The first Washington Court House City Council meeting of 2020 was held Wednesday with Jim Blair beginning his first term as a council member, Jim Chrisman starting his third term as chairperson and Dale Lynch starting his second consecutive term as vice chairperson.
The only legal item on the agenda for the meeting was a resolution pertaining to Harry Wright, a recently retired local and radio personality. The resolution has the purpose of expressing the council’s and the city administration’s appreciation for Wright’s service to the community. The resolution was placed on first reading without discussion and must be placed on second reading before being adopted.
During the meeting Blair brought up two different topics — one of which involved asking for clarification on what kind of connection the city has with Main Street Fayette or if the organization is mostly independent of the city.
Council member Kendra Redd-Hernandez, who typically speaks about upcoming projects hosted by the organization such as the monthly shop hops, explained that the council is not directly connected to but does support the organization.
“I would say the majority of it is independent,” said Redd-Hernandez. “Chelsie (Baker) serves as our ex officio, and she is actually on the board, and she serves as the treasurer. Joe (Denen) along with (Stephanie Dunham from Travel and Tourism) and Julie Bolender from Chamber of Commerce—they are all ex officio members. So, I see the city as a support.”
Redd-Hernandez further explained that as far as decisions go, the board makes them, not the city. She then asked City Manager Joe Denen if she had missed anything.
Denen said, “Main Street Fayette is a non-profit, private corporation. Now, the nature of what it does involves a high level of cooperation with the city. But it has its own board and makes its own decisions.”
A second topic brought up by Blair involved the process of choosing the vice chairperson and chairperson—the legality and possibility of altering the procedure.
“Something I want to enter into public record is that the process of electing the chairman and vice chairman of city council be revisited and discussed by the full council before the next election in 2022,” said Blair. “The reason is in our last election there were two persons nominated and seconded. Neither person expressed their desire to withdraw their name from consideration however, only one person was voted on.”
“I can understand that only one person was accepting the nomination, then that person only would be considered for the position,” Blair further explained. “Each nominated person should have been asked if they wished to be considered for the position of chairman—this was not done. If there are two or more persons considered for the particular position and they are willing to be considered, then it seems as though when the role was called to vote, the voting members should call out the name of the person they are voting in favor of or go to a secret ballot. The current way of voting ‘yes’ or ‘no’ in an open forum on a particular candidate could be divisive and create clicks within the body. I want to enter that into the record—thank you for your consideration.”
“Mr. Lynch and Mr. Hawk brought that to my attention before that and I talked with our law director,” said Chrisman. “I got the impression, and Joe (Denen) may remember this, he’s kind of going by state law—isn’t he?”
Denen responded with, “Well, the process is not particularly well fleshed out. If we want to look at how we do that we certainly can. The question has arisen before about the secret ballot issue and we don’t see a way that the election cannot be wholly public in the sense of the way that you choose to vote ‘yea’ or ‘nay’ on a candidate. But we can look at the process.”
It was then suggested by Chrisman for Blair to speak with City Attorney Mark Pitstick, as he didn’t see a need for the whole council to address the concern. However, Chrisman explained if the council wanted to address it that it was fine with him.
Essentially, further conversation included Blair’s request to understand or have actual rules in place for the procedure rather than having the procedure be ambiguous.
Following the meeting, when asked how he feels about being chairperson again, Chrisman explained, “It’s a lot of responsibility. It takes a little more time than just being a member, but this is my third time. It’s a challenge but somebody has to do it. Hopefully we have strong leadership because water runs downhill—so we have strong people at the top, like Dale is, and it’ll work out.”
“You’re not going to please everybody, but you do the best you can,” he said. “We keep in mind that you’re here for the citizens of Washington Court House, not your individual feelings or what Joe Jones wants you to do—like fix a ticket or something, that’s not going to happen. There’s some things you can do and some things you can’t do, because you’re only one vote out of seven—no matter which seat you’re sitting in. Out of the 24 years I’ve been here things haven’t always gone my way, but I’m still here.”
According to Chrisman, as chairperson he oversees meetings, and attempts to attend all committee meetings although he doesn’t vote on the issues at those meetings.
“We do not vote on those committees,” said Chrisman. “Hopefully, since I was elected chairman they’ll at least listen to or maybe respect my opinion. Doesn’t mean I’m always right—I’m sure I’m not.”
“Jim does a good job,” said Lynch.
Lynch has been chairperson twice in the past and also vice chairperson three times in the past, with this being his second consecutive term as vice chairperson.
“I’m feeling great about this year,” said Lynch. “One, I believe that we have a council that will work together for the best of all the citizens of the community. Two, I think we’re making great strides in areas that people have concerns about like the downtown, like jobs, things like that. So, I’m feeling very good as we start this new decade and new year about the prospects for Washington Court House in this year and in the future.”
When asked about his responsibilities as vice chairperson, Lynch explained that it involves a lot of “waiting.”
“Actually and truly, it’s kind of like being Vice President of the United States,” said Lynch. “My responsibilities are fairly small unless I have to replace the chair if he happens to be sick or can’t attend. I would take his place running the meetings. Other than that I’m just like any other council member. I have one vote, I try to be at all committee meetings whether I’m on the committee or not.”
“We try to work around to make everybody as happy as we can,” said Chrisman. “I enjoy helping the public.”
Washington Court House City Council meetings are held on the second and fourth Wednesdays of every month at 7:30 p.m. They are located in the second floor council chambers of the City Administration Building, 105 N. Main Street. The public is welcome to attend and may sign up to speak before the council.
Reach Jennifer Woods at 740-313-0355 or on Twitter @JennMWoods.