TUPELO – First-time Councilman Fred Pitts, of Ward 2, was elected president of the new City Council at its debut meeting Tuesday evening.
Nettie Davis, the Ward 4 councilwoman entering her third term, was chosen vice president.
The president leads council meetings and assumes the duties of mayor in the mayor’s absence. The vice president performs these roles in the president’s absence.
Although it’s unusual for a freshman official to take on the council’s most visible and important role from day one, the move wasn’t a surprise.
That’s because council members had taken advantage of not yet being sworn in last week to privately gather and make their choices without violating the state’s open meetings law.
They then affirmed their unified decision at the public meeting this week.
“It’s just an honor to be asked to serve,” Pitts said. “I’m not any different than any of the other six members, and it’s privilege to do this.”
Pitts was nominated by fellow newcomer Jonny Davis of Ward 5 and seconded by another freshman, Jim Newell of Ward 3.
The council felt Pitts “had the vision, the leadership, the skills and the personality that would fit in that role,” Newell said. “We made a good choice.”
Pitts received unanimous approval from all but one councilman. Mike Bryan, a second-term member from Ward 6, abstained from the vote. When later asked why, Bryan said he had misunderstood the motion but supports the wishes of the council.
“Part of the majority of the five new council members thought that the citizens wanted a new face in the president’s chair with no link to the previous council,” Bryan explained.
The previous council had been seen as a contentious bunch despite its many accomplishments.
For her part, Davis said she was honored for the role of vice president but questioned the wisdom of electing a freshman to the presidency.
“I feel anytime you go into something new, you need experience,” she said. “I felt someone with experience should have been considered for that role.”
Only Davis and Bryan are returning to the council from the previous four-year term. The other five members are new.
The group will revisit the presidency and vice presidency positions each year in July, Pitts said. At that time, members will vote either to maintain the current office holders or select new ones.
Emily Le Coz/NEMS Daily Journal