Teamwork requested, pledged as Clement departs

Dec. 03, 2013 @ 11:50 AM

New or old, City Council members stressed the need Monday night for unity as they said goodbye to longtime Councilman Howard Clement and swore in his replacement, Eddie Davis.

Clement, leaving office after 30½ years on the council, used his valediction speech to urge the city’s elected and appointed officials to continue working together.

“I want all of you to remember that Howard Clement never worked in his behalf: He worked on behalf of the citizens of Durham,” he said. “And all of you, my colleagues on the council, you’re a team.”

And his former colleagues underscored the point after Davis, Mayor Bill Bell and holdover members Cora Cole-McFadden and Don Moffitt took the oath of office.

Each offered a tribute to Clement, with Councilman Eugene Brown saying the insurance executive and civil-rights activist helped set a tone for the council’s way of doing business.

“If there’s one word that to me characterizes Howard, it was that he was always, first and foremost, a gentleman,” Brown said. “He would subscribe to the belief articulated by many of us here, that when it comes to the major issues, that we debate, we discuss, we dissect, we dialogue and then we vote.

“But after we vote, we move on. We move on. Howard was not about burning bridges.”

The swearing-in ceremony, as is custom, drew a packed house that included other current and former elected officials. They included state Sens. Floyd McKissick and Mike Woodard, both former council members, state Rep. Mickey Michaux, a couple of County Commissioners and a majority of the Durham school board.

Also attending was former Mayor Nick Tennyson, who’s now the chief deputy for support of the N.C. Department of Transportation.

Davis thanked his opponents in the fall election, Omar Beasley, Franklin Hanes and Del Mattioli, for contributing to “a professional campaign” and said he would approach governing in “a manner that shows no distinction between past political allies and past political adversaries.”

Cole-McFadden, after taking the oath for her fourth term, pledged to focus on the city’s people.

“We have problems investing in buildings, streets and infrastructure, but the human infrastructure, that is what I am committed to making sure I uplift from this day forward, as I have in the past,” she said.

Moffitt, settling in for a full term after taking over the Ward 3 seat as the appointed replacement of Woodard, offered the night’s most clearly programmatic comments.

He said he expects the council in the near future will be dealing with the problems of “institutional racism,” the 2014-5 budget and “creating incentives for affordable housing.”

With the swearing-in completed, the new council as its first order of business voted unanimously for Cole-McFadden to continue as mayor pro tem.

She has occupied that role since late 2003. It means she chairs council meetings in Bell’s absence.

Moffitt also asked that the council name an alternate liaison to the city’s Human Relations Commission.

The panel has an unusually high profile at the moment because it’s looking into complaints about some of the practices of the Durham Police Department. Moffitt is the council’s primary liaison to it. Cole-McFadden agreed to lend a hand.