By Robbie Ward
TUPELO – Former City Council President Nettie Davis left her gavel and exchanged seats with her successor Tuesday, leaving the year-long leadership role with a bouquet of flowers and a historic milestone.
Davis officially ended her first term as council president in her 13 years representing Ward 4. Her presidency marks the first time a woman or black resident has presided as council leader.
Before council members unanimously selected Mike Bryan of Ward 6 as president, Mayor Jason Shelton presented Davis with a plaque, honorary gavel and praise. After the retired Tupelo Public School District art teacher left the president’s seat, Bryan accepted the gavel and formally presented the outgoing president with flowers, and other council members complimented her service.
“I feel like you’ve done a great service to the city of Tupelo and the citizens,” said Councilman Willie Jennings of Ward 7.
Davis took particular effort as council president to promote unity among council members and throughout the city.
“I’ve always tried to support the whole city,” she said. “Tupelo is very special to me.”
Having interest in serving as president for years, Davis’ frustration mounted during the previous four-year term when former Councilman Fred Pitts held the position each year.
The council voted in February 2013 to begin rotating the role of president to a different person annually unless the other council members decline to seek the position.
Bryan, a three-term councilman, also will serve as president for the first time. After the meeting ended Tuesday, he acknowledged feeling honored by fellow council members’ support and emphasized plans to also encourage unity among his colleagues and Shelton.
“We’re all on the same team,” he said. “If all team members aren’t clicking together on the same team, nothing is going to happen.”
For council vice president, unanimous support went to Buddy Palmer of Ward 5, serving his first term. A day earlier, two-term councilman Jim Newell of Ward 3 said he would like to serve in the position but said Tuesday he withdrew his interest after learning he didn’t have support from all other council members.
Palmer will temporarily serve as council president during Thursday’s special 6 p.m. meeting to vote on the Joyner Neighborhood Conservation Overlay District since Bryan plans to travel out of town.
“I’ll do it to the best of my ability,” he said.