Mt. Juliet city commissioners voted 3-1 to appoint Belinda City resident Jennifer Milele to the vacated District 4 seat on Monday night with the outcome perhaps swayed by another candidate who told commissioners he would drop out of consideration if it would prevent a special election.
Brian Abston vacated the seat on May 24 because he moved out of the district. What ensued were several attempts to appoint Abston’s replacement to fill the seat until a ballot vote in November of 2020. There were several meetings that produced deadlocked votes and at last month’s meeting, two members walked out to prevent a voting quorum.
The nominees to replace Abston were Milele; former District 4 commissioner Jim Bradshaw, who lost to Abston in the previous election; businessman Gerard Bullock; and Brian Criswell. Abston had nominated former Wilson County Tourism Director Ricky Rodriguez to fill his seat, but Rodriguez pulled out of consideration, citing too much indecision by the board.
Prior to the vote, the squires addressed a resolution to consider Brian Criswell as a candidate for the position. The resolution failed.
In an email sent to Vice Mayor James Maness about two hours before Monday’s meeting began, Bullock thanked Maness and District 1 Commissioner Ray Justice for their previous votes for him.
“Not only do I appreciate your vote, but I appreciate that you are committed to attempting to bring resolution to an appointment to the seat while it appears that others are committed to forcing an irresponsible special election,” Bullock said in the email. “As much as I want to represent the citizens of District 4, I do not want it to come at the cost of a special election.
“I am asking that you continue to vote for me in hopes that either Mayor Hagerty or Commissioner Giles has a change of opinion of my appointment. If a second vote is taken, please continue to vote your conscience but please vote in a manner that in fact creates an appointment and does not put this city in wasting money on a special election, even if this means not voting for me. Again, as much as I would love to serve this city, I do not want to do so at the expense of the taxpayers who work hard for their hard earned money.”
A special election would likely have cost about $20,000.
“I just can’t believe it,” Milele, a graphic designer and 35-year resident of Mt. Juliet, said after the meeting. “I just knew it would go to a special election and I was preparing to campaign for the November election.”
Miele said she supported Bradshaw at first, but noted it did not appear he would get a majority vote so she put her hat in the ring. Milele said she considers herself a citizen advocate. She helped to galvanize Belinda City residents to oppose a proposed development in their neighborhood earlier this year. The proposal did not pass.
“The Lord led me to this,” she said. “My top priority are the people of District 4. My votes will be for the majority of District 4.”
Milele already had composed her campaign materials for a special election. One of her campaign fliers said, “YOU Deserve a ‘Voice’ at THIS Table … Elect me and let’s work together.”
Also on the flyer she says “My vote will be your vote, no property tax increase, no bias or personal agenda, true conservative.”
It appears she can save the flyer because she said she plans to run for the four-year seat in 2020.