Mayor, aldermen discuss future of city work sessions

Mayor Lynn Spruill looks on as Ward 4 Alderman Jason Walker discusses a presentation heard by the Board of Aldermen on Friday (Photo by Ryan Phillips, SDN)

SDN Editor

Near the end of Friday’s work session of the mayor and Board of Aldermen, Mayor Lynn Spruill asked the three aldermen in attendance about how they view the work sessions, which have been going for about a year since Spruill took office.

Ward 1 Alderman Ben Carver, Ward 3 Alderman David Little, Ward 6 Alderman and Vice Mayor Roy A’. Perkins and Ward 7’s Henry Vaughn were all absent from Friday’s meeting.

“It’s obviously been a year of work sessions and it’s obviously not been as smooth and uncontentious as I hoped it would be,” Spruill said. “I still think they’re valuable and worth doing, but if we’re going to continue to get pushback, I was going to see if ya’ll are still willing to participate or do you think it’s now too much controversy or too much trouble?”

Both Ward 5’s Patrick Miller and Ward 2’s Sandra Sistrunk voiced their support for the concept, while Ward 4 Alderman Jason Walker said he would soon be unable to attend under the current Friday-at-noon format because he will be teaching a class during that hour starting in August and going through December.

“I think it’s obviously more beneficial if everyone attends and with that being said, I’m not sure if we keep going with it or not,” Walker said. “I think it’s beneficial in terms of coming here, there’s no decisions made in secret, we’re all right here on camera for everyone to see so I think that part of it is helpful.”

Miller, a first-term alderman, said he has not had an issue with the work sessions from the beginning.

He did, however, say he was worried at first that the meetings would become contentious due to being scheduled during the middle of the day. But other than timing, he said he has benefited from the work session meetings and found it helpful to meet with department heads in a more informal setting.

“You know, my concern is that we don’t take action in the work sessions,” Miller commented. “I don’t think that’s appropriate. If we continue to be cautious of that, if we be cautious of the way we approach taking action and we do everything we can to make sure all seven of (the aldermen) can be present … otherwise, as of right now, taking one hour of my lunch break on Friday to sit here and discuss and get feedback from department heads, I don’t have an issue.”

Sistrunk echoed Miller’s opinion that the meetings were helpful to city officials.

“I find it tends to generate beneficial conversations among those that are here,” she said. “It’s a less-formal setting and I just think we operate in a different way and I’ve personally found it beneficial.”

Miller also provided a possible alternative to the current format, which could remedy the frustrations had by some on the board.

“Other cities just have a mayor’s work session, moving forward if you would just want to have a mayor’s work session and just have department heads here to go over the agenda,” he suggested, also saying aldermen could attend voluntarily.

“I find it beneficial,” Spruill said. “And you don’t create controversy where it’s not necessary, but I always think work sessions give us a better opportunity to discuss things.”

The Board of Aldermen will have its regular meeting on Tuesday at 5 p.m.