Commissioners voted unanimously last week to add Juneteenth, observed annually on June 19 in various parts of the United States since 1865, to the county’s holiday calendar beginning in 2022.
Originating in Galveston, Texas, Juneteenth “commemorates the emancipation of African-American slaves and celebrates African-American culture,” according to Wikipedia. President Joe Biden signed legislation June 17, 2021, recognizing it as a federal holiday.
“I notice that the 2021-22 holiday schedule did not include the new Juneteenth holiday,” Commissioner Lorenzo Wilder said. “We need to have discussion on adding the [federal] holiday.”
Chairman Norman Allen questioned the addition when several other federal holidays are not included on the county calendar.
“What about the other federal holidays that aren’t on here?” Allen asked. “There are other federal holidays that are observed that are not on here as well: Washington’s birthday and Columbus Day.”
Commissioner Ben Watson voiced concern that adoption of a federal holiday schedule would “cut out some key holidays that are typically observed.” Wilder responded that he did not advocate removing any, but simply adding one.
“We honor a few days the federal government does not, like Good Friday and Christmas Eve,” County Manager Jason Tinsley said. “I’m comfortable speaking for staff in a traditional Georgia community that [omitting certain holidays] wouldn’t be seen favorably.”
Allen suggested the possibility of designating a specific number of days and allowing individual employees to choose their preferred holidays. “Also, there’s the public. What does the public think about this?” he asked.
The City of Thomaston recognized the holiday in 2021 with a day off for government employees. Citing short notice when Biden signed the law two days prior to June 19, county employees did not receive a holiday. Ultimately, Allen said he was in favor of continuity between city and county governments.
Commissioner Paul Jones seconded Wilder’s motion to add the Juneteenth holiday in 2022. The change was approved by a 4-0 vote in the absence of Commissioner James Ellington.
In other business, commissioners opted to table the $19,000 purchase of a digital sign for the civic center until further discussion during a January 2022 work session. Pointing to priorities at the recreation facility, Allen said, “The roof’s leaking and the ball fields are wet.”