In a year of unprecedented firsts, include that the city of Birmingham has re-elected its mayor, commissioner Pierre Boutros, and mayor pro tem, commissioner Therese Longe, for another year.
While Longe's vote was unanimous, Boutros was the deciding vote in a 4-3 squabble between commissioners at their meeting on Monday, November 9.
The annual election of mayor and mayor pro tem is a rotating selection of who will be first among equals to lead the city commission meeting, perform ceremonial functions, and work with staff to help direct the city. Birmingham is a city manager form of government rather than a strong mayoral form of government.
At the beginning of the meeting, Longe nominated Boutros for the position of mayor. “In the early months of the pandemic, mayor Boutros was a calming presence… If ever there was a time for continuity, I call for mayor Boutros for a second term.”
Commissioner Mark Nickita noted that in at least 70 years of record keeping, there had never been sequential years of a commissioner performing the duty of mayor, and he, along with commissioners Rackeline Hoff and Stuart Sherman objected.
“While I agree with much of what mayor pro tem Longe said, I have worked with Mayor Boutros for the last five years, with his strengths and weaknesses, as I enter my 20th year as a commissioner, this is unprecedented to have the same person as mayor. This is an unprecedented time in Birmingham. In my opinion we need someone with more experience who can give assistance to the incoming staff members. I like mayor Boutros – he is my friend. But I don't think he is the right person and I will not be supporting his nomination.”
“I share commissioner Hoff's comments that you are a very personable individual, but as the mayor pro tem said, the mayor is the CEO of the city, and during this year, we have seen unprecedented turnover – it is a direct reflection of what has happened over the last year. We have lost that stability. We need more experience than Pierre Boutros.”
“That key experience of searching for a city manager, negotiating with a city manager – all of which commissioner Boutros does not have, and we do have commissioners with that experience,” Nickita said. “I feel this is a challenge that we can do better. I am concerned because of one thing – what is best for the city.”
However, the three did not offer up a nominee, and when the vote came, it was 3-3, with Longe, commissioners Clinton Baller and Brad Host voting to retain Boutros as mayor versus Nickita, Hoff and Sherman. Boutros then cast the final 'yes' vote for himself, giving himself the title for another year.
Commissioners then voted unanimously for Longe as mayor pro tem.