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Mingo Junction council taps Mark Baker to fill open seat

MINGO JUNCTION – Mingo Junction Village Council moved to fill its vacant seat Tuesday, and the appointee is no stranger to the village.

After a lengthy executive session, council emerged to appoint Mark Baker to serve the remainder of the term vacated by the resignation of George Irvin last month.

“Mark has worked for the city for 32 years and he’s done a great job,” council President Michael Herrick said. “He is very interested in Mingo Junction. He is a life-long resident here, he went to school here and stayed here, and that says a lot.

“He will make a good councilman. He’s from here, and that is the kind of person you want to be a councilman.”

According to Herrick, there were five applicants, all of which had deep ties to the village.

“All of them had something to do with the village in some way or another,” he said. “They all have done a lot for (Mingo Junction). That shows (residents) are interested in the village and want to help the village.”

Baker, Herrick said, is retired now but held a variety of roles with the village, including as a truck driver for the village garage.

“He retired and right away is interested in coming onto council and helping the village that way,” Herrick said.

Herrick pointed out that Baker continues a trend of long-time village residents serving the village.

“You have people that have grown up here and have not left and are contributing,” Herrick said.

During the meeting, councilman Adam Peeler introduced a resolution to recognize Irvin for his service to the village. The resolution was passed unanimously.

Council also discussed two concerns that will lead to action in the future.

When discussing the fire department, the village’s COVID-19 policy came to the forefront, raised by councilman Jack Brettell.

He and other member of council voiced concerns that there is not a uniform policy for what amount of paid days off a village employee can take and that the village’s current policy does not make a distinction between being off due to exposure and being off for a positive test result.

Which employees are or are not considered “essential workers” was also a topic.

The consensus reached was the village needs to form an agreed upon uniform policy and put it in writing.

“The health department has to be the first point of reference,” Peeler said, noting the village can also see what other local governments have done as a reference point, too.

Another topic that will require future action is concerns about parking on various streets in the village, with cars parked along the sidewalks creating hazardous situations for traffic coming through the area.

The safety committee members will meet to view the streets in question and determine where to put signs letting residents know it is illegal to park in those locations. It was noted that on at least one of the streets, previous signs put up had been removed by unhappy residents.

It was also determined, due to COVID-19, there will not be a formal tree lighting ceremony in the village. The village had hoped to have a big celebration this holiday season, but the ongoing pandemic and state restrictions have made it impossible to do so.

“It’s sad that we can’t have everybody down there for it, but the alternative is possibly getting somebody sick which is not a very good thing either,” village Administrator Bob Smith said.

The village’s trees, which are up, will be lit next week without a public event.

Mayor Ed Fithen said he encouraged businesses in the village to decorate for the holidays to brighten up people’s spirits amid the pandemic.

Council also took time to praise acting police chief Willie McKenzie, with councilwoman Jodilynn Fitzgerald stating to Fithen she supports him filling the role permanently.

“I have heard so many good things about him,” she said. “He has really stepped up his game, I think he’s done a wonderful job. I would love to see him be the chief.”

Fithen echoed her sentiments about McKenzie’s performance thus far.

“He’s really interested, he’s asking questions and I do get a lot of compliments about him,” the mayor said.

Herrick said people point out he is getting out in the community.

“I get a lot of comments about how nice he is to people, always with a smile on his face,” he said. “He stops and talks to people, and they really like that.”

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