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Tommy Spraggins is sworn in as mayor of Alexander City Monday evening by municipal judge Randy Haynes as Spraggins’ wife Jennifer holds the Bible. Spraggins automatically became mayor upon the death of Jim Nabors on May 6 and Monday’s inauguration was ceremonial.

Tommy Spraggins formally assumed the powers of Alexander City’s mayorship Monday evening after raising his right hand and swearing an oath on his personal Bible but said he is only part of a team dedicated to making life better for the community’s residents.

Spraggins, the former city council president, automatically began serving as mayor a week ago upon the death of Jim Nabors but was ceremonially sworn in at the beginning of Monday’s city council meeting by municipal judge Randy Haynes.

“Mayor Nabors’ passing was a shock to all of us,” Spraggins told the council and those assembled in the courthouse downtown after asking for a moment of silence in his memory. “I’ve ended up in this role and I didn’t plan for it. But I’ll promise you I’ll do the best job I can. We’ve got a good team in Alexander City and thank goodness for that. My job is to support those employees and make the quality of life better in Alexander City. We’ll do our best to support bringing in new businesses. It’s an honor and I look forward to serving for the next year and a half.”

The meeting was noteworthy for the change in command, including Tim Funderburk’s elevation as council president, the selection of Kevin Speaks as the newest member of the Alexander City Board of Education, the council starting the process of filling Spraggins’ seat on the council and an admonition from councilmember Bobby Tapley to stop assailing the previous council.

Spraggins moved upstairs to Nabors’ former office Monday but did not sit in his chair at the meeting. Instead, a white ribbon commemorated Nabors’ memory and was a stark reminder of his absence.

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A white ribbon marks the empty chair of late Alexander City Mayor Jim Nabors as the city council meets Monday evening for the first time since his death last week.

“Tonight is very difficult for me, coming here without Mayor Nabors sitting here,” councilmember Buffy Colvin said.

Funderburk said Nabors’ influence lives on.

“I learned a long time ago the sign of a good leader or boss is not how well things are going when he’s there but how well things go when he’s not there,” Funderburk said. “Everything is still ticking like it should.”

But in the wake of Nabors’ death, Tapley spoke out about what he said was unfair criticism of the previous council and financial problems during its term.

“I saw a lot of things in the paper when the mayor passed that disturbed me talking about the past council and the past mayor,” Tapley said. “I sat on that council and when you talk about the past council you’re talking about me and I don’t appreciate that. That’s unprofessional and it’s disrespectful. That’s something that needs to stop. That’s in the past, just like Russell is in the past. You need to let that wound heal and stop scratching that scab because there are still people in this town who were hurt by that. We didn’t do that to the previous council or mayor. If you weren’t part of the previous term, you don’t know all the details.

“We need to be respectful and mindful of one another and quit bringing up the past. It was talked about we didn’t know about the funds we had — I don’t think anybody on the council now can tell you how much money the city has, where we stand to date on our budget, how much debt the city has.”

The council declared Spraggins’ council seat vacant and began the process to find his successor. City clerk Amanda Thomas will accept letters of intent and resumes from residents of District 5 from May 14-24, the council will conduct interviews on May 30 and appoint the new councilmember at its June 3 meeting.

The council chose Speaks, the assistant vice president of Valley Bank, on a 5-0 vote to join the school board after voting 3-2 against Colvin’s nomination of Vantrice Heard.

Funderburk and fellow councilmembers Eric Brown and Scott Hardy voted against Heard, the research core and health services liaison at Tuskegee University. Michael Lovett, the student support services specialist at Central Alabama Community College, was the other finalist.

“I think Kevin’s financial knowledge is important and he makes the most sense to me,” said Brown, who nominated Speaks. “All three were great candidates.”

The council will meet again at 5:30 p.m. May 20.