Cash-strapped Harlan town appoints a new mayor

Council members in the historic Harlan County coal town of Lynch appointed a new mayor Tuesday to replace an officeholder who resigned, citing stress as the city struggled to recover from thefts that left it in the red.

The council chose Taylor Hall, 49, as mayor of the town of about 900.

Hall, a former police officer who was on the council, will serve until someone is elected in November. Hall said he plans to run for the full term unless something changes.

Hall replaces Darlene Monhollen, who had been city clerk before being appointed mayor last September.

Monhollen was not available for comment, but she said in a Facebook posting Monday night that the stress of the job was making her ill.

She had mentioned problems with diabetes and high blood pressure in other recent postings.

"Did you ever have days you felt you were being pull'd in many directions? The last 8 months I've had those days every day," Monhollen said on her Facebook page.

Former Mayor Ronnie Hampton had hired Monhollen to replace a city clerk accused of stealing about $137,000 from the town.

The former clerk, Kellie Maggard, was convicted of theft and sentenced to 10 years in prison last May.

The thefts left the city behind on its bills, and it has struggled to climb out of the hole.

The city has paid down its debt with help from residents who have held fund-raisers such as raffles and a spaghetti dinner, but it hasn't fully recovered.

"We're making progress, just not very quickly," Hall said.

The financial issues the city faces were a big part of the stress Monhollen felt, Hall said.

Hall said he plans to continue working on the city's finances, in part by asking creditors to take partial payments while the city pays off others.