Longtown Fire Commissioner
By Billy Davis
A Longtown fire commissioner was reappointed to his post during a rare dispute among county supervisors Monday.
The 3-2 board vote reappointed Herman Bradley to the volunteer fire department, reversing the earlier actions of Supervisor Vernice Avant.
Supervisor Kelly Morris made the board motion to reappoint Bradley. Bubba Waldrup then seconded. The pair then voted for the motion along with board president Gary Thompson.
Avant did not audibly cast a dissenting vote, and Supervisor James Birge announced after the vote that he had not voted.
Minutes from Monday’s meeting will reflect that Avant and Birge cast “nay” votes, attorney Bill McKenzie said after the meeting. Abstaining from a motion is considered a nay vote, he said.
Bradley’s appointment came early in the board meeting under “old business” after supervisors postponed any action, at Avant’s request, at their meeting last week.
When Thompson resurrected the topic, Morris immediately announced a motion to reappoint Bradley.
“Isn’t that Ms. Avant’s call?” asked Birge.
But McKenzie explained the appointment is a “board decision,” and Waldrup followed the attorney’s comment with a second.
During discussion, Thompson explained that Morris’ motion suggested a return to individual fire departments bringing the names of commissioners to the Board of Supervisors.
“It cuts down on discord,” Thompson said.
Thompson has defended Avant’s right to overrule the fire department and nominate appointments, but that position has softened in past weeks as the volatile issue has lingered.
Avant, responding to the motion and second, said Morris’ motion amounted to “disrespecting” her right to choose fire commissioners in Panola County’s District 2.
“Discord will continue if Mr. Bradley is reappointed,” she said.
She then made a motion to table the issue but was told a motion and second were already on the floor.
Morris then told Avant that he had repeatedly tried to discuss the issue with her but she never followed through on promises to meet.
Waldrup then read a paragraph from Mississippi’s state law that stipulates the entire Board of Supervisors appoints fire commissioners.
The issue belatedly resurfaced at the end of the Monday meeting, when Avant alleged that Longtown commissioners were excluding use of the fire station as a voting precinct.
Avant cited minutes from a June meeting of fire commissioners, which she said state the fire department should be used only for medical- and fire-related needs.
Avant is pitted in a six-way supervisors’ race, and the Longtown fire station is listed as a voting precinct for the November 3 special election.
Proper use of the Longtown Volunteer Fire Department has become a topic of that political race, since Avant has said the fire station was constructed to double as a community center.
That plan has been resisted by Longtown commissioners and firefighters, leading to an ongoing standoff with Avant.
Bradley was not reappointed because he resisted use of the fire station as a community center, Avant has said.