HomeBusinessDiscussions get tense over pending board appointments

Discussions get tense over pending board appointments

The Republican caucus of the Madison County Commission met Tuesday night with an attendance noticeably higher than normal.

Meetings typically have about 15 people present. This one had 35.

Padding that attendance statistic was having six people who’ve applied for either the open seat on the Jackson-Madison County School Board or the Board of Health at West Tennessee Healthcare present to make a case for themselves before the Commission appoints both positions at their monthly meeting Monday night.

The four applicants for school board all spoke – Latarsha Hanna-Huff, Dwight Johns, Brent Lay and Marcia Moss.

All four gave a brief rundown of their professional careers and personal lives and why being on the school board is important to them.

After all four had spoken, with Lay speaking last, is when discussion among the caucus members and others began.

Madison County Mayor A.J. Massey, who was a member of the JMCSS Board from 2018-22, said it would be “a shame” if Lay were the one appointed to the position.

“He’s a big reason the school system is in the shape it’s in right now, because if it weren’t for him, Eric Jones would probably still be the Superintendent,” Massey said. “For 18 months, he was involved in the school board and given platforms to speak no other citizen has ever gotten before the long-range planning committee.

“He was instrumental in getting one board member elected and had at least four members doing his bidding – maybe five – and all of that is a big reason Eric Jones ultimately resigned.”

Eric Jones was hired by the Board in 2017 to be the Superintendent. In the spring of 2019, he announced his resignation after five new board members were elected in August of 2018 and he repeatedly had to put fires out because of questions needing answered or new initiatives started by the Board.

Of those nine board members, two are still on it – Chairman James “Pete” Johnson and Janice Hampton.

Commission Chairman Gary Deaton told Massey he felt like he was needlessly attacking Lay for mistakes that were years in the past.

Later in the meeting when the discussion was brought up, Deaton again said he felt the attacks on Lay were unnecessary, while Massey said he felt his statements weren’t attacks since they’re factual and the Commission needed all the facts regarding anyone wanting an appointed position.

Before the initial discussion was over, however, Madison County Republican Party Chairman Brad Greer spoke up.

“This is a Republican caucus, and you voting commissioners need to remember what this man [Lay] has done in the past to the detriment of the Republican Party here in Jackson,” Greer said. “I don’t understand a group of Republicans considering appointing him to anything knowing what he’s done to the party in the past.”

A silent vote was taken regarding the position among 13 caucus members present with Moss getting eight votes, Lay getting four and Hanna-Huff getting one.

Two of the three candidates for the Board of Health position – Darlette Samuels and Ray Washington – were also present.

Samuels came with a recommendation letter from West Tennessee Healthcare CEO James Ross.

Washington won the vote 10-3.

Multiple Commissioners said both Samuels and Washington are quality candidates for the job.

Samuels has worked in the president’s office at Lane College for more than 25 years.

Washington has worked in different industries including health and finance and has been in education since Jones hired him as the chief of operations for JMCSS in 2017 and went to Fayette County last year serving in the same capacity.

Commissioner Mike Taylor suggested Washington’s past work in finance could be good for WTH, particularly with a new competing hospital moving into town later this year.

Both appointments are set to be voted on Monday at the County Commission meeting.

Brandon Shields, brandon@jacksonpost.news

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