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A split Paris City Council elected Matt Frierson mayor and Dr. Richard Grossnickle mayor pro-tem Monday.
Frierson said he was “humbled” by the selection and thanked his fellow councilmembers for their votes.
“Our decisions impact many lives and we should never take that for granted,” he said. “We’re not politicians. We shouldn’t be. We are stewards.”
Before the changes to the council’s leadership, outgoing Mayor Dr. A.J. Hashmi thanked departing members John Wright and Cleonne Drake for their service and handed each a plaque. City Secretary Janice Ellis administered the oath of office to new members Benny Plata and Edwin Pickle, as well as returning council members Sue Lancaster and Aaron Jenkins.
Pickle asked to read a statement prior to the vote for mayor. He thanked voters for electing him. Pickle then thanked Hashmi for his service to the city and commended him for starting discussion on important issues. The former mayor was often unfairly and unjustly criticized, Pickle said. He asked for mutual respect and civility going forward.
“I ask each of you to show your respect in joining me in my nomination of Matt Frierson for mayor,” Pickle said.
Hashmi noted he had not yet opened the floor for nominations. Lancaster made the first, putting Plata’s name forward. Jenkins seconded the nomination. Hashmi, Jenkins and Lancaster voted in approval, but Plata abstained while Pickle, Grossnickle and Frierson voted against.
“I was not interested in becoming mayor at this time,” Plata said after the meeting.
Pickle then made his nomination official, seconded by Grossnickle. Plata and Frierson cast their votes in support while Hashmi, Lancaster and Jenkins voted no.
Ellis had to ask for clarification of the votes several times for the record.
The election of mayor pro-tem went much more smoothly. Plata nominated Grossnickle. Hashmi seconded, and the council voted unanimously to approve.