Norris tradition to choose the top vote-getter as mayor and the second-place candidate as vice mayor. But because neither Grinder nor Ryan had any experience on the council, the other three council members (including Mitchell) chose to keep Mitchell and Grieve in the two positions.

Before the vote to seat Sain on the council last year, Sain addressed the council and noted that he previously had served as city judge for eight years.

“We’ve been here since 1950,” Sain said of his Norris residency. “There’s a special feeling you get from living in Norris.

“We need to go slowly and not rush anything” to preserve the city’s heritage, he added.

Nicholson, who is a longtime member of the Tree Commission, said before the council’s vote in favor of Sain, “I pledge to carefully study the issues [and] make decisions on what’s best for Norris.”

Grinder said that he believed both candidates were qualified to serve on the council, but nominated Sain.

Some council members had privately praised Nicholson for his service on the Tree Commission, but suggested that his talents were most needed there.