The latest edition of the Jefferson County Commission took office Wednesday with a swearing in ceremony in the morning and a meeting in the afternoon to set its organization in place.
When the day was done, Jimmie Stephens was again president of the commission and Lashunda Scales, who, like Sheila Tyson, made the move from the Birmingham City Council, was elected president pro tem.
The organizational meeting started late and then was recessed for nearly 45 minutes for the resolution setting committee assignments to be prepared.
Committee assignments include:
Lashunda Scales: Chair of public works, community services and inter-governmental relations; vice-chair of economic development.
Sheila Tyson: Chair of the community development and health services committee and primary liaison to all government health-related agencies other than the Jefferson County Department of Health, the Jefferson County coroner, the Jefferson County Family Court, the Jefferson County Housing Authority, Youth Detention and issues related to Veterans Affairs.
Jimmie Stephens: Chair of the administrative and infrastructure committee.
Joe Knight: Chair of finance, judicial and emergency management and development and general services committee, and primary liaison to all Jefferson County judges, probate court, circuit clerks and district attorneys.
Steve Ammons: Chair of the committee of information technology and economic development.
Stephens said it was key for the new commissioners to have meaningful committee assignments that will allow them to improve the quality of life of county residents, “and to be able to work across party lines to get it done. That’s what you saw today,” the commission president said.
“Commissioner Tyson now has Cooper Green Health Services. And Commissioner Scales has environmental services. She’s liaison to the Water Works Board, the City of Birmingham (and) the mayor’s office, and she’s going to help in economic development, which is going to restore some much-needed redevelopment in some of these areas that have needed it for so long,” he said.
Stephens said the commission trusts Scales and Tyson to get the work done.
“We will always treat all commissioners with respect and the integrity that’s due them,” he said. “I haven’t seen anything that would be detrimental to either of these commissioners. They are both class acts.”
Tyson was clearly emotional as she took her oath of office in Judge Joseph Boohaker’s courtroom. She didn’t simply repeat the words of retired Judge U.W. Clemon, she added to it, saying that she would serve “to the very best of my ability.”
Later, Tyson drew a near standing ovation with her comments after being sworn in.
“I don’t take this position lightly,” she said. “I’m crying because a person like me should have never gotten this; that’s what everybody said.”
Later, Tyson said she’s “going to do right (because) I don’t know how to do nothing else.”
“I’m not going to serve this seat as a black and white seat,” she said. “I’m going to serve this seat as a people seat. … I will not let y’all down and I will serve the public.”
Stephens had the unenviable task for following Tyson. He said commissioners will not always agree “but 90 percent of the time we will because it is for the benefit of the citizens of Jefferson County. We will work together. You have our pledge to do that.”
Scales urged those attending the swearing in ceremony to “pray for us, hold us accountable and make sure that you show up to the meetings.”
Knight described himself and Stephens as the “old guys on the block.”
“When we came into this county, it was kind of a mess,” he said. “Basically we went through hell. But (Winston) Churchill once said, ‘If you’re going through hell, keep going.’ And so we did.
“We got through the hard part, we’re on the upswing,” Knight continued. “Our focus has always been and always will be on those citizens that we represent, all citizens across the spectrum.”
Ammons referenced his father, the former budget manager for Jefferson County. “We’re Jefferson County commissioners,” he said. “We’re here to serve everybody.”