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Madison Mayor Buddy Hudson, left, welcomes new city Councilman Larry “Happy” Saunders.

MADISON — The City of Madison has found its next councilman to replace Buddy Hudson, who has stepped in to serve as interim mayor after the passing of Mayor Sonny Howell in February.

Larry “Happy” Saunders was sworn in last week as an interim councilman. Terms for all of City of Madison elected officials end in July 2021, after the May election of that year.

“After I was appointed mayor, the council and I sat down and brainstormed the names of several citizens that could replace my position on the council,” said Hudson. “Saunders was one person that everyone agreed upon. We are honored that he has agreed to serve. As a city, we’d like for everyone to come together and help us move forward in a positive direction.”

Saunders is a 1966 Scott High graduate and served in the U.S. Army and in Vietnam. In a feature story about Saunders’ service, he told the Coal Valley News in October 2019, “I don’t need someone to take care of me,” he said. “I’m a problem solver and I know how to get things done because of the Army. That is the best thing I took away. I feel like I can survive just about anything life throws my way. It’s just a mindset that you carry with you forever, I suppose.”

Councilmen PJ Johnson and Artie Barker along with Councilwomen Kathy Cash and Carolyn Mullins were all supportive of the addition of Saunders.

“I’m excited to have Happy on board as a councilman,” Barker said. “I’ve known Happy for nearly 40 years and have a lot of respect for him. Happy is a hard-working man, and l feel he will bring ideas and knowledge to the meetings. Knowing Happy, he will represent the citizens of Madison well.”

Mullins added, “Mr. Saunders is an active citizen in our community working with the VFW and active in his church,” she said. “He recently was honored by the city for his beautification work on the river banks near his home in south Madison. Mr. Saunders will be an asset to the council and we look forward to working with him.”

On March 16, Boone Circuit Judge Will Thompson swore in Hudson and new interim Recorder Will Rowley, who replaced Randy Foxx who resigned from the seat. Rowley held the position previously and his approximate six-year stint as recorder for the City of Madison began in 2006.

On Jan. 15, the Coal Valley News reported that the City of Madison owed up to $1.3 million in unpaid federal payroll taxes, including penalties and interest. An investigation and audit of the city has yet to be completed by both state and federal agencies and the results have been slowed by the COVID-19 pandemic.

The City of Madison Canceled its regular session for April and has not announced plans for a May meeting as the state adheres to a “stay-at-home” order from West Virginia Gov. Jim Justice that became effective on March 23. Saunders could not be reached for comment for this story before CVN print deadline.

Reporter Phil Perry can be reached at pperry@hdmediallc.com or at 304-307-2401.