Supervisor President Kelly Morris

Published 12:00 am Friday, January 6, 2012

Supervisors pick board president

By Billy Davis

Kelly Morris was elected board president, and James Birge was elected vice president, when a new Board of Supervisors took their seats Tuesday in Sardis.

Supervisors also voted to retain the same people in four key positions — board attorney Bill McKenzie, Administrator Kelley Magee, road manager Lygunnah Bean, and engineer Larry Britt.

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The county board’s vote to elect its president and vice president, and to retain people in the four positions, were both unanimous.

The new makeup of the Panola County Board of Supervisors followed elections last year that changed the board slightly: voters returned three supervisors to office in Districts 1, 2 and 4, and turned out supervisors in Districts 3 and 5.

Incumbents Morris, Birge and Vernice Avant were returning in districts 4, 1, and 2 respectively.

New supervisors, John Thomas and Cole Flint, took their seats for the first time to represent Districts 3 and 5 respectively.

Tuesday’s meeting began when McKenzie, the board attorney, explained that a new term had begun and supervisors’ first order of business was to select the president and vice president.

After those selections were made, newly elected sheriff Dennis Darby opened the meeting with the traditional “Oh yes, oh yes” proclamation. (See related story, page A1).

Chancery Clerk Jim Pitcock then opened with prayer. “Give us wisdom and knowledge of Your will,” Pitcock prayed. “You are the God of everything….You are in control of all things.”

The next order of business was selecting the four positions. Morris, presiding as board president, suggested the board begin with selecting the board attorney. But Avant interrupted and suggested that supervisors vote by “acclamation” to fill all four positions at the same time.

Other supervisors sat in silence then, after a few moments, unanimously voted to retain McKenzie, Magee, Bean and Britt.

It was unclear if any of the positions were in jeopardy of changing under a new board. McKenzie, who has served since 1984, had hinted in past weeks that he was willing to step aside for a younger replacement.
Among the other positions, Magee has publicly tangled with the sheriff’s department over budget issues but has had no public quarrels with individual supervisors.

Bean repeatedly remarked at board meetings last year that he was publicly supporting his “bosses,” or the then-current Board of Supervisors, in the most recent elections. That meant Bean was eyeing two new supervisors Tuesday after supporting the ousted incumbents.  

And Morris has also been the object of Bean’s verbal jabs at board meetings for sometime so the road manager, with Gary Thompson gone, was eyeing a new board president Tuesday.  

At least one other engineering firm, Evans Engineering, was vying for a chance to replace Britt’s firm, Elliot and Britt.

The decision over appointments moved to other matters until the end of the board meeting, when Flint recalled the reappointments made earlier. The new supervisor stated from his seat that employees deserve a chance to perform their duties in front of the new board, though he clarified they aren’t on “probation” in front of the new board.

“You’re not on probation. I don’t mean to sound like that,” Flint said.“I’m just not going to listen to the naysayers and all the he said/she said.”

In other county business, newly elected Circuit Clerk Melissa Meek-Phelps made her first appearance before the board. Supervisors approved her request to increase the salary of deputy clerk Heather Turner’s to match the same level of a former employee that Turner has replaced.