Ralph Smith had a change of heart.
After resigning from the Garland Commissioners in June, Smith rejoined his colleagues Tuesday evening during their monthly meeting. Originally, Smith said health issues were the reason for leaving. He served for two decades and assisted the town with sewer, water and public works.
But Smith’s departure was not a smooth transition and came with a little conflict between Mayor Winifred Murphy and commissioners. During a late-June meeting, she suggested to use an application process to find the next commissioner. But Commissioners S.J. Smith and Mayor Pro Tem Haywood Johnson wanted to select a defeated candidate who received the next highest numbers of votes during the past election. Mike Toler, who lost a past election, was suggested.
Before Smith took the oath of office and sat down in his old chair, Murphy got up from her mayor’s seat and spoke as a Garland resident. While addressing the board and the audience, Murphy discussed her ties to Garland and becoming a commissioner to help improve the town. Currently, she believes the legacy of the community is up to the board.
“We have to make sure we’re making wise decisions and that we’re looking out for the interest of the people that live in and around Garland,” Murphy said regarding improvements such as re-opening the community building. “Not just now, but for future generations.”
Another of her concerns was Toler joining Commissioner Denise Toler (wife of Mike Toler) and S.J. Smith, who shares a relation to both.
“At the last board meeting, it was like regardless of who applies, you didn’t want applications,” Murphy said. “You were going to appoint former commissioner Mike Toler without giving anybody else an opportunity.”
She felt it was unethical for a husband, wife and an uncle to serve on a board together.
“If the voters make that decision, that’s fine,” Murphy said. “But if the board makes that decision, that’s unethical.”
During her remarks, Murphy said everyone needs to be responsible and not have personal agendas.
“As I said before, we can’t change the past, but we can build on the mistakes that we made,” she said. “Mistakes are good because we can always learn. We have to build on the successes and there has been many successes. We can do it, not individually, but together. We can do it by communicating together and knowing that all of us are important.”
After her speech, S.J. Smith did not have any comments and Denise Toler said Murphy was “beating a dead horse,” since her husband Mike was not present.
In addition, Murphy indicated that some people wanted to be a commissioner, but felt they were not worthy to do so. Prior to Murphy’s speech, resident Judy Smith read a statement about why she would be a good candidate for the position. The retired teacher stated she had more time to serve since she retired as a teacher.She previously offered her services in 2013. Like Murphy, Smith also brought up the nepotism matter.
“I don’t believe it appropriate for any family to obtain a quorum in a committee,” Smith said. “That doesn’t even happen in our church.”
Reach Chase Jordan at 910-249-4617. Follow us on Twitter at @SampsonInd and like us on Facebook.