Sumners elected commission chair

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Marshall County commissioners on Thursday returned a former commissioner to the seat he held nearly a decade ago as chairman of the county's legislative body.

Tom Sumners received 11 votes, a majority of the 18-member commission, in a three-way election, besting County Mayor Joe Boyd Liggett, who received five votes, and Commissioner Anna Childress, who received two votes.

Like Childress, Sumners returned to the commission after several years off the panel. Sumners was chairman from 1998 to 2002. He also served as president pro tem from 1994 to 1998.

Applause followed County Clerk Daphne Fagan's announcement that Sumners had won.

Fagan then turned the gavel over to Sumners, having chaired the first portion of the meeting as Billy Spivey, the former chairman, had left the commission to campaign for a seat in the state House of Representatives.

"Bear with me," Fagan said after the prayer by Sumners to open the new commission's organizational meeting. "I only do this every four years."

Commissioners also elected Rocky Bowden during their first meeting of their four-year terms to serve as president pro tem, which is essentially the vice chairmanship.

Bowden was elected with 12 votes over three for Childress and two for Commissioner Mickey King, who's served as chairman of the county's Budget Committee, the crossroads of all spending resolutions before they're sent to the commission.

County governments in Tennessee operate under the committee system in which the majority of public debate is conducted on issues before the commission decides.

Given that system, committee assignments are important and the third major decision by the commission that night was the appointment of a Nominating Committee. It exists to receive requests from all commissioners asking for assignment to the committees of their choice.

Commissioners elected to the Nominating Committee, and their vote count are as follows: Dean Delk, 15; E.W. Hill, 15; Bowden, 14; Seth Warf, 14; and Phil Willis, 13.

Also nominated for that committee, but not elected were: Childress, eight; King, five; and Don Ledford, four.

Bowden was recognized by Nominating Committee members as the commission's president pro tem, so he led the organizational part of the committee meeting held immediately after the commission adjourned.

Delk called for Hill's election by acclamation as chairman of the Nominating Committee and with Warf seconding the motion, Hill led the rest of the session conducted that night.

Recognizing that the committee will need records of its work, the panel turned to selecting a secretary and Warf realized his fellow commissioners were looking at him.

"No, no, no, no, don't do that," he said sheepishly as Delk seconded Bowden's nomination of Warf and the others agreed.

Delk also suggested, and the panelists agreed, that senior committeemen, Bowden and/or Hill, "take a tally sheet" for compilation of the other commissioners requests and then have the committee go into recess until 4:45 p.m. Tuesday when the committee would reconvene to start placing commissioners on committees.

The system is used in other counties and, to some extent, assignments are granted as requested because of diverse interests. Fagan provided Nominating Committee members with copies of all 18 commissioners' requests on committee assignments. There are 22 committees. Five is the usual number of members.

The commission might reduce the number of committees to 21 as suggested by discussion during a joint session of the Emergency Management Committee and the Grants Committee late last month. The Grants Committee was formed shortly after 9/11 when the newly formed Department of Homeland Security started issuing grants to local governments so law enforcement and other emergency agencies could be better prepared in the event of a national emergency.

In the eight years since 9/11, the system of grants has become more routine and more manageable by EMA leaders, so the Grants Committee may be phased out as no longer needed, according to discussion during the joint meeting and the nominating Committee meeting.

A tally of the commissioners' votes for the leaders elected Thursday night appears in this edition of the Marshall County Tribune.