By NEMS Daily Journal
Tupelo City Council made progressive history Tuesday night with the election of Ward 4 Councilwoman Nettie Davis as president for the first year of the new four-year term.
Davis, the council’s senior member, began her fourth term with Monday’s oath-taking.
Her election by council peers marks the first time a woman has ever been named to lead the council, and she is the first African-American to hold the post.
Davis, who made no secret of her desire to hold the presidency, will serve with Ward 6 Councilman Mike Bryan, who was elected vice president and presumably will succeed to the presidency at the end of the first year of the term.
Former Ward 2 Councilman Fred Pitts was elected to the presidency four years ago and held the office for the full term.
The new rotation is similar to the system used by the Lee County Board of Supervisors, whose members hold the board presidency for one-year terms.
A rotation system and the one-year tenure assure that leadership is more thoroughly shared and, in fact, is on-the-job training for leadership development.
The council president presides and runs the meetings, appoints committees and keeps order, but most of the decision-making evolves through discussion, usually civil, and sometimes divided, but usually calm, votes by the council.
Davis, a retired art teacher in the Tupelo Public Schools, said she believes God rewarded her patience in serving 12 years before winning the presidency. She pledged specifically to represent all the women in the city and minorities, but promised to be a president for everyone.
In addition to Davis, Carolyn Mauldin has served on the council as has Doyce Deas.
Davis is one of two Democrats on the council. Willie Jennings, who also is black, represents Ward 7.
Vice President Mike Bryan is a Republican, as are council members Markel Whittington (Ward 1) Lynn Bryan (Ward 2), Jim Newell (Ward 3) and Buddy Palmer (Ward 5).
The bipartisan vote Tuesday night offers encouragement that the council and Mayor Jason Shelton will examine city issues through a nonpartisan lens. Tupelo’s issues have virtually nothing to do with the big partisan divide in Congress and the Mississippi Legislature.
Tupelo, in fact, has shown remarkable adaptability in dealing with changing partisan administrations in the state and in Washington, a trait that needs to continue for the city’s progress.