Veteran Hope Town Council members prepare for farewell

HOPE — While gaining fresh perspective, the Hope Town Council will lose more than three decades of experience in January.

After 20 years of service, Greg Sims will be replaced by Nellie Meek, who defeated Sims during the Democratic primary and later ran unopposed in the general election.

Jonathan Titus, a Republican who did not seek re-election after 13 years on the council, will be replaced by Ed Johnson, a Democrat who ran unopposed in the primary and general election.

Titus, 52, said he made up his mind last year that he would not run again, after giving his family assurances back in 2003 that he would only serve two four-year terms on the council. However, he surpassed that by five years.

“Sometimes, it’s a lot of headaches, long hours, and you can’t make everybody happy in that position,” said Titus, a Jennings County High School English teacher and part-time sports broadcaster. “But that’s what leadership is.”

Titus was elected to three four-year terms, and served an additional year as a result in a change in the town’s election calendar.

Sims, 55, said he was talked into running for a sixth term at the last minute but that his heart wasn’t in the primary campaign.

“I didn’t get out, knock on doors or try to promote myself,” said Sims, who said he’s ready to step down largely due to his job as a regional manager for O’Reilly Auto Parts that keeps him on the road overseeing 13 stores.

“It’s time for a change,” he said.

When asked about highlights of their time serving on the council, Sims and Titus cited recent infrastructure improvements including water and sewage system upgrades, as well as newly-paved streets.

Titus also mentioned the contributions of Heritage of Hope, an umbrella organization for programs and activities in historic preservation, the arts, downtown redevelopment and quality of life.

“The council deserves some credit for improving lives in Hope, but not all of it,” said Titus, who also praised the work of Clerk-treasurer Diane Burton and utilities manager David Clouse.

Sims said the decision to hire a full-time town manager ranks among one of the best decisions the council has made.

Melina Fox served in that position from July 2014 through February 2016, while current manager J.T. Doane was hired in July.

“We got a home run when we got (Fox), but the town hit a grand slam with J.T.,” Sims said. “He’s going to direct the town in the right direction to make the quality of life in Hope better.”

Looking ahead to 2017, Titus sees the upcoming $265,000 renovation of the Hope water tower as the next challenge for the council — and determining the future of the empty lot off Jackson Street, between Willow Leaves and Swiss Maid Country Mart, as another.

For new council members, such as Johnson and Meek, the biggest challenge of 2017 will be coming to terms with political reality, Sims said.

“I hope they vote for what they think is right for the community, and not let personalities get in the way …,” Sims said.

Greg Sims

Age:  55

Party: Democrat

Years on council: 20 years

Occupation: District manager for O’Reilly Auto Parts

Family: Wife, Dorothy.  Three adult children, 10 grandchildren.

Jonathan Titus

Age: 52

Party: Republican

Years on council: 13

Occupation: English teacher and part-time sportscaster.

Family: Wife, Edith, two children (both students)

Author photo
Mark Webber is a reporter for The Republic. He can be reached at mwebber@therepublic.com or 812-379-5636.