"People have started to re-establish and reopen businesses, including a produce market and several other shops," said Lt. Mike Handlan, an American soldier with the 101st Airborne Division, which made first contact with the mayor. "The economy is picking up. We've seen a lot of good progress here."
It hasn't always been easy. After the Sons of Iraq took over, insurgents leveled the town mosque, attacked a main checkpoint with small arms fire three times in four months -- repelled each time -- and fired on Mayor Saad, who escaped without injury.
Saad's mistrust of the government extends even to Shiite leaders.
Sheikh Hassan Ibraheem is a Shiite and leader of a mixed Sons of Iraq group in the northern city of Dujail. He told ABC news more than half of his men used to be armed and fighting against the Iraqi and American forces. Now they secure the town. But even he does not trust the Shiite-controlled government of Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki to follow through with its promises.
"People of the area fear that in that if the need for the 'Awakening Councils' is over and its members are not integrated into the security forces, this would cause a new threat. Young men who lost their job opportunities will join the insurgents," the sheik, who considers himself loyal to Maliki's government, told ABC News. "I trust the central government, but I don't trust the people who work under it, who are controlled by (sectarian) political parties."