Mayor vetoes alderman appointment of daughter of another late alderman
Wednesday, February 15, 2017 6:00 PM
Last week’s appointment of former Neshoba County Democratic Party Chairman Cassie Henson to the vacant Ward 4 alderman position was vetoed two days later by the mayor who said he didn’t want to appoint a potential candidate for the office.
The Ward 4 position was left vacant by the death of longtime Democrat Alderman Cecil Nichols in January. The appointee will serve the remainder of his term, which expires on June 30.
Henson was appointed to the position at the Tuesday, Feb. 7 meeting in a 3-0 vote of the Board of Alderman with a fourth alderman voting present.
City Attorney Robert Thomas said state law says the Board of Aldermen shall appoint a replacement since it is less than six months left on the term.
Mayor James A. Young, a Democrat, formally vetoed the motion in a written statement to the City Clerk Thursday, saying he wanted to wait and offer the position to Nichols’ widow, Ajatha.
“I do not want to appoint anyone on this date that is going to run for said office on May 2, 2017,” Young said in the statement.
Under state law, Young had to submit his reason for the veto in writing to the City Clerk.
He had wanted the board to delay action on the appointment until the Feb. 21 meeting.
However, Ward 1 Alderman Joe Tullos, a Republican, made the motion to appoint Henson following a lengthly discussion during the Feb. 7 meeting, which was seconded by Ward 2 Alderman Jim Fulton, also a Republican.
Ward 3 Alderman James Tatum, a Democrat, voted for the motion, while Alderman-at-Large Willie Jackson, former chairman of the Neshoba County Republican Party, voted present.
After the vote, Young told aldermen he would veto the motion.
“Y’all can override me in two weeks if you want to but I think we should respect Mrs. Nichols,” he said.
It would take two-thirds majority vote of the Board of Aldermen to override the veto, Thomas said.
Since there are only four aldermen on the current board, three would have to vote to override, he said.
At last week’s meeting, Tullos was quick to note that an appointment to replace Nichols was not on the agenda.
“Are we going to have any discussion on it?” he asked. “I’ve had quite a bit of conversation on it.”
Young told Tullos that he, too, had talked with several people in Ward 4. He noted that Nichols’ widow, was interested in serving the remainder of his term.
Tullos said the appointment needed “to be handled on top of the table.”
He told aldermen that four or five people had called him and that he was ready to make an appointment.
“If I fail to get a second, I will respect you,” Tullos said. “I appoint Cassie Henson. She is very capable and smart.”
Tullos told aldermen that he had known Henson for a long time as she was a classmate of his daughter.
Young then voiced opposition for an appointment to be made at that time.
He told aldermen that he and several family members live in Ward 4 and asked that they consider Mrs. Nichols.
Fulton also voiced support for Henson, pointing out that he had received several phone calls from residents asking that she be appointed.
However, Tatum told aldermen that he was “in the middle” when it came to the appointment.
He said he had voiced support for Henson, but at the time didn’t know that Mrs. Nichols’ was interested in the appointment.
“This is going to cause hard feelings at me either way,” Tatum said.
Jackson said he felt the ward would be better served if they appointed a person who was not going to run for the office in May.
“I’m not opposed to Cassie,” Jackson said. “We need young people, especially young women.”
Before seconding the motion to appoint Henson, Fulton said Mrs. Nichols had “just lost a special person in her life and that it takes time on that.”
Henson is the daughter of the late Charles Henson, who served four terms as Ward 4 Alderman.
While she had not qualified as a candidate for the Ward 4 post, Henson said she had been considering a run.
“My genuine concern is my community,” she said. “I love my community and I want to make it better.”
Henson is a graduate of Philadelphia High School, East Central Community College and Mississippi State University where she earned a degree in Interdisciplinary Studies in Education and Psychology.
“I am preparing to take the Praxis core exam in order to teach,” she said.
A homemaker, Henson has two sons who attend Philadelphia Elementary School.