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Difficult Decision: Hawkins resigns as alderman in wake of city election issue

By Bill Short
mls-09-08-alderman-position-2-hank-hawkins-1cPosition 2 Alderman Hank Hawkins announced his resignation this week in the wake of an issue that arose after he was re-elected last month.
On Monday night, shortly before the conclusion of the Board of Mayor and Aldermen meeting, Hawkins said his resignation will be effective Jan. 1, 2017.
Expressing appreciation to Millington’s residents, he said he was “so honored” that they selected him twice to serve as an alderman.
“When I decided to run for this position four years ago, I just wanted to continue serving this city that I love,” he noted. “It was an honor to serve on this board. But unfortunately, I’m not going to be able to go forward.”
While seeking his second term, Hawkins defeated Al Bell in the Nov. 8 city elections. But he is also a teacher at Millington Central High School.
Section 3.04 of the Millington City Charter states that any city employee, other than an elected official, who seeks an elected city position must resign from that job no later than the date on which the candidate’s qualifying petition is filed with the Shelby County Election Commission.
And a Tennessee attorney general’s opinion states that employees of a municipal school system are employees of the city in which the system is located.
When Hawkins was first elected as an alderman in August 2012, he was a longtime employee of the Shelby County School System. But when Millington created a municipal school system by ordinance in 2013, he became an employee of that system.
During a telephone interview earlier this month, City Attorney Charles Perkins said Hawkins’ service for the remainder of his current term is “not in question,” because a “constitutional provision” prohibits that term from being “shortened.”
But on Monday night, Perkins said he had given each of the board members a written opinion stating the city’s position that Hawkins cannot continue to serve as both an alderman and an employee of the school system.
“Unfortunately, it’s a position that I’m very saddened by,” he acknowledged, “because I have a great affection for Alderman Hawkins.”
While noting that he has encountered “a lot of tough jobs” in his life, Perkins said this one has been “particularly difficult” because of his high regard for Hawkins.
“But going forward, it’s in the best interest of the city,” he concluded. “And we don’t have any choice but to follow the law.”
During an interview after the meeting, Perkins said he had not yet heard from Missy Boyd Ervin what she will decide to do.
Ervin is a Special Education assistant at Millington Elementary School who defeated Position 1 Alderman Bethany Huffman last month.
Perkins has said it would be a “correct supposition” that she will have to either quit her job with the school system or resign as an alderman-elect before the new Board of Mayor and Aldermen is sworn in on New Year’s Day.
But he noted that he cannot tell candidates what to do, only inform them of their options.
“It’s not my call,” he said. “It’s her call.”

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