Meridian Star

Local News

September 15, 2009

City Divided

Council confirms Clayton and Shelbourn; displeased residents voice their opinions

While one opponent after another rose from their seat in chambers of the Meridian City Council Tuesday evening to passionately voice their opposition to Mayor Cheri Barry's pick to replace Benny DuBose with former Petal Police Department Chief Lee Shelbourn, Barry wrote on her notes, "Change is hard, trust me, with the future of Meridian."

It is not clear to whom the note was intended for but what was made clear is that about half of the 50 or so in attendance did not agree with the council's 3-2 vote to confirm Shelbourn to the position.

Several members of the local chapter of the NAACP and concerned citizens displayed hand-drawn signs saying, "Is the door really open," and "it's not about race."

NAACP member Melba Clark, who is also a member of the Inclusion Committee formed to try and guarantee that a diverse ethnic and gender group of people be included in Barry's administration, said she hoped Barry was different than previous administrations.

"She is continuing the same trend set by all the past administrations," Clark said. "It's the Good ol boys policy as before!"

At the beginning of the meeting, the council voted to close the meeting. They then went through a door that leads to a room behind the chambers. The vote for the closed meeting was to discuss personnel matters. This left the overflow crowd waiting and murmuring among themselves for about 30 minutes.

When they returned to the council chambers to continue the meeting, the agenda was quickly voted on and removed from the session. Barry first introduced Anthony Clayton as her pick to replace Jeff Homan as chief of the Meridian Fire Department. Sensing the mood of the room, Ward 1 Councilman George M. Thomas asked Clayton before the vote was taken if Clayton thought there was a unique racial reason why he was chosen as the fire chief candidate.

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