Whether Decherd will have a 2019 edition of its annual Christmas Parade is up in the air after several recreation committee members resigned from their positions.
Debbie St. John, who chairs the committee, told the Board of Mayor and Aldermen Monday that she had received text messages from Mayor Michael Gillespie that were rude, and she has an issue with them.
Gillespie said the controversy about the text messages stemmed from St. John wanting to fill Recreation Committee vacancies.
He said he told her in a text message that it was the mayor’s duty to make committee appointments, and Decherd’s city bylaws specify that action.
St. John presented what she said were copies of the text messages to board members. She later forwarded a copy to the Herald Chronicle.
“I have been advised by legal counsel to resign as president from this committee for my safety and mental stress,” she said. “This was not an easy decision. I enjoy being active in this town and doing things for our city.”
St. John said that the Decherd Christmas Parade is one of the largest in the area and has reached a stage where first-place winners receive $1,000.
“I appreciate all the help and support from my committee and from the Board of Aldermen, but I don’t feel under the circumstances that I can go on,” she said.
A text from Gillespie said:
“Fyi, I name members to the Recreation Committee. If there are people that you think would be interested in being on the committee, you need to run that through me. Understood?”
The statement is followed with a reply from St. John.
“Yes. Who said I wasn’t???”
Gillespie then said:
“I sent you a text. You did not respond. I thought you would respond to it. Did you understand me or not? That was the question.”
St. John replied with: “I didn’t feel that was a question. I took it as a statement.”
Gillespie followed with a statement that said: “Usually when a sentence ends with a question mark, it’s a question.”
Gillespie said after Monday’s meeting that he received resignation letters from Derrek Plattenburg, Andrea Plattenburg and Sheila Clark but did not officially receive one from St. John, so it wasn’t exactly clear whether St. John remained on the committee even though she said she was resigning.
St. John said later that she had given her resignation information to City Administrator Rex Clark.
“He forgot to ask the board for a vote to approve it, so that’s why he’s trying to cover up his mistake,” she said, referring to Gillespie.
At the meeting, St. John referred to Decherd’s planned upcoming Christmas Parade in early December and how it would be difficult for the city to have the event without the Recreation Committee in service.
Gillespie was asked by the audience what he intended to do.
He said he would have to check options during the next few days to determine whether it would even be feasible to have the parade with such short notice to organize such a large-scale event.
Several in an audience of about 20 said they can’t imagine Decherd not having a Christmas Parade because of the tradition it has become.
Derrek Plattenburg said after the meeting that his resignation had nothing to do with having any differences with Gillespie.
“I can’t speak for the others, but my work schedule doesn’t permit me to be able have the time to be on the committee,” he said.
Derrek Plattenburg said he had told Gillespie that he would help in any way he can, but he’s taken on other employment options which has expended his available time to serve on such committees.
“They take a lot of time,” he said.
In other business, the Board of Mayor and Aldermen opted to replace Tullahoma attorney Gerald L. Ewell Jr. as the city’s legal counsel with Winchester attorney Jere M. Hood in a 3-1 vote.
Those in favor of the change were Vice Mayor Richard Gulley and Aldermen Jimmy Wayne Sanders and Pam Arnold. Alderman Tammy Holt voted in opposition to the move, and Gillespie only votes in tie-breaking situations.
Gulley said the reason he wanted the change is that it would be much more convenient to have a local attorney handle the city’s legal matters. He said something as simple as signing a document involves a trip to Tullahoma which takes time, and having local legal counsel would make the process much easier.
Gillespie said Ewell has done a good job, and he would have no problem continuing on as the city attorney.
“I commend Mr. Ewell for his service,” he said. “He’s provided really good service to the city.”