Outgoing alderman reflects on serving city

By Colin Willard, Advocate Staff Writer
Posted 4/3/24

VIENNA — When the Vienna Board of Aldermen restructures next week following this week’s election, it will be without longtime Alderman Brenda Davis, who decided not to run for reelection. …

This item is available in full to subscribers.

Please log in to continue

Log in

Outgoing alderman reflects on serving city


VIENNA — When the Vienna Board of Aldermen restructures next week following this week’s election, it will be without longtime Alderman Brenda Davis, who decided not to run for reelection. Davis took some time to answer The Advocate’s questions about her more than 15 years serving Vienna.

Maries County Advocate: How did you first get into local government?

Brenda Davis: An alderman moved outside of the city’s South Ward and was no longer eligible to serve on the council. Then-mayor Les Darr, who I had known since early childhood and who knew my family history of public service, reached out to me and asked if I would consider an appointment to the council to fill the vacant seat for the remainder of the term. By the end of that term, I had found that I enjoyed being an alderman so much that I decided to run for the seat, and have served as an alderman since then.

MCA: What was the biggest challenge the city faced during your tenure as an alderman?

BD: I was serving on the city council when we received word that the city’s water supply was contaminated with a chemical that is used in the dry-cleaning process. To know that our city water supply was tainted was scary; the mayor, aldermen and city employees put in a great deal of work during that period of Vienna history, in which a plan for remediation was made and implemented. Numerous town hall meetings were held regarding the situation and the city did everything it could to provide up-to-date, accurate information regarding the contaminant, and the city’s plan to remedy the issue.

The two main challenges we faced during that time was the financial aspect of correcting the problem, and addressing and stopping untrue rumors and conspiracy theories that floated through the community. The city was able to find a financial solution that allowed a water treatment center to be erected; however, to this day, there are still people in the community who have never come to understand that the council members, mayor and city employees were not holding information back from citizens and were doing everything possible to make Vienna’s water safe.

There were a few hiccups along the way after the treatment center was completed, with city residents experiencing harder than normal water in their homes; once this issue was discovered, additional conversations were held between the city and the engineering firm to determine an acceptable manner to reduce the hardness of the water coming into people’s home. As a city resident, I did have to invest in a water softener at my home. Since installing the water softener, we have not had any residual issues at our home.

MCA: What was the city’s biggest success during your tenure as an alderman?

BD: I feel like the two biggest successes of the city of Vienna during my tenure have been the successful remediation of the city’s water contamination and the upgrade of water lines throughout the city, which has greatly reduced the number of water main breaks city utilities personnel deal with each year.

I am also very proud of the Tackett Trail that was put in at Vienna City Park with grant funding, as well as the upgrades to the city park that have occurred in the last 15 years. There are still projects at the park that the city hopes to be able to complete as monies become available, but park projects must be funded out of the same general revenue funds that are used to support the police department fleet, salaries and supplies, the city’s administrative salaries, and city property maintenance and operating expenses. As such, there are, in most years, limited additional general fund monies available for park upgrades.

MCA: What was it like serving alongside your husband, Alderman Chuck Davis, for the last year?

BD: I grew up in a family that was always involved in the community, so serving on the city council felt pretty natural for me. Chuck’s family, during his childhood, were not involved in community organizations or events, so when we married in 2004, he was unaware of how important it is, especially in small communities, for residents to be actively involved.

When I was invited to be appointed to the council, I think he might have thought I was crazy for accepting the appointment; he was often my sounding board when coming home from frustrating meetings or dealing with disgruntled residents of the community. Obviously, there were many times that, due to confidentiality issues, I could not discuss with him certain things, but with anything that was not confidential in nature, he usually had to listen to me talk about it.

One of my biggest frustrations in our community is the lack of people who are willing to get involved. Over the last several decades, our community has lost many of the people who were the ones who stayed involved and kept things going. At the same time, many with no historical ties to the Vienna community have moved into the area, and we have many who live in the area these days who move into a rental property and less than a year later, have moved on from the community. Because of that, it is so important for those who are not moving in and out of the community to be involved instead of waiting for others to handle it. I have preached that message to Chuck for many years. As he lived in Vienna longer, and it became “home” to him, he began coming with me to community events that I attended, and began to develop interest in seeing our home community thrive. I feel like it took him some time to come to understand that it is up to people just like him to be involved so the Vienna community grows and prospers, but I would like to think I’ve been a good role model for him, and  some of my community-mindedness has rubbed off.

When Jesse Jones decided he would not run for re-election to his South Ward alderman position, I reached out to a few people I knew in the ward, asking them to consider running for election. When all the responses I received were “I am not interested,” “I am too busy,” “I don’t think I would like doing that,” etc. I started gently encouraging Chuck to consider running for the position. He is a smart, logical person, and I honestly felt like he would be a good voice for the citizens of Vienna.

Since he was elected, we do talk about city business a lot more than we did when he wasn’t on the council, and I no longer have to keep confidential information from him. We agreed up front that we would respect any differences of opinion we experienced about city business. That doesn’t mean we haven’t both tried to persuade the other to see things our way on city issues a few times. Generally, we are pretty like-minded, so there haven’t been many times that we have had different ideas, and those few times, we were able to agree to disagree.

MCA: What will you miss about being involved in city government?

BD: I will miss the camaraderie of council meetings. Unlike other communities in the area, during my entire tenure, I have felt like we have had mayors, aldermen and city personnel who are united in the common goal of making Vienna a great place to live and raise a family. There have been disagreements at meetings over the years, but for the most part, everyone has remained respectful and worked through differences of opinions without trashing one another on social media or around town.  The residents of Vienna are so blessed to have hard-working people taking care of the business of the city.  The city has been commended time and time again by our auditor for the fiscal responsibility shown by the city, and our personnel are second to none in responding when moments of crisis occur and in completing day to day job tasks.

MCA: What will you not miss about being involved in city government?

BD: There are just only a couple things I won’t miss about being an alderman.  I won’t miss budget meetings. They are lengthy and tedious, and I have always found them to be stressful. I also won’t miss people getting mad at me for something they “read in the paper” and didn’t like. During my first year on the council, I stressed over that all the time. One day, I just decided that I won’t ever be able to please everyone, so as an alderman, I have to cast my votes for what is best for the city and for the overall good of the taxpaying citizens of Vienna.

MCA: At your last city meeting, you gave the remaining city officials two challenges for the next year: familiarize themselves with all the city ordinances and revise the city’s policy manual. What was your intention with those challenges?

BD: There really was not a hidden agenda to my challenge for the council and mayor to take time to study all of the city ordinances, and to review the city’s personnel policies. Unlike in large cities where aldermen are often part-time or full-time employees, in small towns like Vienna, we are away from city hall except when we attend meetings. The downside to that is that there is a disconnect that can occur, and any study of city ordinances or policies by the mayor or aldermen occurs in our own homes on our own time.

While there are some aldermen with several years of service under their belt, we also have elected officials with only a year of experience. Because I want all our elected officials to be knowledgeable, my challenge regarding ordinances was meant to be encouragement for them to read and come to understand all of the laws of the city.

My challenge regarding review of the city’s personnel policies was simply because those policies should be periodically reviewed, and such a review has not occurred for several years. Anyone who reads the Maries County Advocate articles regarding city council meetings knows that I don’t shy away from speaking at meetings. As I exit the council, it will be important for open, honest communication between elected officials, city personnel, community organizations and Vienna residents to continue.  The mayor and aldermen will be searching for someone to appoint to the vacant alderman seat; I am confident they will find someone for the position who will assist in continuing to move Vienna forward.

MCA: Why did you decide that now is the time to leave office?

BD: I had weight loss surgery in 2021 and found that due to being involved in so many community organizations, I didn’t have the time needed to adequately focus on my health journey. In 2023, I made the decision to scale back on community involvement, stepped away from several organizations, and chose to not run for re-election. I am looking forward to reaching my goal weight and having additional time for exercise and nutrition will improve my chances of meeting that goal.

MCA: Do you plan to stay involved in the community in the future?

BD: Chuck serves as the pastor at Little Flock Baptist Church, and I play piano for church services. I also serve in numerous other roles in the church and will continue to do so. I also serve as the secretary of Little Flock Cemetery Association, which isn’t an incredibly cumbersome position, but one that I enjoy. My dad, as well as many other family members and folks who were a part of my childhood, are buried in the cemetery, and it does my heart good to be a part of the organization that keeps their final resting place in good condition.

I also stay busy with the fundraising efforts of the Leo Thompson Memorial Scholarship Trust that our family established in memory of my dad. The scholarship funding efforts of our family are in my mind our way of taking the lemons that life threw at us and using them to make sweet lemonade by providing financial assistance to Vienna and Belle students furthering their education.

MCA: What advice would you give to the next person taking your seat on the board?

BD: I would tell whomever is the next alderman to learn how to have thick skin, don’t allow the comments of others to determine your value, step into the position as a leader instead of a follower, speak freely and honestly and always remember that you represent the residents of Vienna, and every vote you cast should be done in their best interest.