Lee new president of the board

Published 8:13 pm Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Supervisors on Tuesday, in their first session of the new year, named District Four Supervisor J. Patrick Lee board president and District Five Supervisor Sandy Kane Smith vice president, or board pro tempore.

Lee had served as vice president of the board under former Board President and District One Supervisor Anthony Hales, Sr., who chose not to seek the post on the new board.

Hales turned the gavel over to Lee when the meeting first opened and then nominated Lee as president and Smith as vice president. There were no other nominations. Supervisor Joyce Culpepper seconded Hales motion. The vote was unanimous.

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Said Lee, “I appreciate the confidence you board members have placed in me, and I hope I can guide the board in its business as well as Anthony did in the last four years.”

The president of the board of supervisors is one of the most powerful posts in government in the county, if not the most powerful. The board president sets the agenda for the county and guides the board in its deliberations. The board president has no more voting power than any other board member (he’s only one vote), but he controls the gavel and can influence procedural matters.

The board president also represents the board at ceremonial events and other official appearances where a representative of the board is requested.

Said Hales, “It’s time to give the gavel to someone new and let that person guide us. It’s something I have thought about a long time. The new president will also be able to represent us better at official functions. I have not been able to get around as well as I used to.”

It remains to be seen what type of leadership Lee will exhibit. He enters his second term, after being sworn in on Thursday. Lee’s interests lie mainly in industrial and business development. He has been working on those issues ever since he was first elected in 2007.

Smith has been working on getting a methane plant up and running at the landfill and is also looking into how the county can better go about attempting to collect some delinquent fines, which run into the millions of dollars, which would help with the budget issues the county faces.

On another matter, county planner Ed Pinero, Jr., told supervisors that accidental calls to 911, evidently by kids playing with cellphones, overloaded the system over the holidays, and he attributed the overload to parents passing down cellphones to younger members of the family after receiving more advanced devices as a Christmas present, and not briefing kids on the proper use of the phone.

“It came to our attention over the holidays that inactive cellphones can still call 911,” Pinero told the board.

“If you give an old cellphone to a child so they can play the games on it, and if it still has a battery, it can still make a 911 call,” said Pinero.

Pinero said that on Christmas Eve and Christmas day 911 dispatchers reported over 100 calls to 911 from 10 different cellphones, bogus calls.

“We just want parents to be aware that an old cellphone can still call 911,” he told supervisors.

He urged parents to caution their children, to whom they give a cellphone, that 911 should be used only in emergency situations and should not be dialed “just to see what happens.” He said most of the overload on the system evidently came from accidentally dialed numbers or kids just “playing around.”

He said the federal government requires that each cellphone have the capability of dialing 911.

In other matters, the board:

— Heard county consulting engineer Les Dungan tell the board that he and supervisors need to hold a workshop to develop their four-year plan for projected projects under State-Aid road funds. The county receives from the state annually about $1 million for upgrading farm-to-market roads and replacing delapidated, outdated bridges. The monies in State-Aid funding come from gasoline taxes. No date was set.

— Named First National, Bank Plus and Hancock Bank as county depositories.

— Welcomed on board District Three Supervisor Dennis Dedeaux. Dedeaux replaced Hudson Holliday, who chose not to seek re-election to the post when he chose to run for governor. Lee, Culpepper, Hales and Smith won re-election from the previous board.

— Approved the following travel requests: emergency director to the 2012 mid-winter fire chiefs’ conference in Flowood Jan. 18-20; two Justice Court employees to CitSearch Training Session in Biloxi on Jan. 24; and one sheriff’s dept. employee to the 2012 Lifesavers Conference in Orlando, Fla, on June 14-16.

— Went into executive session to discuss personnel and legal matters.

— Recessed to Jan. 18.