During its Monday meeting, the Lowndes County Board of Supervisors made five board appointments, returning four of five current board members to their positions. But it was the one position that went to a new applicant that drew pointed comments from District 5 Supervisor Leroy Brooks over how the appointment process was handled.
Of the five board appointments, only one position — a seat on the Community Counseling board — had more than one applicant. Former county administrator Ralph Billingsley applied to be re-appointed. Christina Shumpert, who works for Columbus Municipal School District, also applied.
“For the sake of expediency, we all know that you are not going to appoint Ralph, but there are some of us who would like to vote for him at the same time,” Brooks said. “When that dies, we are willing to vote for Ms. Shumpert. Ralph asked (District 4 supervisor) Jeff (Smith) and I for our support and we told him we would do that.”
Brooks nominated Billingsley, but instead of allowing a vote on his nomination, District 1 Supervisor Harry Sanders offered a substitute motion to nominate Shumpert. By procedure, a substitute motion takes precedence over the original motion and must be voted on before the original motion can be considered.
Sanders’ move met strenuous opposition from Brooks.
“Ralph was nominated first, so I think we should vote on him first,” Brooks said.
When the board voted to consider Shumpert first, Brooks and Smith abstained as Shumpert was initially appointed by a 3-0 vote. Brooks and Smith said they wanted to change their vote from “abstain” to “yes” on Shumpert’s appointment.
“It didn’t make any sense the way you all did it,” Brooks said. “What I suggested was a simple way to put Ralph in the minutes because (Jeff and I) wanted to vote for Ms. Shumpert, also. All you had to do was to allow Ralph’s name to be considered, and then you could have voted down. That’s all I was asking. Y’all deliberately created a process where we couldn’t do that.”
Sanders tried to respond.
“What you are doing is putting me, you (Board President Trip Hairston) and (District 2 supervisor John Holliman in a box —”
Brooks cut Sanders off, raising his voice.
“You’re already in a box, Harry,” he said.
Hairston cut off the discussion.
“Let’s move on,” Hairston said.
The board also reappointed Justin Shelton (District 4) and Willie Jones (District 5) to the Lowndes County Port Authority board and Joe Brooks to the Tombigbee River Valley Water Management board. When the supervisors reappointed Joe Beckett to the Columbus-Lowndes Convention and Visitors Bureau Board, Brooks again vented his frustration.
“I’m going to vote for Joe Beckett, but I hope I can put it in your hearts and minds that we haven’t appointed an African-American to the CVB board in about 10 years,” Brooks said.
Sanders again responded.
“We just got through appointing a Black person to the Community Counseling board,” Sanders said.
Brooks countered: “That’s not the CVB, Harry. All I’m asking is that when we have the next opportunity, we should at least try to have some diversity.”