Council Votes to Reject Harris Nomination as Mayor Pro Tem

By George Slaughter

Ward A Council Member Frank Carroll, left, poses with Council Member at Large Chris Harris – photo courtesy Chris Harris

Mayor Bill Hastings will have to wait a bit longer to get the mayor pro tem he nominated, as the Katy City Council Monday voted to reject his nomination of Council Member-at-Large Chris Harris for that job.

The mayor pro tem serves in the mayor’s absence and must be a council member. City Attorney Art Pertile said that under the Katy City Charter, a mayor nominates the mayor pro tem but the council must vote to approve the nomination. Pertile said a mayor cannot either appoint or remove a mayor pro tem on his own.

Ward A Council Members Frank Carroll and Janet Corte expressed concern that the current mayor pro tem, Durran Dowdle, had more experience for the job. Dowdle has served on the council since 2014 and has been mayor pro tem since March 2017.

“I guess the question is, do you believe that Chris is better to serve as mayor should you become incapacitated?” Carroll asked Hastings. “It’s a huge waste of a great resource not to have him (Dowdle) in this important role.”

Carroll said that four of the five council members have served for less than 13 months. Corte said that Dowdle has been a mentor to council members during this time.

“As much as I respect and like Chris, at this point in time I have to go with experience,” Corte said.

Harris summarized his credentials, both before and after his 2018 election to the council. Hastings told Carroll that he believed Harris could do the job, or he would not have nominated him.

“My nomination stands,” Hastings said.

Hastings said his decision to nominate Harris, and not renominate Dowdle, was a tough one. He said he made the decision last Wednesday. Dowdle said he was informed Friday.

Both Hastings and Harris said the vote was not a vote against Dowdle or anyone else, but a vote for Harris. Both men praised Dowdle’s service.

“Durran has been a great asset to the city for many years,” Hastings said, adding that he hoped Dowdle would “allow me to continue to pick your brain.”

Dowdle, a Ward B council member, said he would abstain from the vote.

“This is extremely difficult,” Dowdle said.

Hastings asked Dowdle if he understood that abstaining would be registered as a “no” vote. Dowdle indicated that he understood.

The nomination failed, 3-2, with Carroll and Corte voting against the nomination. Harris and Ward B Council Member Jenifer Stockdick voted in favor. The failed vote means Dowdle remains as mayor pro tem.

Hastings said after the meeting that he was not surprised by what happened, but did not say why. He said he expected to nominate Harris at every subsequent council meeting until approved.

Carroll said such an action would be disappointing, but it was Hastings’s prerogative.

“It doesn’t lend itself to the type of speeches he gave after taking office of wanting to work cooperatively, wanting to unify,” Carroll said. “He needs to put his money where his mouth is.”

Disclosing Executive Session Information

The council referred a proposed ordinance to City Attorney Art Pertile for incorporation of amendments discussed at Monday’s meeting.

The ordinance, if passed, provides for a penalty for the release of information discussed in executive session.

Other Actions Taken

In other action Monday, the council:

  • Issued a proclamation designating July as Parks and Recreation Month.
  • Observed an “Above and Beyond Recognition” presentation of the Katy Fire Department Battalion 1, Medic 2 Crew Personnel and Quint 2 for Actions Taken to Save a Life & Presentation of Letters of Commendation by Fire Chief Russell Wilson.
  • Reviewed the bank statement and check register through May 31.
  • Approved minutes from the April 22, May 13, May 14, and June 17 meetings.
  • Approved the sale of $5,000,000 in city permanent bonds for a wastewater treatment plant project that was authorized in the 2018 city bond election.
  • Tagged, or delayed, the issuance of up to $4,755,000 in unlimited tax bonds by the Fort Bend-Waller Counties Municipal Utility District No. 3, which serves the Young Ranch subdivision. Harris made the motion to tag. The issue will be addressed in the next council meeting.
  • Declined to take action on a proposed resolution that would enable City Administrator Byron Hebert to approve selected contracts and take other routine actions without council approval.
  • Updated the city’s employee classification and compensation plan to add four new police officers. The council also adopted an amendment to the city budget to provide necessary funding.