They're all councilMEN now

Friday, November 13, 2009

Members of Lewisburg's City Council are to be called councilmen or councilman, not councilors and even the women elected to the panel are to be called councilmen, not councilwomen.

That's according to a vote by the council on Tuesday night after Councilman Ron McRady announced that the panel was out of compliance with state law. Armed with several documents, McRady asked to have the title made even more official than it was before June 10, 2008.

Councilmen unanimously agreed this week.

Minutes of the June 2008 meeting state that then-Mayor Bob Phillips "announced" that "Council members will now be known as Councilors upon recommendation by Betsy Shelton."

Shelton became the third woman to serve on the City Council and she was serving with then-Councilwoman Quinn Brandon, now Stewart, since her recent wedding.

The former Miss Brandon expressed no preference for a city title after her election, but when two women were on the council, and then-Mayor Phillips expressed an interest in neutralizing the title, she also had no objection to the term councilor. It's a moniker she's had as a practicing attorney, although counselor is spelled differently.

McRady, however, objected to having the title of councilor and had asked that he be addressed that way and it seemed clear that he wanted the nameplate for his place at the council table to have councilman as the title before his name.

His reasons are in the city charter. It refers to councilmen and councilman.

"There shall be elected ... five councilmen," according to the charter.

It also says, "Any qualified voter of the city ... shall be eligible for election to the office of councilman..."

McRady's presentation was profound.

"I am appalled (shocked or dismayed) that the council allowed Bob Phillips ... take away the title of councilman," McRady said in prepared remarks.

Those elected to the position of councilmen asked voters to elect them to the office of councilman, he said.

"Our official title is councilman, not councilperson, councilwoman, councilor or any other title," McRady wrote, asking for two things:

* For this council to get in compliance with the Lewisburg City Charter and the laws of the state, and,

* From this meeting forward, any reference made to the body of the city council ... will consist of the mayor and five councilmen.

"Does anyone have a problem with getting back into compliance?" McRady asked.

Councilman Odie Whitehead Jr. replied, "I don't know why it was done."

Mayor Barbara Woods said she though Phillips was trying to "give deference to the two ladies."

Councilman Robin Minor asked, "What does our legal authority say?"

City Attorney Bill Haywood said, "I don't think we're out of bounds. If we followed it to the letter, we could never elect a female. I think it's a matter of semantics."

Stewart said she had no objection to the title change.

"I've been called worse," she said.

McRady pressed on. "Any time I see the law being broken, I'm going to do something."

Stewart moved and Whitehead seconded to oblige McRady. The vote was 5-0.