Interested BOE candidates deserved better

Published 9:09 pm Friday, June 18, 2010

For more than a month, the Demopolis City Council has been at odds with its attempt to fill the Demopolis school board seat formerly held by Gary Holemon.

Three times, RockTenn employee Harris Hurst was nominated for the position. District 4 representative Bill Meador called him a very educated man and someone who would be able to work with budgets — an asset, considering the current statewide educational budget dilemma.

Some council members were unimpressed and nominated other people. In each vote, the council split 3-3, with Mitchell Congress voting against Hurst each time. Councilmen Melvin Yelverton and Thomas Moore shared Mr. Congress’ sentiment, also voting in favor of other candidates.

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On Thursday, Mr. Congress made an abrupt about-face and nominated Mr. Hurst after receiving an inspirational phone call reminding him of his civic duty.

The frustration in the room was both immediate and evident.

Only, of course, it was too late. Logically, it would appear that after three attempts, it seemed fruitless to try any more. After seeing half the council throw nominee after nominee into the seemingly bottomless candidate pool, no one would have guessed that one of the naysayers would actually turn around and nominate someone he had so vehemently opposed for the past two months.

Mr. Congress is certainly entitled to his opinion, but in this case, it was hard to pin down what his opinions, or his goals, were.

If Mr. Hurst was a qualified candidate Thursday, he was qualified in the days and meetings before.

Part of the problem could be the process the council used. At each meeting in which a vote was made, two nominees were given, voted on and, when the votes split, no other nominee would be given at the meeting, and not much discussion occurred before the vote. The same thing happened at each council meeting every other week: two nominees, split the vote, move on. When there wasn’t a vote, the topic was tabled for another two weeks.

We think a list of nominees should have been made, and council members should have made a stronger, more serious effort in filling the seat. More discussion of the nominees would have provided more insight into each candidate and provided for a more informed vote than what was given.

But a bigger problem is worrying too much about the “commitments” Mr. Congress spoke of after the meeting.

Too much thought was put toward these “commitments” or obligations to other people and not enough consideration was given to the value of the qualifications of the others who were nominated.

Once Mr. Congress’s “commitments” ran out, only then did he consider that he had a duty to the entire city instead of just a select group. Those political considerations helped set the process back by more than a month. In the end, the board will receive a quality candidate in Ronnie O’Neal.

Finally, the school board can go about working with its new superintendent, Dr. Al Griffin, and its new chairman, Bobby Armstead, and Gary Holemon can go about his life after his term on the school board.

Mr. O’Neal is more than qualified to fill Mr. Holeman’s seat. We thank him for his interest in and his commitment to serving our community. We have no doubt Mr. O’Neal will further the school system’s goals of excellence.

Hopefully, when there is another opening in the school board, Mr. Hurst will be interested in being appointed to that seat. We are grateful he was willing to serve our school district and hope his interest will not wane over time.

Although it came a little late, we want to thank whomever it was that called Mr. Congress to remind him of his duty as a “city” council member. Hopefully, that lesson in civics took hold.