published Tuesday, May 28th, 2013

Former member returns to Winchester City Council to replace Cheyne Stewart

Winchester City Council members have appointed a longtime former member of the panel to replace Cheyne Stewart, who resigned in April after he was convicted of attempted sexual assault.

Suzanne McDowell was appointed unanimously during the council's May meeting to hold the job until August, according to Winchester City Administrator Beth Rhoton.

Council members wanted an experienced person in the seat as the city goes through its annual budget process, Rhoton said. Rhoton said McDowell's education experience means "she really does her homework."

McDowell will fulfill Stewart's term, which ends Aug. 31, and her replacement will be chosen during elections on Aug. 1, she said.

McDowell, who served on the council between 1991 and 2003, said she has no intention of running to hold the post. Born in Ohio in 1930, she has lived in Franklin County since 1955, she said.

"I was happy to fill in for them for the next couple of months until they have the election in August," McDowell said Friday. She said she served on a variety of committees and worked with several city departments in her stint on the panel.

McDowell is a former teacher who retired from Franklin County Schools in 1993. She said the big task while she holds the seat will be the budget, and she's "playing catch up" to get back up to speed on city expenses and revenues.

"It's a challenge, and that's fun," she said.

Stewart, who was elected to the Winchester City Council seat in 2009, was arrested in 2011 on a 16-count indictment that charged him with aggravated rape, aggravated sexual battery, rape and sexual battery and a number of associated conspiracy charges, according to court records.

Stewart, 24 at the time of the arrest, denied the allegations, but jurors in April convicted him of the lesser, misdemeanor offense of attempted sexual battery, court records state. He resigned from his post April 16.

Contact staff writer Ben Benton at 423-757-6569 or bbenton@timesfreepress.com.

about Ben Benton...

Ben Benton is a news reporter at the Chattanooga Times Free Press. He covers Southeast Tennessee and previously covered North Georgia education. Ben has worked at the Times Free Press since November 2005, first covering Bledsoe and Sequatchie counties and later adding Marion, Grundy and other counties in the northern and western edges of the region to his coverage. He was born and raised in Cleveland, Tenn., a graduate of Bradley Central High School. Benton ...

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