By Michaela Gibson Morris/NEMS Daily Journal
TUPELO – In a 4-3 split, the Tupelo City Council voted to limit the terms for council president.
Under the ordinance approved Tuesday night, council members could only serve one year as president unless the other council members decline to seek the position.
Markel Whittington, Jim Newell, Mike Bryan and Nettie Davis voted for the measure. Willie Jennings, Jonny Davis and Fred Pitts opposed it.
The council members elect a president each July to serve for the year. Ward 2 Councilman Pitts is in his fourth year as president.
In addition to presiding over the meetings, the council president sets the meeting agendas with the mayor. However, by law, any council member can request an item be placed on the agenda, and the president is required to put it on the agenda in a reasonable time frame.
Pitts has also made it his habit to attend city department head meetings and publicly represent the City Council at events.
Nettie Davis, who has represented Ward 4 for 13 years, had requested the issue come before the council in December and has publicly expressed her frustration with not having the opportunity to serve as council president.
“The supervisors rotate; the school board rotates,” Davis said. “Why shouldn’t we?”
Ward 5’s Jonny Davis said he would have preferred for future councils to have the option of retaining a president who does a good job, but there’s no acrimony over the vote.
“It’s a philosophical difference,” Davis said.
In previous discussions, some council members said they felt too much power was concentrated in one person’s hands year after year.
Pitts, who is running for mayor, said he opposed the measure because he felt there needed to be a work session with the full board present before it came to a vote.
“There were some things we needed to clarify,” Pitts said.