Changes get under way as Chester mayor takes seat

CHESTER – Monday’s swearing-in of new Chester Mayor Larry Forsythe ushered in a new era in Chester politics, but it remains to be seen who all the players in the city government will be.

Although Forsythe has declined to discuss the makeup of his administration, two more city leaders said Monday that the newly elected mayor has spoken to them about their replacement.

Longtime Police Chief Ken Thorn and Solicitor April Manypenny Raines said their service to the city likely will not continue under Forsythe.

“He told me he’s not going to reappointment me,” Thorn said. “I knew it was a possibility. … It’s his right, and I certainly can’t take that away from him.”

Thorn, 53, has been with the police department for 25 years, 20 of those as chief. He called Roy Cashdollar and Ken Morris, the mayors who hired and appointed him, respectively, “two of the finest mayors I’ve worked under.”

Thorn said he’d hoped that he could work as chief for two more years and then take full retirement. If he is not reappointed, he said he will work as a patrolman at his current salary.

“I love this job, and I love this town,” Thorn said. “I can’t imagine not being able to do what I would like to do. I have always had the desire to help people and try to be as honest and fair as possible.”

Thorn said Forsythe spoke to him last Thursday, the same day he spoke to Chester City Court Judge Curtis Parkins about his future. Parkins, municipal judge since 1997, said Forsythe told him that “he was going to replace me.”

Thorn said he does not know who Forsythe has in mind for the police chief’s job, but “I hope he will put someone in who cares like I think I do.”

Raines said she, too, has had a conversation with Forsythe about her services as city solicitor. While she said she won’t resign, Raines may be on the way out.

“(Forsythe) has indicated to me that he will be making a nomination for a new solicitor. … He is wanting to go in a different direction with all the (city) departments,” she said.

Ultimately, Raines said, it’s up to Chester City Council to decide who serves in the capacity of police chief, municipal judge and city solicitor.

“I think it’s important for the democratic process to play out according to our charter,” she said. “I’m going to let council do their job because that’s their decision. … I’ll respect whatever they do.”

Raines said the city charter stipulates that the mayor makes a recommendation, and city council votes to affirm or reject the appointment. Council routinely acts on appointments every four years.

Raines succeeded Michael Lucas III as solicitor when she was appointed by Morris in early 2011.

All three appointees attended Monday’s swearing-in ceremony at the Chester Municipal Building, where family members and friends of the newly elected office holders filled city council chambers.

Administering the oath of office was Judge James P. Mazzone, chief judge of the First Judicial Circuit. In addition to Forsythe, he swore in new City Clerk Elaine Hyatt, new City Councilmen Bradley Anderson and Ed Beaumont, and re-elected incumbents Mike Dotson and Steve Shuman.

Councilman John “Woody” Woodruff was unable to attend the ceremony and will be administered the oath of office later.