Mayor Pro Tem Bill Baker made the announcement Wednesday evening on Freeman's behalf during a City Council work session about the budget. Baker said Freeman, 61, will confirm his resignation in writing today and that the City Council will hold a special meeting Friday to accept it.
“He had been telling me all along that he hoped to overcome his health problems,” Baker said. “His intent was to finish his term.”
Multi-term councilman Baker was appointed by the council to be mayor pro tem. As mayor pro tem he presides over meetings in the mayor's absence.
Freeman was elected in November.
Reached by phone Wednesday evening Freeman said he decided to step down because he received an unexpected diagnosis during a doctor’s visit this week. He declined to provide specific information about his medical condition, but said doctors have told him to stay home.
“I’m trying to do what the doctor says for a change,” Freeman said. “It’s going to take me a while to get over this, if at all.”
Freeman has been receiving specialized medical care to manage blood clots since February when he had ankle surgery. The illness has caused Freeman to miss at least six City Council meetings, but he continued to work from home and make office visits during regular working hours.
“Even when he wasn’t feeling well and should have been at home, he would be in the office,” Baker said.
Though Freeman was unable to attend the council’s regularly scheduled meeting Tuesday, he had presided over a meeting as recently as two weeks ago.
At that time the mayor said he would be staying in office, despite concerns about his health, so Wednesday’s announcement caught some off guard.
“I hate that he had to do that,” said Councilman Ben Keller, adding that he was surprised to learn the mayor is resigning. “His health and his life are more important than trying to be mayor.”
Baker said the council will act quickly to name a new mayor, adding that the council may be able select someone for the job during the Friday meeting.
According to Alabama law,the council has 60 days to appoint someone to fill the vacancy. If the council waits longer than 60 days the members may make recommendations to the governor for someone to fill the position.
Baker said the council will either select someone within its own ranks, but it can also select any Piedmont resident.
Council members discussed the resignation for less than ten minutes at the start of the work session. For two hours after the announcement members discussed aspects of the city’s 2014 budget, reviewing each department’s budget with employees.
The fiscal year began Tuesday, but the council has not voted on the budget because they were waiting to review it in detail. The council will vote on the budget later this month at its next regularly scheduled meeting.
Staff writer Laura Gaddy: 256-235-3544. On Twitter @LGaddy_Star.