“May he serve well” — a letter from the mayor to the aldermen of Brookhaven

Published 11:11 am Thursday, May 9, 2024

Brookhaven Mayor Joe Cox distributed a letter to the City’s aldermen following the Board’s meeting May 7. The Daily Leader obtained a copy of the letter, which is reproduced in its entirety below.



Dear Board of Aldermen,

I would like to take this opportunity to make a few comments. Some topics I addressed almost one year ago today, but they bear repeating.

While reflecting upon the April 16th Board of Aldermen meeting, I find it concerning that our Aldermen would pass a motion for one City employee’s salary increase with a 2-1 vote, with 4 members abstaining, and on a separate motion pass salary increases of certain members of the Brookhaven Police Department with a 4-3 vote.

First, let me be very clear that am pro-law enforcement, pro-funding of the police, very aware that our law officers place their lives on the line daily in the call of duty, and appreciative that they chose to answer the call to serve and protect our citizens.

My remarks are not about pay increases for specific individuals. However, they are about how Board meetings are conducted, the appropriate protocol for pay increases, fiscal responsibility, professionalism, and the duties of our Aldermen.

As you are aware, to ensure each meeting is conducted in an efficient, productive and orderly manner, our Board meetings are governed by Robert’s Rules of Order Newly Revised 12th Edition.  Several significant procedures to remember are that only one subject at a time may be brought before the Board; only one person may speak at any given time, either when they are called upon by the chair or after they have raised their hand and been recognized by the chair; and you may question and discuss the motion after it has been seconded. If you have questions or opinions for or against the motion, that is the time to speak up because stating your opinion in a respectful manner may sway the vote of other members. Also, if you believe more information needs to be obtained before a vote is called, you should request to table the motion.

Past protocol has been that before a motion for a salary increase is made, that it first be reviewed with the City Clerk to ensure that the amount is within the specified departmental budget and City budget. In the past, salary increases for department employees have been brought before the City’s annual budget meetings each summer and taken into consideration when preparing the new annual fiscal budget, which begins October 1st. Certainly, throughout the year salary increases may be recommended due to an employee’s additional applicable certifications or education, experience, promotion, or possible market adjustments; however, you must first have the City Clerk review and approve the increase to ensure compliance with the subject departmental budget and the City’s budget prior to bringing the increase for a motion before the Board of Aldermen. This helps to ensure transparency and fiscal responsibility. That is the protocol that all Aldermen should follow moving forward. I suggest we discuss the matter further before any motion is made on this topic.

I want to remind you that each Alderman was elected to be the voice of their constituents and they expect you to take a yes or no position on motions presented for a vote, while being able to explain the reasoning and not merely abstain from voting. In addition, I want to emphasize the importance of knowing the facts before making a motion and point out that when someone seconds a motion, that it does not mean they are necessarily in agreement with the motion being made. It simply means they want the motion to be discussed by the Board members. In the future, when you second a motion, you may want to clarify whether you agree with the motion or just want to open up the topic for discussion. For example, you may want to state “second in agreement” or “second for discussion.”

My role as chairman of the Board of Aldermen is to advise and oversee the Board. As Aldermen, you make the motions and policies for the City of Brookhaven, some of which can be controversial, which makes it even more imperative that you each vote yes or no instead of abstaining.

It is vitally important that each Alderman consistently demonstrates a sense of urgency, self-initiative, follow-through, and follow-up regarding the concerns of their constituents and submitted work orders. In regard to preparing work orders, you all are aware of the appropriate process. Keep in mind that you are to not go directly to a department head to make a request. It is essential that work orders be completed and submitted for documentation and audit purposes, and for us to know the status of all work orders at any given time.

It is a privilege to serve the citizens of Brookhaven as elected officials and I know each Board member takes their responsibilities seriously. We represent the City of Brookhaven 24 hours a day, 7 days a week in both our business and personal lives. As leaders, we are called to a higher standard. As such, we need to ensure that we demonstrate professionalism and treat one another with respect, while serving with integrity and strength of character.

In Romans, Paul tells us that every man is given a gift according to the grace of God, if that gift be one of service, may he serve well. As elected officials, we are servants of the people. I trust that each member of this Board will serve well while striving for unity and common goals, and be committed to the betterment of Brookhaven as a whole as we work together with decorum and wisdom to move our City forward.


Joe C. Cox, Mayor