By Harold Fuller
After several prominent citizens pushed to make Hawthorne a “city” right after the conclusion of World War II, an election was held to determine if that was what the residents wanted. Consequently, Hawthorne was incorporated as a third class city on June 25, 1946 with Henry Gilbert as mayor and William C, Barmore, Author J. Zweibel and B.E. (Barney) O’Malia as councilmen. The operations of new city government started out running relatively smooth in the beginning but began to suffer “internal problems” immediately after the regular city election held in April 1947. At that election Mayor Henry Gilbert, a reluctant candidate due to personal business pressures, was reelected by a decisive vote but two of his incumbent councilmen were defeated by Walter Feland in the second ward and Edward Taylor in the third ward. Jack C. Scott was elected first ward councilman where no incumbent sought reelection.
Following several hectic meetings with the new council in which he did not receive a supporting majority, Gilbert tendered his resignation and Scott followed suit. Feland and Taylor named Thomas W. Whitworth as mayor pro tem on June 11, 1947. At the same time F.D. McVitty was named acting councilman from ward one. McVitty was replaced a week later by Paul W. Hale. Whitworth was confirmed as mayor the following week.
At the same time Walter L. Neal was fired as Chief of Police by Whitworth and later entertained a $25,000.00 lawsuit against Whitworth, but lost. W.W. Brander was also hired and fired as City Clerk during this period and replaced by June E. Miller, who later resigned under pressure and was succeeded by Mrs. Catherine Williams. Walter Neal was succeeded by G.A. Jensen as city marshal who then resigned a month later. Taking Jensen’s place was Daryl Zaval who was replaced by Joe Collins. Numerous changes were made in several other appointive positions from time to time and in October 1947, Feland resigned as councilman and accepted the position of city water system superintendent with George Wanzer being named as councilman in his place. Feland resigned as the water boss about a month later after a heated session with the council.
Councilman Taylor brought charges against Mayor Whitworth charging him with malfeasance of office, citing seven pointed reasons for doing so, but nothing came of this because the Mineral County Grand Jury, in session at the time, had already requested the resignation of the mayor and all councilmen. Mayor Whitworth resigned, as requested and Ben Donnelly later became mayor. Mrs. Mae Oddieo was named councilman for ward one.
This set the tone for future city government operations as it appeared each councilman seemed to want to set their own agenda and appoint city officials who would follow their own particular brand of politics. With these factors and the financial load of a “dual government”, it is not too surprising that Hawthorne was finally unincorporated on March 3, 1956. A lesson learned for future generations? Perhaps.