May 2, 2018 12:07:33 PM
Zack Plair - [email protected]
By a 4-2 vote Tuesday, Columbus City Council members appointed George T. Sumrall to the Municipal Election Commission.
Sumrall, 74, will finish Leon Speck's term, which expires July 18, 2021. Speck resigned from the commission in March for health reasons.
The Municipal Election Commission is a five-member body that oversees ballot count and validation, as well as certifying results in city general or special elections. It does not oversee party primaries.
Its members are paid $84 per month when they meet.
Sumrall was born in Jackson and moved to Columbus in 2003, he told The Dispatch. He has served as a poll worker for elections locally for the past 10 years, and he said he is committed to making sure elections are handled "fairly and correctly."
"I wanted to do something for the community," Sumrall said of applying to serve on the election commission. "I'm retired, and I have a lot of time on my hands."
Before he retired, Sumrall said, he operated a trucking company for decades. He also served as a Jackson Police Department officer from 1971-76.
On Tuesday, Ward 4 Councilman Fred Jackson first moved to have Pierre D. Beard - the only other applicant for the post - fill the election commission vacancy. Beard lives in Ward 4.
However, Ward 6 Councilman Bill Gavin offered a substitute motion to appoint Sumrall, which drew a second from Ward 3's Charlie Box. Gene Taylor of Ward 1 and Joseph Mickens of Ward 2 joined in support of Sumrall, while Jackson and Ward 5 Councilman Stephen Jones opposed.
Sumrall lives in Ward 6.
"I looked at the qualifications of both applicants," Gavin said after Tuesday's meeting. "I felt Mr. Sumrall was more qualified."
Beard ran unsuccessfully for Ward 4 councilman in 2017, losing in a four-person Democratic primary that included Jackson. Beard also has unsuccessfully sought appointment to multiple city council-appointed posts.
"(Beard is) a young man who has great potential to do great things for this community," Jackson said after the meeting. "He's persistent. Very persistent."
In other business, the council amended its resolution to renew the countywide 2-percent restaurant sales tax to require businesses with food and beverage revenue of at least $100,000 annually to collect the tax, which lines up with what the Lowndes County Board of Supervisors approved Monday.
The floor is now set at $325,000, and both city and county leaders voted to remove it entirely if the tax was renewed this legislative session.
The tax died in committee once the local resolutions reached the Legislature, though, due largely to the resolution including removal of the floor. The amended joint resolution of the city and county - which sets the floor at $100,000 - won't matter unless the governor calls a special session of the Legislature. Otherwise, the restaurant tax will expire June 30.
Zack Plair is the managing editor for The Dispatch.