After a contentious split and a request for unity by the mayor, the City of Gulfport finally has a new Vice Mayor.
In the second vote of the evening, the council named Ward 4 Councilmember Sam Henderson to the role previously held by former Ward 1 Councilmember David Hastings. Hastings lost to Dan Liedtke by nine votes in the March 13 municipal election.
The additional voting was needed after Ward 2 Councilmember Barbara Banno failed to get a majority in the first round.
The main issue was availability. Ward 3 Councilmember Jennifer Salmon, who originally backed Banno, was concerned about the time commitment. She felt scheduling conflicts would prevent Henderson from being as strong a vice mayor as Banno.
Henderson, who is a college student, occasionally had to reschedule his city duties to fit with his class calendar.
"The most important thing is availability," Salmon said. "That was a deal breaker for me."
On March 20, the previous vote on a new vice mayor for Gulfport was deadlocked due to Gulfport Mayor Mike Yakes' absence. That vote was along gender lines, with Salmon voting for Banno and Liedtke voting for Henderson.
In last night's regular meeting at City Hall, Yakes cast the deciding vote on the first round, with Henderson and Liedtke against Banno's nomination.
Liedtke stressed that experience should be the most valuable asset in choosing a vice mayor. Henderson has the most time on the current city council, second only to Yakes.
When asked about his ability to perform the duties of vice mayor, Henderson assured the board he was ready for the task.
"My record speaks for itself," Henderson responded. "I feel I have been very available. I have rescheduled classes around meetings and workshops. It has been a nice experience and I don’t see any reason why I can't be available to do the job. "
When the first vote failed to resolve the issue, Yakes made an impassioned plea to put differences aside.
"The interest is that of cohesion," Yakes said. "To bring this city together and not have these internal challenges."
"There is enough of that from the outside," he added.
"I look at my council with pride. Any one of you can do my job," Yakes said, before calling for a second vote. "I'm ready for the city to come back together, and not have council member against council member"
With Yakes urging, the board voted again. Liedtke nominated Henderson, and "out of respect for the mayor," both Banno and Salmon agreed. The new vote was unanimously for Henderson.
"Mayor, you will get 100 percent from me," Banno said. "And that will continue."
The full council seemed pleased that they were able to resolve their differences and put the issue of a new vice mayor to rest.
"I will consider the extent of this peace pipe," Henderson said. "I want us to come together as well."