Just before the Mobile City Council voted 6-1 to appoint the assistant to former-mayor Sam Jones to a paid position on the board of the Mobile Area Water and Sewer Service, Councilman C.J. Small gave a fiery speech admonishing the council, alleging for the first time in history it was using board appointments as a “tool to promote personal agendas.”
“It is my right to appoint who I choose and I cannot dictate the appointments of any other district,” Small said. “Never in the history of this city has a council person’s appointment been upheld or denied.”
Meanwhile, Small has been one of three council people, along with Fred Richardson and Levon Manzie, who have stalled Mayor Sandy Stimpson’s appointment of Randy Smith as a full-time Fire Chief. Smith’s appointment was originally on today’s agenda but was tabled in a pre-council meeting.
Small praised his own appointee, Barbara Drummond, as someone “hardworking, who loves the city, lives in District 3 and has the knowledge of this city and government.” He noted the current representative from his district, Kimberly Williams-Pettway, was appointed by his predecessor.
After early indications at least one other council member would vote against Small’s appointment to the MAWSS board, Bess Rich was the only holdout.
“In my role as an elected official I’ve had some difficulty with her role as a public official getting information,” Rich said. “If I had an opportunity to not to vote in the affirmative on behalf of my district I was going to take it. It’s not a personal thing, it’s purely a professional thing.”
MAWSS commissioners are among the few city council appointees who are paid for their service and Drummond will earn $1,100 per month as a regular board member or $1,300 per month as chairman. The appointment lasts six years.
Aside from Drummond, the council also re-appointed a member to the History Museum of Mobile board in a vote that sparked no controversy. But when another mayoral appointment came up for a vote, Fred Richardson voiced opposition.
Stimpson recommended Baldwin County resident Michael Pierce to the Mobile Airport Authority in an appointment that was later approved unanimously. But Richardson called out Pierce for living in Baldwin County. Several of Stimpson’s staff members also live outside of Mobile.
“I’ve had enough Baldwin County appointees,” Richardson said. “I don’t know of one person who lives in Mobile that serves on a board in Baldwin County. If Mobile is so good, live here.”
Council President Gina Gregory noted that many boards have no residency requirements for appointees.
Tonight’s meeting was held in front of an overflow crowd at the Mobile Museum of Art, one of several “district meetings” scheduled throughout the year outside of City Hall. Small personally invited dozens of his own constituents, who in a show of hands appeared to represent the majority of people present. Citing capacity, fire officials kept about 60 people from entering the room.
Regarding Smith’s appointment, Stimpson was reluctant to specify a deadline for a City Council vote, but said he wasn’t considering an alternate candidate.
“Randy Smith is hands down the most qualified person in the department and there is nobody that says anything negative about his honesty and integrity,” Stimpson said. In tabling the appointment, “we wanted to avoid a conversation like you saw tonight. We don’t want a divisive situation with this appointment and we have some councilors that are concerned and they want to see some things happen before they vote on it so we decided we would pull it and as [Smith] works through opportunities to improve the Fire-Rescue Department they will see the things they anticipated so they can make a decision.”