Although he is probably best known around town in his role as an attorney, Gawyn Mitchell’s interest in flying predates his legal work.
An Air Force bomber pilot in Vietnam and, after earning his law degree, a Judge Advocate General, Mitchell said his interest in flying prompted him to apply for the City of Columbus’ position on the Golden Triangle Regional Airport Board of Directors.
The city council voted 4-2 to appoint Mitchell to the position after Mayor Keith Gaskin broke a tie against the appointment of another applicant, Dennis Erby.
Mitchell replaces Stephen James, who resigned from the board in June.
Before the nominations, Ward 2 Councilman Joseph Mickens, noting that Erby currently serves on the city’s redevelopment authority, said the previous administration had preferred limiting citizens to service on only one board at a time.
“I don’t think it ever came down to an up-or-down vote, but I do remember that we said we didn’t want people serving on more than one board at a time,” Mickens said. “At that time, it wasn’t always possible, but now we’re getting more applicants for these board appointments. I think we always felt it would be good to spread these appointments around. This is nothing against Mr. Erby, just something to consider.”
After Ward 3 Councilman Rusty Greene nominated Mitchell for the board appointment, Ward 1 Councilman Ethel Stewart offered a substitute motion to appoint Erby. After a 3-3 tie on the Erby motion, Gaskin voted against the appointment.
Mitchell’s appointment was then approved.
The board later reappointed Marthalie Porter to the Columbus Redevelopment Authority. Porter currently serves as board president. Lavonne Harris had also applied for the board appointment.
Fire Chief Martin Andrews also notified the council that his department has been approved for a Federal Emergency Management Agency grant to purchase a new fire truck.
The total cost of the fire truck is $835,000, Andrews said. The FEMA grant will cover $750,000 of that amount, with the city responsible for the balance, which covers grant writing fees.
“The grant comes at a good time,” Andrews said. “Fire trucks are rated for a 20-year lifespan, but if you keep good maintenance records, the rating extends to 25 years. The new truck will replace Engine No. 25, which will be at the 25-year mark by the time the new truck gets here. We’ll either keep that truck as a reserve or sell it. Right now, we’re spending a lot of money on maintenance, so we may decide it’s better to sell it.”
Andrews said the trucks are custom-built to meet the fire department’s needs and generally take about a year to build.
In other city business, the council voted unanimously to advertise for a consultant to help the city with its plans for spending $5.6 million from the American Recovery Act.
Slim Smith is a columnist and feature writer for The Dispatch. His email address is [email protected]