By Dr. Ed Hollilday/The Rev. James Hull
Point: James Hull
In 2009, the Tupelo City Council made the wrong decision for the wrong reasons: The almost entirely newly-elected council looked over veteran council member Nettie Davis when they elected their president. And then to add insult to injury, the council rejected its own long-time protocol of rotating the president’s seat and kept Fred Pitts as the permanent presiding officer.
A word about Mr. Pitts’ decision to keep the chair firmly in his grasp later in this space. But first, some thoughts about the council’s decision to skip over Davis’s seniority and institutional knowledge: It was an obvious slight that the 2013 council can correct. Here are three good reasons why this new council should jump at the opportunity to name Davis its president:
• So they won’t come off looking like a bunch of bigots.
The sentiment among much of Tupelo’s minority community in 2009 was that the council would rather raise the temporary ire of a few blacks accusing them of racial and gender discrimination, than give up parliamentary control of the Council. They were right. The issue quickly faded away. If the 2013 Council chooses the same route, they will send the same message.
• Because Mrs. Davis is the most logical and proper choice. She is the longest-sitting council member and she, once again, has the institutional knowledge.
It would project the very image of being a diverse and forward-thinking community that Tupelo leaders say they want to project.
• Having an African-American female as the city’s second-highest ranking elected official will speak volumes to those on the outside who are looking to make Tupelo a home to their families, their businesses and their professions.
And, as for outgoing Council President Fred Pitts: Win, lose or draw in his upcoming bid for mayor: it would also speak volumes for his support of diversity – as a businessman and a public official – if, as one of his last acts as current council president, he endorsed Davis as his successor.
Counterpoint: Ed Holliday
James, what I hear you saying is that you would like to see Councilwoman Nettie Davis in the position of Tupelo City Council President. James, I agree with you. Nettie Davis is talented, skilled, an amazing artist, and an experienced servant for the people of Tupelo. That’s why she breezes through her re-elections. The good news is that the City Council has now put into place a rotation process where the president will be elected and serve for one year. That person will not be eligible to be re-elected so that another member of the council, if willing, can be.
Not every council member may want to be president. It’s time consuming to meet with department heads and the mayor. Mayor Jack Reed, Jr., can share about how much time such activities take away from each day. There is no power advantage to being council president because every council member has the right to bring what they want to the city’s agenda. The role of the president is to set the agenda and make sure the council meetings run in an orderly fashion
James, you are wrong in using strong language concerning the 2009 election of Fred Pitts as president. You forget that in 2009 many citizens of Tupelo wanted a new direction with a new team evidenced by only two incumbents being re-elected. Councilwoman Nettie Davis was not the only one passed over with experience on the council – so was my ward’s councilman, Mike Bryan. Fred Pitts sought four votes from members of the council and won; that is leadership.
As for Fred Pitts in the mayor’s race, you said win, lose or draw. Just ask Councilman Willie Jennings – there is no draw in city elections. He actually tied then loss once by the flipping of a coin. He later won a council seat and was just re-elected without opposition – a great testimony for perseverance and service!
DR. ED HOLLIDAY is a Tupelo dentist who has written two successful books. Contact him at email@example.com. REV. JAMES HULL is an award-wining journalist and a political consultant. You may contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.