Changing of the guard

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For the first time in 12 years, a new mayor will lead the City of Morrisville. 

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Alderman and mayor pro tem Dustin Kessler was appointed earlier this month by the board of aldermen to replace outgoing mayor Dan Melilli, who first won election to the mayor’s office in 2008. 

Melilli’s resignation is effective Wednesday, June 3. 

Neither he nor Kessler face opponents in the Tuesday, June 2, municipal election. 

Polk County Clerk and election authority Melinda Robertson said, because both positions have only the one candidate, no election is needed. 

“Because of the way the election fell this year, it would be a convoluted mess if he were to step down any sooner than that,” Kessler said. 

Kessler said the board of aldermen will then appoint someone to fill his seat on the board, and both he and his successor will hold office until April 2021, when an election will determine who fills the remaining year of each office’s two-year term. 

“Taking over as mayor is definitely not something I was planning on when I joined the board, but at the same time, it's an honor and a privilege to get to serve in that role,” Kessler said. 

Kessler is a teacher in the Humansville R-4 School District. He also serves as the city’s emergency management director and as a firefighter and board president of the Morrisville Fire Protection District. 

“I’m also very proud to say that I am a lifelong resident of Morrisville,” he said. “I live on the same street I grew up on. I am a product of Morrisville High School. I’m a complete Morrisville purebred.”

Kessler was elected to the board of aldermen in 2008. It’s been an honor to serve his hometown, he said. 

“We have the best city in existence,” he said. “It’s a small town environment. You don’t have anyone micromanaging every move you make. You have the ability to live with some city services but still have the rural lifestyle.”

Kessler said an early priority includes improving the city’s ditches and roads. 

The city recently asked residents to complete an income survey it mailed out with its January water bill. 

According to previous BH-FP coverage, the survey is key to qualifying the town for nearly $1 million in infrastructure grants and loans, which should help to replace aging water lines and to pave streets. 

Kessler said at least 80% of the surveys must be returned to city hall in order for Morrisville to qualify for the funding. He said Monday, May 11, the city still needs about 30 more surveys completed to meet the threshold. Additional surveys are available at city hall, if needed. Call 376-3500 for more information. 

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Pictured in March 2012, Morrisville Mayor Dan Melilli, left, and Alderman and Emergency Management Director Dustin Kessler, right, wait to see if a clamp placed on a broken main water line will hold on South Main Avenue, part of Mo. 215, in Morrisville. 

An incoming Dollar General store should also help bolster the town’s tax base, he said. The store is expected to open this fall after breaking ground Monday, May 11. 

Melilli said he feels he’s leaving the city in good hands. 

“Dustin is a Morrisville native,” he said. “He’s been an alderman since I became mayor. I think the board is a capable board.”

Melilli said he came to the community in 2006 from Baton Rouge, Louisiana, to be with his wife’s family. He was elected to the board the same year. 

In his time in Polk County, Melilli also won election to the Polk County E-911 Central Dispatch board in April 2017. 

He will also be vacating that seat, which carries a four-year term, and dispatch director Sarah Newell said she’s working with the board’s attorney to sort out the situation. 

Melilli said he’s now returning to Louisiana to be with family. 

According to his letter of resignation, filed with the board of aldermen Saturday, April 25, Melilli also got a job offer there, he said.

“I’ve enjoyed my tenure here,” he said. “I’ve made a lot of friends. It’s been a wonderful experience living in Missouri, but now I get to return to cajun food.”

In a letter to residents, Melilli described the transition as bittersweet. 

“It has been an honor and a pleasure serving as your mayor for the last 12 years,” he wrote. 

He also thanked his fellow aldermen, as well as city staff, for their help and support “through all the good and sometimes difficult moments.”

Melilli said he’s proud that, in his time in office, the city was able to pave streets around the schools, maintain its water and sewer system and stave off potholes. 

“I think we kept Morrisville going as best we can,” he said. “And I think I’m leaving it as good as or better than I found it.”

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