Photo: Terry Salter, winner of a June 17 run-off for Orange city council’s District 3 seat, receives her certificate of election from Mayor Jimmy Sims.

By Dave Rogers

For The Record

Orange City Council welcomed a couple of new members Tuesday evening, but not before saying thank you to an exiting councilor.

Essie Bellfield, 84, who made history in 1997 when she became the city’s first female and African-American mayor, turned over her District 3 seat to Terrie Salter, who won a June 17 run-off with Michael Smith for the seat.

“These are some shoes that will be hard to fill,” Salter said after votes were canvassed and she was sworn in by Municipal Court Judge Jerry Pennington.

“But I have her [Bellfield’s] phone number, and I will be calling it a lot.”

Also being sworn in Tuesday was Brad Childs, new councilman for District 2.

He replaced Wayne Guidry, who resigned in the spring when he took a job in Central Texas.

Before Pennington did the swearing-in honors, Mayor Jimmy Sims offered Bellfield a chance for some remarks.

She began by taking issue with the small voter turnout for the run-off election, which drew only 336 total ballots, 200 of which went to Salter.

She then started to offer a list of her suggestions for city council and Shawn Oubre, city manager, abruptly ruled her out of order for commenting on issues not on the agenda.

Bellfield said she would return “on the other side of this desk” and talk at council meetings during the “citizen comment” portion of the meetings.

She congratulated Salter on her election.

“I encouraged her to run,” Bellfield said. “I didn’t encourage her to run against me. But she got elected and I congratulate her.”

Councilwoman Annette Pernell was choking back tears when she made her official farewell to Bellfield, who served four terms on council in the past three decades.

“It’s hard to see you leave. It’s bittersweet,” she said. “You mean a lot to this city. You mean a lot to me.

“We don’t realize what we have until we don’t have it anymore.”

Councilman Bill Pullen, a former police captain, recounted years of work in the city with Bellfield.

“You’re the definition of a good citizen,” he said. “You’re in love with a city and the people in that city. I’ve known you since the 1980s.

“You showed me what it means to be a good councilman and I can never thank you enough for that.”

Salter, 46, is a registered nurse and small business owner.

“I’m very excited about giving back, dedicating time, giving back to the community of Orange,” she said. “I feel like Orange is on the right track, moving forward in the right direction. I want to be the voice of the people.

“Although we may not get to where we want to be in one year, we will continue to strive for greatness in this city. I have never been more hopeful than I am today that we will make Orange a place, a future everyone can be proud to call home.”

Salter thanked everyone connected with her election, even her opponents, Bellfield and Smith. She especially thanked her mother, Clara Alexander, her son, Richard Salter, Jr. and “the special man in my life, Grover L. Roberts III, for going beyond the call of duty.”

While Salter was the top vote-getter in a three-way general election and two-person run-off, Childs, the owner of Childs Building Supply/Ace Hardware, drew no opponents for the District 2 special election, so it was called off.

The 57-year-old, a Texas A&M graduate and construction supervisor on the Ag Research Center moving to Orange to join his father in business, said “quality of life” is his primary interest in being on council.

He makes it clear that means economic development.

“We need to work on quality of life,” he said. “Our young people are leaving and not coming back. Then they’re moving off and having their children and eventually we leave to move with them.

“We should have some things for them to come back to.”

Childs praised the work he’s seeing done locally as he gets more and more active in his new job.

“The quality of life I’ve been hearing about the last few days at EDC and the Chamber have been exciting,” he said. “These guys in the top row [city management] have been working very hard to make Orange a place we want to come to.”