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Council approves Doege, meets junior ’mayors’

Council approves Doege, meets junior ’mayors’
NANNETTE KILBEY-SMITH La Vernia city Councilman Harold Schott advises Mayor for a Day Johanna Young (center) and Mayor Pro Tem for a Day Laila Saadi on how to conduct city business Dec. 11 during their stints as guest officials during the La Vernia City Council meeting.

All seats on the La Vernia City Council are full again, following the appointment and approval of Mark Doege by the council Dec. 11 to fill the seat vacated by Randy Leonard, who resigned in October.

Doege was duly sworn in by Mayor Robert W. Gregory and promptly took a seat at the dais, ready to participate in the night’s business.

This followed an unusual start to the meeting, called to order by La Vernia Junior High School sixth-grader Johanna Young, acting as Mayor for a Day. At her right hand sat seventh-grader Laila Saadi, serving as Mayor Pro Tem for a Day. The two were the winners in the city’s first-ever essay contest, engaging junior high school students in city government. Their essays were among four submitted to the city.

In addition to opening the meeting, the young ladies spent the day at City Hall, meeting the staff and learning the different roles, and riding along with the La Vernia Police Department.

Gregory invited the two to read their winning essays to the council and members of the public present, after which they relinquished their seats to Gregory and Mayor Pro Tem Marie Gerlich.

In short order, the council approved:

¢A budget amendment for accounting software approved in November

¢Doege’s nomination for the vacant council seat

¢Stephen C. Barrera, currently the city’s municipal court prosecutor, as municipal judge. He will take on the role being vacated Dec. 31 by Richard “Dickie” Jackson, whose resignation also was approved; Jackson will be the new Wilson County judge.

Discussion also included a possible ordinance regarding mobile boutiques. This was addressed in April by the council, following Crystal Kiolbassa and Merrie Monaco establishing their business, Steel Magnolias, in a converted Airstream camper, nicknamed the “Glamper.” The mobile boutique has set up for business across the area. As La Vernia has no ordinance regarding how or if such businesses can do regular trade in the city, Steel Magnolias has been asked to not conduct business there, except as a mobile vendor for events, such as the Lions Club’s Bluebonnet Festival.

“It’s a great concept,” the mayor said, adding that his wife has shopped there.

“We have to protect our brick-and-mortar businesses, though,” said Councilman Jennifer Moczygemba. “If the sales-tax dollars aren’t coming to the city, how does that benefit La Vernia?”

Kiolbassa and Monaco were present; though acknowledged by Gregory, they were not invited to speak.

Moczygemba advised the city of Austin had crafted an ordinance earlier in the year, among the first cities in the country to do so. Gregory invited the council to offer a motion to draft an ordinance to address the matter; none was offered.

Briefly discussed also was the possible amendment of the city’s fireworks ordinance, to address public fireworks displays. Draft text will be sought and the matter revisited in the new year.

After the meeting, the essay winners, both 12 years old, were surrounded by proud family members.

Johanna, whose interests include piano and cheerleading, confessed to being nervous, but excited about opening the meeting.

“I learned a lot of things,” she said.

“It was fun,” Laila said. “I was nervous, but I liked it!”

“She’s been smiling all day!” said her mother, Sherrie Adams.

The “mayor for a day” program was instituted by City Administrator Yvonne Griffin, with the assistance of La Vernia Junior High School teacher Trudi Buckley.

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