Probate Judge Alice Martin swore in three returning and two new members of a council that now functions independently of the mayor with a council president. With the city’s population surpassing the 12,000 mark, the city has moved into a council president-mayor form of government. The mayor no longer serves or votes as a member of the council, but acquires a veto power over actions taken by the council.
“It definitely felt different sitting out there instead of up at the podium but it was kind of nice,” said Mayor Johnny Smith of his first meeting off the dais.
Councilman Truman Norred nominated Mark Jones as council president, which was unanimously approved by the council.
“Mark’s well-organized, he’s well-known, and he has all the qualities and capabilities of handling the job,” Norred said after the meeting.
Councilwoman Sandra Sudduth, who previously served as mayor pro tem, was voted by her colleagues as council president pro tem. “Thank you for your vote of confidence,” she said, joking that “hopefully I can keep Mark in line.”
Jonathan Tompkins was pleased that his first meeting as a city councilman was fairly mundane. “There’s a certain rhythm you have to get used to,” he said of the meetings. “There was not a lot of deliberation that had to go into it, so that was nice.”
Tompkins said his first priority is to “just to find out my place in the world, so to speak.” Once the council assigns committees —which it should do later this month — he will be better able to determine his priorities as a councilman, though he did say he hopes to work to get some economic development going in the city soon.
Councilman Jerry Parris, who served two terms from 2004 through 2008, is re-entering the world of local government seriously. “I’m really nervous” he said, “even more nervous that I was the first time.”
Both Jones and the mayor said they look forward to working together, and Jones said he intends to keep the mayor, who still functions as the manager of the city’s day-to-day operations, deeply involved.
Jones and Norred said their first priority is to move forward with a planned public safety complex.
“We’ve got to do that to determine how much that’s going to cost,” Jones said, “so we can start working on what education’s wanting to do a far as building a new school or renovating, whatever they decide to do.”
Jones also noted that much like the town & gown committee that meets with Jacksonville State University, he intends to start a city schools committee and “just keep the communication line open where we’re doing positive things instead of having negative things,” he said.
Staff writer Paige Rentz: 256-235-3564. On Twitter @PRentz_Star.