VIdalia mayor, aldermen tangle over officer appointments

Published 12:31 am Wednesday, July 13, 2016

VIDALIA — An at times divided Vidalia Board of Aldermen met Tuesday to officially appoint officers for the new city government.

Most of the appointments were re-appointments of people already in the positions, and some — including Street Director Lee Staggs, Utility Department Director Mark Morace and Fire Chief Johnny Evans — met no resistance.

But when Mayor Buz Craft asked the board to reappoint City Attorney Scott McLemore, two of the members — Tron McCoy and Robert Gardner — voted against the recommendation, though they did not articulate why. The remaining three aldermen did vote for McLemore, however, and he was approved.

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The majority of the board also voted against Craft’s recommendation for mayor pro tempore, Alderman Jon Betts. McCoy, Gardner and Alderman Tommy Probst voted to appoint Probst to the position.

Craft said traditionally the mayor has recommended the senior alderman to serve as mayor pro tempore, and those on the board he had spoken with had seemed on board with the idea Betts would serve in the position.

McCoy said the board had traditionally rotated the position of mayor pro tempore on an annual basis, but in the last four years had decided to let former alderman Vernon Stevens serve in the position until the end of former Mayor Hyram Copeland’s term.

“With all these freshmen aldermen, I suggest we go back to rotating so they can get a turn going year-to-year,” McCoy said.

Craft said the aldermen choosing their own mayor pro tempore is within their rights.

“I was pre-emptive there for putting Jon (on the agenda) maybe, but that was my mistake,” he said.

The board also voted to reappoint Vicki Byrnes as city clerk and Debra Moak as city accountant.

In other news:

-The aldermen voted to engage Silas Simmons to complete the city’s year-end audit.

-The board voted to pre-file an ordinance that requires any non-resident of Vidalia seeking to get access to city utilities to appear before the board of aldermen and receive unanimous approval.

Alderwoman Sabrina Doré introduced the ordinance, saying it was prompted in part because residents had expressed concerns that customers outside the city limits were tying into the city’s utilities requires a disruption of infrastructure, such as cutting into the streets to lay new lines.

The ordinance will not affect existing customers outside the city limits.

-Doré recognized Vidalia firemen, EMTs and police officers by reading a statement from local resident Sue Smith, whose family members needed ambulance service three times within a week.

The first responders were all incredibly helpful and showed compassion in all of the circumstances, Doré said.

“We as Vidalians are incredibly blessed to have these services,” she said. “To you, it may just be your job, but you will always be a part of those families’ lives.”