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Juneteenth declared city holiday

by Tia Lyons | June 19, 2022 at 12:00 a.m.

All administrative offices of the city of El Dorado will be closed Monday for Juneteenth, which is now a paid holiday for city employees.

Per a request by Mayor Veronica Smith-Creer, the El Dorado City Council convened a specially-called meeting Friday to formally vote on the matter, adding Juneteenth to the list of paid holidays that the city observes.

With the addition, city employees, uniformed and non-uniformed, now have 13 paid holidays with time off.

The council's vote came a year after Juneteenth -- June 19 -- was recognized as a federal holiday.

Juneteenth is a national day of observance commemorating the abolition of slavery behind Confederate lines following the Civil War.

Though the Emancipation Proclamation went into effect Jan. 1, 1863, the order was not immediately enforced in many areas of the Confederacy, including Galveston, Texas, where Juneteenth is said to have originated.

Union soldiers arrived in Galveston on June 19, 1865, and announced the news of the Proclamation, more than two years after it went into effect.

Juneteenth had been celebrated by Black Americans for more than 150 years before it was declared a federal holiday in 2021.

Information about the holiday gained widespread attention and become the center of a national discussion in 2020 amid a wave of protests across the country against systemic racism and social injustice.

Prior to the federal recognition, Arkansas was one of 46 states that had officially observed Juneteenth as a state holiday.

In an email that was sent to city officials on June 16, Smith-Creer noted that city employees left early on the Friday preceding Juneteenth in 2021 (the holiday fell on Saturday last year), but the city had not added Juneteenth as one of its official holiday observances.

Smith-Creer sent the email while she and most other city officials were attending the Arkansas Municipal League annual convention, which was held June 15 - 17 in Little Rock.

She said that she had consulted with AML attorneys and asked that the city council schedule a special meeting Friday to address the matter because Juneteenth is today.

Several city officials left the AML convention and headed straight to City Hall Friday afternoon for a formal vote to observe Juneteenth on Monday.

According to the city's employee handbook, if a paid holiday falls on Saturday, then employees are off the preceding Friday.

If the holiday is on Sunday, then the following Monday serves as city employees' paid holiday off.

Council members Paul Choate, Mike Rice and Willie McGhee were present in the Council Chamber of City Hall, while council members Andre Rucks and Avo Vartenian, who was out of town, participated by phone.

Council members Vance Williamson, Judy Ward and Dianne Hammond were unable to attend the meeting.

Williamson and Ward were reportedly out due to COVID-19 related illnesses and Smith-Creer said AML attorneys approved the hybrid meeting in light of the circumstances.

Fire Chief Chad Mosby, who was in the audience, reminded council members to make sure the vote applied to civilian and uniformed city personnel.

Smith-Creer initially said she thought the matter would have to be settled via an ordinance amendment and City Clerk Heather McVay said the city does not have an ordinance pertaining to its officials holiday observances and paid holidays.

"It's in the (city employee) handbook," Mosby said, prompting Rice to amend his motion for the city to recognize Juneteenth as a paid holiday, per the handbook.

City administrative offices, including the police and fire departments and the El Dorado Water Utilities, will be closed Monday.

Emergency and non-emergency services for the police and fire departments will operate as usual. For EWU emergency services after hours, weekends and holidays, call 870-862-1912.

Weekly curbside garbage collections will run a day behind the normal schedule this week and will start Tuesday in Ward 1.

Print Headline: Juneteenth declared city holiday


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