For the Second Week, a Majority Quibbles with Replacing Keith Olson
By Walker County News Today staff
After a second week of discussion, new Mayor Andy Brauninger finally cobbled together just enough support on Huntsville City Council to get his nominations to the City’s Finance Committee approved.
Huntsville’s charter section 508 states that the mayor has the sole duty to appoint council members to council committees, which must then be approved by a council majority. In recent memory, Huntsville’s mayors have made these nominations unchallenged. Committee members serve in an advisory capacity, and their recommendations to the council at large are non-binding.
At his first meeting as mayor on Jan. 5, Brauninger attempted to add Ward 4 council member Joe Rodriquez to the finance committee, replacing mayor pro tem Keith Olson. The rest of the standing committee composed of council members Don Johnson, Joe Emmett, and Brauninger himself would have remained intact.
But a council majority composed of Olson, Johnson, at large council member Lydia Montgomery and Ward 2 council member Tish Humphrey took issue with Brauninger’s intention to remove Olson, the longest-serving member of the committee and its chairman. The majority then voted against Brauniger’s nominations.
During a heated discussion, Humphrey made a motion to replace Brauninger with Rodriquez on the finance committee, leaving Olson on. But Leonard Schneider, the city’s attorney, said Humphrey’s motion was out of order since it violated Section 508 of the charter. Brauninger withdrew his nominations at that meeitng.
But on Tuesday night, Brauninger came back with a compromise — he would step down from the finance committee as the council majority had suggested. But he once again nominated Rodriquez to fill Olson’s spot, reassuring council members that he had no personal animosity toward Olson, whom he defeated in a Dec. 12, 2015, run-off election for mayor. Brauninger said he wanted to give other council members the same experience Olson had had for the past five years. Finance committee members Johnson and Emmett, who have each served on the committee for four years, would remain.
Olson argued that he be allowed to continue on the committee because his experience on the committee had taught him that some of his ideas about city finance were not necessarily practical. “When you move wisdom like that and you don’t give it a chance, what do you have?” he said.
Rodriquez said he hoped council could move on to matters more important to the citizens. He suggested council not continue “fighting over something that doesn’t need to be fought over… I don’t lose sleep because somebody other than me is serving on a committee.”
At-large council woman Lydia Montgomery, who said at the previous meeting that she feared losing Olson’s “wisdom” on the finance committee, said Tuesday that she appreciated Brauninger’s explanation about why he wanted to change the make-up of the finance committee and had wanted reassurance that there was nothing “personal” in Brauninger’s decision.
Council voted 4 to 3 to approve Brauninger’s finance committee nominations. Johnson, Montgomery and Olson voted against the nominations.