KINGSPORT - Mayor Dennis Phillips said he does not think the selection of Alderman Ben Mallicote as Kingsport's vice mayor this week will have an impact on the Board of Mayor and Aldermen for the coming year.
During Tuesday night's BMA meeting, Mallicote - in the third year of his first term on the board - was selected to be vice mayor after two rounds of voting by the BMA. During the first round, Mallicote, Ken Marsh and Larry Munsey each received two votes for the position. Four votes are needed to secure the vice mayor position.
After the aldermen touted their reasons for wanting the position, a second round of voting took place. Mallicote received the necessary four votes, with Alderman Jantry Shupe flipping his vote from Munsey to Mallicote. Munsey voted for himself, and Pat Shull voted for Marsh, who in turn voted for himself.
Shupe, who nominated Munsey during the first round of voting, said he doesn't want to see the city get hung up on who's the vice mayor. Rather, he said residents should focus on the good things happening in Kingsport.
"The purpose of nominating Larry was to give him an opportunity to serve again," Shupe said. "When that did not go through the first time as it could have, then I felt if someone nominated themselves as Ben did, then in my eyes that's going beyond the call of duty to serve."
Mallicote, who will serve as vice mayor for the next two years, succeeds Munsey, who has held the position since 2001.
In Kingsport, the vice mayor position is largely an honorary role, with the primary duty being to fill in when the mayor is unable to attend a meeting or function. If the mayor were to resign or die the BMA would declare a vacancy, appoint someone to serve as mayor until the next election, or call a special election.
Phillips said the result of Tuesday's voting will only be a problem if the BMA lets it be a problem.
"I don't think the vice mayor was selected on the inability of anyone. I think there was just circumstances where maybe some people felt like we needed to rotate it or needed to be a change. Maybe some people felt we needed younger, positive, input or enthusiasm," Phillips said. "I don't think it was a slap in the face of anyone, and I think Ben will make a very good vice mayor and serve the public well."
Phillips said Munsey was an outstanding vice mayor who served the public well.
"I have absolutely not been displeased with Munsey's service. Even though we were opponents in the first mayoral election, Larry and I have worked outstanding together and really probably vote together as much as anyone else," Phillips said.
Reached by phone this week, Munsey had no comment on Tuesday's vote other than to say he does not think it will have an impact on the BMA this coming year. Marsh was out of town and unavailable for comment.
Mallicote, the youngest vice mayor in Kingsport in at least the last 25 years, said he absolutely had no plan of nominating himself for the position prior to Tuesday's meeting.
"Frankly, I was very surprised when it turned out the way it did," Mallicote said. "They opened the floor for nominations, and of course Pat (Shull) nominated Ken (Marsh), and I think everybody on the board had the expectation that there would be at least one other nominee."
But another nomination did not come immediately, and Mallicote said there was this long silence among the BMA.
"I have the utmost respect for Ken and a lot of his abilities. I don't think it's any great secret either that we disagree on a lot of things," Mallicote said in explaining why he threw his hat into the ring. "I didn't feel like I could wholeheartedly support him as vice mayor."
Though he admits to thinking about serving as vice mayor in the past, Mallicote said he did not have a plan to do it and had not caucused other BMA members for it.
"It was as spur of the moment as it gets," Mallicote said. "I thought I was certainly capable of serving in the position, and Dennis (Phillips) and I have a real good working relationship, and I thought why not?"
Like Phillips, Mallicote praised Munsey's tenure as Kingsport vice mayor.
"I think Larry has done an outstanding job, and I hope to serve as well as he did," Mallicote said. "Larry has done a fine job, and I don't want my candidacy to be taken as any slight to him or negative reflection on his service."
Mallicote said he has no interest in any higher office and also believes Tuesday's vote will not have an impact on the BMA.
"I can't imagine that it will. Maybe I'm Pollyanna about this, but the people on the BMA, in my opinion, have been supremely professional about all of this," Mallicote said. "We disagree and go back and forth, but I don't think the BMA will let ego get in the way of doing what they think is right."