published Friday, June 7th, 2013

Thieves target Fort Payne, Ala., Mayor Larry Chesser repeatedly

What is it about Fort Payne, Ala., Mayor Larry Chesser's choices in wheels?

Other people seem to like Chesser's vehicles, too, and that's the problem.

In the last several years, three of his vehicles have been stolen: his pickup, a camper and the 2000 Buick Park Avenue he liked for daily driving.

"I've taken a lot of ribbing over that," the 69-year-old mayor said.

The first theft, Chesser said, was when he ran a construction equipment installation operation that required frequent travel.

"I left my truck in Atlanta at one of those park-and-fly hotels, and when I came back two weeks later, it was gone," he recalled.

He called Atlanta police that night. They promised they'd find it, but Chesser was skeptical.

However, when he and wife got home, he was "flabbergasted" by a phone message from Atlanta police that they'd found his missing Chevrolet Silverado.

Around the same time, thieves took Chesser's small camper he parked at storage buildings he owns in Fort Payne, he said.

Chesser had written the little camper off, "but about a year later I got a call from one of the local detectives who said they'd found my camper and it was in Grundy County, Tennessee," he said. "Got the camper back and spent a day cleaning it up."

The camper had been used in a drug operation, he said.

In recent weeks, thieves struck a third time, this time taking Chesser's Buick.

"I had it parked inside the fence on Airport Road. I went over on a Sunday night and it was there, then I went back on Tuesday afternoon and it was gone," he said.

"Evidently, two kids from Fort Payne .... they drove it to see a girlfriend over in New Hope," he said.

Fort Payne Police Chief Randy Bynum said city officers listed the vehicle on the National Crime Information Center network, and Marshall County, Ala., officers found it parked at a church with the keys under the mat.

"I guess if you don't have any transportation of your own, you just get whatever you can find," Bynum said.

Chesser said he's been surprised at the media interest in his run of bad luck, but he's glad to be in a position to commend police. And he's still driving the Buick.

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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