By Joel Hall
Jonesboro City Council members decided Monday that Rick Yonce, a council member and mayor pro tempore, would lead the city while Mayor Luther Maddox recovers from quadruple heart bypass surgery.
The council voted 4-1 to re-select Yonce as its mayor pro tem, and also voted 4-1 to have him act as mayor in the absence of Maddox, 67, who is recovering from the surgery.
Councilman Bobby Wiggins was opposed to both votes.
Prayers were offered for Maddox at the beginning of Monday night's meeting. The mayor spent 22 days in the hospital. He had been admitted to Piedmont Hospital in Atlanta on Dec. 19, with chest pains and had surgery on Dec. 29, according to Jo Maddox, his wife.
"It was a traumatic experience," said Mrs. Maddox, who spoke for her husband on Monday. "He's doing OK," however. "He thinks he can get right up and go on, but I think his body stops him a lot. I think it is just going to take some time for him to get his strength back."
Mrs. Maddox said the mayor would be unable to drive for a few weeks, but is "doing better than the doctors expected."
At the meeting, Yonce said he was mostly uninformed about the mayor's health. "I have not been afforded a phone call," he said. "I know that he is home, but that is all I know about his condition."
Yonce said he could not remember a time during the last three administrations when a mayor pro tem has had to stand in for the mayor for health reasons. However, he said he was willing to do the job as long as needed.
"I've been mayor pro tem for about three years now," he said. "It takes a little while [to get up to speed to serve as mayor] when you are not used to it. I hope he gets well soon, because I'm not interested in taking his place permanently."
The mayor pro tem and council voted on several important decisions in the mayor's absence, including: Re-appointing city employees to their respective positions; approving the city's 2009 holiday schedule; giving salary increases to certain department heads and police officers; recommitting the city to not use city funds to operate a proposed commuter rail line from Atlanta to Griffin; waiving a $3,000 fee for organizers of the county's annual Martin Luther King Day Parade; and changing the city's alcohol ordinance to make signs advertising the sale of alcohol no larger than 10 inches by 10 inches.
Councilman Roger Grider said the appointment of Yonce as standing mayor is not a grab for power. He said the mayor will be able to reassume his duties as soon as he is well, without a vote of the council.
"This is not a move to take power away from the mayor," said Grider. "As soon as he can come back to work, all he will have to do is inform the city clerk."
Mrs. Maddox said Maddox is eager to get back to work.
"He is recuperating, and he is anxious to get back to the business of the city," she said. "He loves the citizens of Jonesboro, and he's going to be right back up there, probably sooner than he should."