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St. Elmo's mayor resigns; interim will be picked Thursday

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By Rich Bauer, Managing Editor

The St. Elmo City Council will meet this Thursday evening to pick a successor to Randy Watson, three days after Watson stepped down from the city's mayoral post.

Watson surprised aldermen on Monday night when he submitted a brief letter of resignation, then left the council's regularly scheduled meeting.

The council voted to have Alderman Jayson Porter conduct mayoral duties for the remainder of the meeting and recessed after completing scheduled matters.

The council will recovene at 7 p.m. this Thursday to choose an interim mayor.

Whether the interim mayor will serve until the next municipal election in the spring of 2009 or until a special election is held within the next year was still being discussed as of press time.

Fayette County Clerk Terri Braun said an Illinois State Board of Elections official told her on Tuesday that the council's selection would serve until the next regular election. However, she said, she was told by someone from St. Elmo that an ordinance on the city's books calls for a special election.

Watson was unavailable for comment after submitting his resignation, and aldermen directed City Clerk Lynne Helsel not to release a copy of the resignation, stating that the council had recessed the meeting at which it was submitted.

Watson has indicated "personal reasons" for resigning, and indicated in an e-mail to The Leader-Union that the conflict in the community and personal attacks toward him had led him to consider stepping down for some time.

Within the past few months, the council has had several heated discussions regarding the sale of alcohol on Sundays.

The council voted 3-2 on Sept. 3 to allow Sunday sales, with Porter not present.

At the council's Oct. 1 meeting, Watson vetoed that action, but it was later determined that the veto action would not stand legally.

A month later, with Watson breaking a 3-3 vote among aldermen, the council voted to not allow Sunday sales.

The council subsequently learned that in order for that action to become legal, it had to vote to amend city ordinance in order to discontinue Sunday sales. The council again voted 3-3 on the issue, and Watson again broke the tie by siding with those opposing Sunday liquor sales.