The Athens City Council has appointed a new mayor after the arrest and resignation last week of former Mayor James “Monte” Montgomery.

Toni Clay, who was sworn in as mayor pro tem in May, was appointed mayor this week after the council officially accepted Montgomery’s resignation.

Montgomery, 63, was arrested on June 3 in Longview on a charge of online solicitation of a minor, sexual conduct. He was later released from the Gregg County Jail on $300,000 bond.

He resigned Friday.

“In light of this blow to the community, there’s not a time that it could be more humbling to be appointed to the mayor seat,” Clay said. “During the executive session, I asked the members of council to support and help me live up to the high standard the community deserves and I want to deliver.”

The Texas Department of Public Safety Criminal Investigations Division said Montgomery and three other men were arrested as part of a multi-agency undercover sting. Montgomery and the other suspects were arrested when they arrived at an undisclosed location after soliciting sex online with investigators posing as minors, according to DPS.

Based on Athens’ charter, a resignation of a council member or mayor is effective eight days after submission or once a majority of the council accepts.

In Athens, the mayor pro tem acts in place of the mayor when needed, such as at events and council meetings.

Clay and Montgomery were reelected in May, and Clay will now serve Montgomery’s remaining two-year term. Clay, who started on the council in 2017, was just beginning her third term.

She is communications coordinator for Athens ISD and said she has training in public relations and crisis management.

In a statement Tuesday to the council, Clay said this moment is when the Athens community needs truth to be spoken from a place of leadership.

“Thursday night, as we all became aware of the news about Mr. Montgomery‘s arrest ... I spoke to every member of this council. Each of us, like each of you, was left literally speechless by the revelation,” she said. “I believe I’m speaking the absolute truth when I say not one of us had the slightest inkling that such an awful thing had been on the horizon for our city.

“The protection of our children is what is most important. I thank God for members of the law enforcement community who do the unimaginably difficult job of seeking out those who might or do prey on the most vulnerable members of our society — specifically, children who for reasons such as neglect, abuse, dire poverty and a tragic lack of resources, find themselves being used by adults who know better and should do better.”

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