- The Washington Times - Monday, October 6, 2003

BRADFORD, Ark. (AP) — The mayor, police chief and school librarian are leaving today for military duty that is expected to take them to Iraq, and residents left behind in this tiny town of 800 are scrambling to fill their roles.

At the local cafe and in school hallways, the call-up and what to do about the loss of city leaders is the talk of the town. At city hall, meanwhile, officials have been rushing to prepare paperwork necessary to transfer the mayor’s power to a retired school teacher.

“One way or another we’re going to handle it,” said Michael Ray, who will become the acting police chief, along with his job as a school resources officer. “It’s going to be OK. I’m going to run it the same way as if the chief were here.”

In addition to Mayor Paul Bunn, Chief Josh Chambliss and librarian Nolan Brown, five other residents of this farm town have received orders to report to Fort Hood, Texas. There, they will prepare for a tour of duty that is expected to put them in Iraq by Christmas.

Greba Edens, 78, the town’s recorder-treasurer, will take over for the 35-year-old mayor. Previously, she spent 24 years as Bradford’s fourth-grade teacher.

“Most of the people on the City Council now, she’s paddled them before,” Mr. Bunn said.

At the elementary school, Mr. Brown was organizing the library ahead of his deployment. He served in Vietnam and has been in the National Guard for 31 years. Now 57, he was hoping to leave the Guard at age 60.

“I’ve got stuff scattered from here to there getting ready,” he said. “I want to leave it as if I’m not coming back.”

But Mr. Brown is adamant that he has to give back to a country that gave him an education.

“The U.S. has been very good to me,” he said, adding he believes citizens need “to be willing to do whatever it take to make sure kids in the future have the same opportunities that we have.”

Unlike Mr. Brown, who works in a headquarters group, the police chief and the mayor are infantry soldiers responsible for more dangerous security duty.

Chief Chambliss, 28, has led the town’s police force since 2001. He’s not worried about Bradford, which is about 70 miles northeast of Little Rock. He said he expects the town’s other four officers to continue to man the school crossings and attend all the ball games.

“I’m curious to see what the next 18 months hold, not for me but for Bradford,” said Chief Chambliss, who was planning to start a family soon. “I want to come back into town and see the progress.”

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