For a few hours this week, beloved McMinnville Mayor Jimmy Haley turned to the dark side of the force.
In announcing city committee assignments Tuesday, Haley did not make Alderman Mike Neal chairman of any of McMinnville's six committees. It was a drastic move and one which delivered a clear message: Our mayor is not happy with Mr. Neal.
My guess is Mayor Haley might have been a little upset by who Neal supported in the recent mayoral election. Here's a tip: It was not Haley.
Whatever his motivation, Mayor Haley decided to banish Neal to a galaxy far, far away. Committee assignments were released and tradition was trampled as Neal was not selected to chair any of the six city committees. It was like a lightsaber to the gut.
In rationalizing his decision, Haley released a statement to the Standard that said, in part, “I believe the voters overwhelmingly voted for progress in the last election. Alderman Neal has consistently voted against measures which would move McMinnville forward. For this reason, I felt it necessary to rearrange the committees in a way that would foster a culture of positive change.”
I've analyzed the election results probably as much as anyone and I didn't catch the part where voters overwhelmingly voted for progress. That must have been a city race I overlooked.
Mayor Haley went on to say he's upset by Neal's reluctance to support funding for our Driver Testing Center and his caution toward funding massive Civic Center renovation work. Neal's stances may contradict Mayor Haley's views, but we can't forget the importance of hearing the other side of the issue.
Haley does deserve great credit for taking the lead and keeping our Driver Testing Center here in McMinnville. It's an essential service and it needed to stay.
But there was also reason to express aggravation, as Neal did, at Tennessee government officials for forcing the city to subsidize a state service. There was also reason to ask the county to help the city fund the Driver Testing Center because the facility is utilized by the entire community. Neal ultimately voted to fund the Driver Testing Center in what was a unanimous city decision.
Neal has also expressed reservations about a $5 million renovation plan at McMinnville Civic Center. I, too, share these reservations and think if we're thinking of spending that kind of money it should at least include an indoor pool.
There's nothing wrong with a healthy disagreement. Having a different voice always helps me better evaluate my own opinions. It's beneficial to our city to have more than one singular view.
Fortunately, Mayor Haley is committed to harmony on McMinnville's city board. He's listened to concerns from other aldermen and decided to make Neal the chair of the Streets and Sanitation Committee. Good has prevailed over evil.
With any luck, this disturbance in the force is over and Mayor Haley can return to his Jedi training.
Standard editor James Clark can be reached at 473-2191.