October 16, 2020 10:11:55 AM
On Thursday, the Lowndes County Board of Supervisors chose a new board president.
Trip Hairston, who has been on the board for less than a year, will now serve as president, filling the vacancy created when Harry Sanders stepped down in late June after his racist comments created a firestorm of criticism and calls for Sanders to resign.
Leroy Brooks, now in his 37th year on the board and among the longest-serving public officials in the state, was again passed over for the president's post, as has been the case multiple times.
However you may feel about this decision, the fact remains that the business of the board of supervisors will go on, and it will be Hairston's principal job to heal the divisions and restore some semblance of cohesion in order to ensure the board can properly conduct the county's business.
It will not be an easy task.
Since June, the board's Black members -- Brooks and District 4 supervisor Jeff Smith -- have abstained on the majority of the votes taken by the board.
For Brooks, in particular, it's a matter of both principle and pride.
He has steadfastly maintained he will not rest until Sanders is no longer a member of the board. But even after the board voted, 3-1, in June for Sanders to resign from the board, Sanders remains.
In vowing that he would not give up the fight to have Sanders removed from the board, Brooks promised more than he could deliver. Abstaining from votes is a symbolic measure, but has not produced the results he had hoped for. He has, at this point, run out of options where Sanders is concerned.
Sanders continues to remain a toxic presence on the board and an influential one, too. Changing seats in the boardroom has not changed that dynamic..
It is against that backdrop that Hairston must operate.
He has vowed that he will reach out to Smith and Brooks and make sure they are informed on the issues that arise. Both Brooks and Smith have said that they have often felt left out of the loop on issues over the years.
Brooks and Smith have a decision to make as well. Both men were elected to perform a job on behalf of the people of Lowndes County. That means voting on the proposals that come before the board. They have made their positions clear. They have taken symbolic action as a means of protest.
But they have a greater responsibility and must again resume performing their duties as elected officials.
As board president, Hairston has an equally important obligation -- to build a fully functioning board whose focus is on serving the people of the county.
That's the job he signed on for when he accepted the position as board president.
For the sake of the residents of Lowndes County, we hope the board can find a measure of functional harmony.
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