BENSON — The City of Benson is welcoming 2021 with a new mayor in Joe Konrad.
A former City Council member who stepped off council last March to run for mayor, Konrad was sworn in Monday evening by Cochise County Sheriff Mark Dannels during a special council meeting.
Konrad replaces Toney King, who decided to step down from his mayoral position after serving five two-year terms.
King will continue his public service in Benson as a council member. He was elected to the council during the August primary and is replacing former council member Chris Tapia, who was appointed to the council in April to fill Konrad’s vacated seat.
During Monday’s ceremony Dannels also swore in four council members in King, Patrick Boyle, Nick Maldonado and Larry Dempster.
Early in the meeting, King spoke briefly about some of the city’s accomplishments during 2020, noting that the city had “gone through a lot.”
“We’ve had two different budgets, we got through that,” said King, who spoke of how his daughter has been attending council meetings with him since she was 6 years old.
Council member Barbara Nunn also spoke, expressing her sadness in losing Tapia as a council member.
“He’s young, he’s smart and he’s brought a lot to the table,” she said of Tapia’s role on council. “We’re losing a hell of a council member and we’re going to feel it. Thank you for sitting up here with us at the big boys table. It’s been great having you, Chris.”
Nunn extended a special thanks to King, stating he did a good job as mayor.
“No one could ask any more of you, and I appreciate sitting next to you on council,” Nunn said.
The meeting was held in a building once owned and occupied by the Benson Lions Club, which the organization recently donated to the city through its foundation. Lions Club members decided to disband due to a significant drop in the organization’s membership in recent years. Monday’s special meeting marked the city’s inaugural event at the newly acquired facility.
Tapia and King were presented with certificates of appreciation for their service with the city.
Prior to the swearing-in ceremony and oath of office,” Dannels praised the mayor and council for their service.
“There’s no better service than public service,” he said. “This is more than just a partnership between the sheriff’s office and Cochise County and all of you. It’s a relationship. It’s not the positions that drive us, but it’s the people. It’s so important. We work with you. It’s nice to see all of you here here tonight.”
Dannels spoke of the challenges 2020 presented.
“2021 is going to be no different,” he warned, adding it’s important not to underestimate the role of the people.
Dannels commended Benson’s mayor and council, noting that a lot of people “run away” from public service because of the challenges and commitment involved. Toward the conclusion of the meeting, Konrad thanked those gathered for attending, and expressed his appreciation to King for the years he served on council.
Konrad also thanked Tapia for his willingness to step in as a council member.
As a final agenda item, Konrad nominated council member Dempster as Benson’s new vice mayor, with the nomination passing with a 6-1 vote.
Council member Nunn opposed the nomination, expressing concerns about the fact that Dempster attends council meetings remotely instead of appearing in person. She questioned whether, if selected as vice mayor, he intended to make physical appearances at future meetings.
Dempster explained that because of COVID, his doctor recommends that he distance himself from group gatherings.
Konrad expressed “full confidence” that the council can conduct business with Dempster working remotely.
The first regularly scheduled 2021 council meeting will be Jan. 11 at 7 p.m. at the former Lions Club, 599 S. Dragoon St.