Almost a year after Buckhead Mayor Ricky Walker resigned, for the second time in as many weeks, the Buckhead Town Council Monday selected its third mayor in 12 months.
In a closed ballot — the ballot being a pink sticky note provided to council members to write a name — former Buckhead Mayor Steve Bryant was voted 2-1 as a new council member over former Morgan County Commissioner Thomas Bell.
According to current interim Buckhead Mayor Pro-tem John White, once Bryant is sworn in as a new council member he will then be promoted as mayor.
Bryant’s appointment ends, for now, a carousel of Buckhead officials who have occupied the mayor’s seat. In June 2021, Walker resigned twice in what he self-described as a “fit of anger,” in part related to criticism the council had made regarding his son Zeb Walker and Zeb’s job as the town’s garbage collector. During his second resignation, Walker walked out, stating, “I want everybody to know that I’m sorry for the town. I apologize but when it’s belly up here in a few weeks, y’all know the deal.”
In July, Walker’s nephew and longtime city council member Drew Miller was named Buckhead Mayor. Miller remained mayor until his abrupt resignation at the April town council meeting after the council approved a consequential zoning ordinance submitted by Callidora Ranch, a sprawling agri-tourism business requesting permissions advised against by county planners.
“If this council will not listen to the professional services that are offered to us by the county, I don’t feel like I can lead this council or support these decisions,” Miller said after resigning. At the same time the town’s attorney, Christian Henry who also represents Morgan County, also abruptly resigned.
Ironically, the council Monday night made Callidora’s requests official after receiving a unique “no recommendation” from the Morgan County Planning Commission on a long list of zoning change requests submitted by Callidora Ranch. The approval paves the way for the business to begin operations, including lodging and a restaurant and agricultural demonstrations. The council has already approved annexation of the more than 275-acre business into the town limits to match the zoning ordinance the business had submitted to the town council.
Miller has served for 12 years on the council.
Bryant’s appointment also brings familiarity to the town’s political structure. Bryant served as Buckhead’s mayor for 12 years, taking the reins of the town after his father Paul Bryant, who served as mayor for 20 years, stepped down. Bryant’s daughter, Jennifer Doran, current Morgan County Election superintendent, also served 10 years on the Buckhead Town Council from 2007 to 2017.
Currently, Bryant, who retired from the Morgan County Building Inspector’s Office, serves as the garbage collector for the town. After his appointment was made official, acting Buckhead Mayor White jokingly asked Bryant if he has “somebody to do the trash as good as you?”
Bryant responded with an affirmative, “probably better.”
Bryant said he had taken over the garbage collection duties after Walker’s son resigned from the position. Bryant said he has managed the 29 collection accounts for the past eight months. More than 20 years ago, he said, he managed the garbage collection for approximately five years. “It’s one of the city services,” he said, “and it’s easy to do.”
Bryant said after the appointment that he would work towards “more efficient meetings.” Town council meetings, for the past few months following Walker’s resignation, have lasted several hours per session. “These meetings go way too long,” Bryant said.
He also said he was going to try and bring stability to the town council. “After Ricky and after Drew resigned… we need to get back to an era of normalcy,” he said.
“Maybe I can help,” the 71-year-old Bryant said. “That’s all I can do is help.”