by Calvin Ishee, Associate Publisher

After 46 years of combined public service to the City of Pass Christian, three long serving public officials leave public office. This past Tuesday, June 15, 2021 was the last Board meeting for Mayor Leo “Chipper” McDermott, Ward 3 Alderman Anthony “BaBa” Hall and Ward 1 Alderman Buddy Clarke.

They will be replaced by Jimmy Rafferty as Mayor, Betty Sparkman as Alderwoman of Ward 1 and Kirk Kimball as Alderman of Ward 3.

When the meeting was called to order, City Attorney Malcom Jones read a Proclamation to Mayor McDermott that paid tribute and homage for his love, dedication and passion for the City of Pass Christian. A packed house listened as Jones listed accomplishment after accomplishment that Chipper has achieved for the City: he revived the City after the devastation of Hurricane Katrina, saved Walmart from leaving The Pass, brought back new businesses to the downtown area, obtained millions of federal dollars to help the City rebuild and countless other achievements.

Then, Jones presented the Resolution to Chipper and Pass Christian’s First Lady, Jeanie Bishop McDermott, the room erupted with a resounding standing ovation.

Mayor McDermott immediately passed on the praise to City Clerk Marian Governor by commenting, “Marian does a great job of maintaining our money”. Alderman at Large Kenny Torgeson added, “Kudos to the Mayor and Marian, it’s because of them that we are where we are.” Governor accepted the praise but added that it “was a team effort”.

For now the City is in a very positive and healthy financial condition. The challenge for the new Mayor and Board of Alderman will be maintaining the fiscally conservative and fiscally responsible culture created and maintained by Mayor McDermott. They will need to weigh campaign promises and resident demands with the wise and prudent use of City resources.

The Board aggressively and passionately debated allowing off duty law enforcement officers the use of their weapons, City uniforms and vehicles when providing private security within City limits (eg Toast to the Coast, Walmart, etc). This effort is already being done successfully by other cities as it provides an additional means of income for our police officers while also providing a crime deterrence whenever and wherever the officers are working.

Although in violation of Mississippi State statute regarding Open Public Meetings, on June 8, 2021, based on the request of City Attorney Malcolm Jones, the City held a private meeting to discuss the use of City law enforcement officers at Walmart. City governments are required by law to inform the public and media when meetings take place. This is to ensure full transparency when conducting public business.

In the end after a lengthy discussion, the Board voted 4-1 to allow off duty police officers the use of their uniforms, weapons and vehicles. The only dissenting vote came from Ward 2 Alderwoman Regina Charlot.

Following the continuation of a Public Hearing from the last Board meeting, the Board voted to close the Public Hearing whereby the Board will actually vote on the proposed “administrative” changes to the Pass Christian Development Code at the next Board meeting. The City offered the residents the ability to see the proposed changes either in person at the Planning/Code Office or via the City’s website.

Based on a request by resident Frances Hoffman, City Attorney Malcolm Jones read a statement on her behalf. Hoffman’s statement read in part, “I wish to object to any changes to the 8/18/20 version of the zoning code. This code is being appealed in the Circuit Court of Harrison County based on multiple violations of rulings of the Mississippi Supreme Court”.

Jones told the Board that they could proceed with the proposed changes because they are not relevant to Hoffman’s law suit against the City. He also added that Hoffman would have one more chance to speak on this matter at the next scheduled Board meeting.

In routine business, the Board approved the St. Paul Carnival Association’s request to host the 2022 Pass Parade on Sunday, February 27, 2022; the request from Impact Our Youth for the use of the recreation parking lot on Freitas Avenue on Saturday, July 24, 2021 from 2-4 pm for their 3rd Annual Coast Back to School Drive and a request from the Pass Christian Rotary Club for the use of 20 cones.

In fiscal matters the Board approved new 5 year lease agreements with the Kimball Seafood Company Inc. and Gerald “Jerry” Forte; $23,635 contract award to DNA Underground for Seaside Oaks Drainage Improvements; and $57,898.42 in Claims Docket expenses.

In Public Comments Alderwoman Charlot thanked Mayor McDermott, Alderman Clarke and Alderman Hall for their service to the City and stated, “it’s been an honor working with you guys”. Alderman Hall rose to thank the residents of Ward 3 as well as the City employees for their outstanding support during his term of office. He added, “Thank you for allowing me to serve honorably. It’s really been a pleasure working with you.”

The next Mayor and Board of Alderman meeting will be on Tuesday, July 6, 2021, 6 pm at the Pass Christian Auditorium/Court House. This will be the first meeting of the new Mayor and Board of Alderman.