County appoints constable leaving city mayor’s seat open

In a matter of minutes and with the stroke of a pen, the City of Pittsburg essentially lost its longtime mayor when he became Camp County’s next constable.

   At its Jan. 30 morning meeting, the Camp County Commissioners Court accepted the resignation of current constable John Cortelyou effective Feb. 28.  Cortelyou will retire after serving in the position for 10 years. The next agenda item, to consider an appointment to fill his unexpired term, sent the Court into an immediate closed-door session.

  After reconvening and considering two applicants, the Court voted unanimously to appoint Shawn Kennington to serve out the remaining term effective March 1. Joel Wade also applied for the position. Local business owner Gib Wilson also provided comments of support for Kennington.

   “I do want to thank you all (the Court) for the opportunity you’ve given me,” Kennington said just after announcement of his appointment. “I was somewhat surprised that Gib was here and spoke. As he said we don’t always agree. Thank you for your kind words. I’d also like to thank Constable Cortelyou for giving me the opportunity back in September 2015 and showing the confidence he did in me by allowing me to learn the job. And to the sheriff’s department, they’ve been great to work with and I look forward to working with them also.”

   For Kennington, the eventual move is a long time coming.  Serving as the city’s mayor for the past 13 years, Kennington dreamed of becoming two things when he was young: a funeral director and a law enforcement officer. For the past 25 years, Kennington has lived out his first dream serving as funeral director at Erman Smith Funeral Home in Pittsburg.  He then achieved the first half of his second dream by graduating from the police academy at Northeast Texas Community College in 2015. Since that time, Kennington has volunteered nights and weekends as a reserve deputy constable.

   “For the past 18 months, I’ve taken a more active role learning the position and filling in when needed in his (Cortelyou’s) absence,” Kennington said.

   Kennington’s new appointment as constable, however, automatically creates a void in the City’s governmental structure.  The mayor’s position, up for re-election, will be on the May 4 ballot.  The deadline for prospective candidates to sign up for the now-vacant seat is Feb. 15. At the Pittsburg City Council’s next meeting March 11, council members will have the option to either appoint someone to fill the remainder of Kennington’s term or wait until voters decide two months later. That is provided at least one candidate signs up for the position.  According to the city’s bylaws, the Mayor Pro Tem, a position currently held by David Abernathy, automatically assumes the duties of the office in the absence of the Mayor.  

   “While this comes at a good time for me and for my family, there is still a part of me that is emotional about leaving as mayor something I have done since 2006. The nice thing about it, though, is that I know the City is in good hands. I am very confident of that.”

  In other agenda items, the Court approved board members for the Broach Recreational Complex and the transfer of funds for the Complex. The Court, however, decided to table final approval for the use of the Complex by the Pittsburg VFD for a proposed fundraiser concert in September. Camp County Judge A.J. Mason cautioned that the County wanted more time to determine a detailed usage contract and would revisit the measure in two weeks.

   And after much deliberation, the Court approved an interlocal agreement presented by Camp County Sheriff Alan McCandless for neighboring Franklin County to provide detention services at a cost of $40 per day per inmate. The Camp County Jail, originally built in 1992, today routinely operates at or above its full capacity of 34 inmates. Guidelines set by the Texas Commission on Jail Standards further reduce the number of inmates who can be housed together based upon the types of offenses committed.

   “It’s not a matter of if, but when we will no longer be able to continue operating like this,” Sheriff McCandless said. “This isn’t an overnight situation. It’s been going on for a long time. These are just the necessary evils we are now having to deal with and it’s only going to get worse.”

   The Court also approved a contract with EDOC for server acquisition and maintenance as well as authorization for the resale of foreclosed property and revisions to Court rules of procedure, conduct and decorum. Additionally, the Northeast Texas Rural Heritage Museum will soon be the new owners of an antique ballot box after the Court approved an accession agreement and deed of gift.