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Sommerville steps down as president

12/6/2012 - West Side Leader
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By Stephanie Kist

Akron Council elects Moneypenny, pursues diversity in leadership

Marco Sommerville
Photo courtesy of the city of Akron
DOWNTOWN AKRON — After 14 years at the helm of Akron City Council, Council President Marco Sommerville (D-Ward 3) stepped down from his elevated chair for the last time at the Dec. 3 meeting. Amid handshakes and a standing ovation, he turned the meeting over to the Council vice president and took a seat at the lower table where Council members sit during meetings.

Minutes later, amid handshakes and a standing ovation, Councilman Garry Moneypenny (D-Ward 10) stepped up into Sommerville’s place.

Earlier in the day, Sommerville had been named by Mayor Don Plusquellic the city’s new planning director, effective Jan. 1. [For more on several personnel changes at City Hall, see story on Page 1.] At the Council meeting, he said he will continue to serve the residents of West Akron’s Ward 3 as their Council representative until January, but would step down as president in the meantime.

“I look forward to the next four weeks of serving them as I have for the last 25 years,” he said.

He took time to speak of some of the accomplishments he values highest from his tenure on Council, including the naming of streets in honor of black figures such as Vernon Odom Sr. and Rita Dove, obtaining grocery stores for inner-city neighborhoods and achieving the passage of a charter amendment in this year’s General Election that alters the city’s election schedule so Council members will serve four-year terms instead of two. He also expressed his gratitude to his family, Council staff and Highland PR founder Bob Zajac.

“It’s been a pleasure to serve,” he told Council members. “This city has a bright future. … I know that every one of you cares about this city in your own way.”

Council Vice President Mike Freeman (D-Ward 9) opened the floor for nominations after noting that both he and Council Pro Tem Jeff Fusco (D-at large) had already reached the decision that they didn’t care to serve as Council president, despite either being the logical successor.

Fusco then nominated Moneypenny. Moneypenny was unanimously elected by his fellow Council members, with Sommerville abstaining, to assume the Council presidency.

Before the vote, Councilman Russel Neal (D-Ward 4) moved for time before the decision was made and requested that Council members caucus and regroup on how they operate before moving forward. His, however, was the only “yes” vote for time, and the election proceeded.

“Thank you for your trust and your support in electing me to this position,” Moneypenny said to his fellow Council members. He praised the diversity of backgrounds on Council and said, “I hope to nurture that and take advantage of our talents.”

Moneypenny invited Sommerville’s family members to return for the Dec. 17 meeting, which will be Sommerville’s send-off, though he warned it “might tend to be a little bit of a roast.”

Moneypenny made the following committee appointments to fill vacancies his election to president created: Ken Jones (D-Ward 5) will serve as chairman of the Budget and Finance Committee; Neal will serve on the Planning Committee; Donnie Kammer (D-Ward 7) will serve on the Economic Development Committee; Robert Hoch (D-Ward 6) will serve on the Public Utilities Committee; and Marilyn Keith (D-Ward 8) will serve on the Rules Committee.

Following the election of Moneypenny, Fusco announced he would step down from his position as Council pro tem in pursuit of racial diversity among the Council’s leadership. Moneypenny, Freeman and Fusco all are white. With praise for his leadership and wisdom beyond his years, Fusco nominated Jones, who is black, to serve as president pro tem.

“I believe we need leadership from the black community in terms of the leadership of this Council,” he said.

Councilwoman Linda Omobien (D-at large) pressed for the election of veteran Councilman Michael Williams (D-at large) — who also is black — instead.

“I am not opposed to divergent points of view,” she said, apparently referring to Williams’ occasional against-the-flow stance on city issues. “I have learned tremendously from Mr. Williams since I’ve been here.”

Omobien, Williams, Kammer and Bruce Kilby (D-Ward 2) voted for Williams. Jones was elected with the vote of eight Council members. Neal abstained.

The next Akron City Council meeting will take place Dec. 10 at 7 p.m. in City Council Chambers on the third floor of the Akron Municipal Building, 166 S. High St. Committee meetings are set to begin at 2 p.m. that afternoon, also in Council Chambers.

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