Thomaston City Council 2021

Back L-R: Don Greathouse, Ryan Tucker, Doug Head. Front L-R: Jeff Middle Brooke, Mayor J.D. Stallings, and Lakeitha Reeves

Following a recommendation last week by Community Relations Committee Chairman Rev. James McGill to remove the R.E. Lee name from the government complex, Mayor J.D. Stallings called for Thomaston City Council members to disband the committee.

Citing a lack of appropriate representation, lack of unity, and “lack of any will to bridge gaps,” Stallings said the commission does not serve the interest of city residents. The mayor’s plea generated no motion to disband the group, which submitted a recommendation with 60 percent of its original members.

“The Community Relations Committee was formed out of the ideals of cooperation and open-mindedness with the intent to bridge ideological and individual divisiveness. As such, the city council agreed to a super-majority consent for persons to serve on this committee,” Stallings said in a prepared statement.

“It quickly became apparent that the community could meet no such goals, with resignations rendering no super majority representation and accusatory statements signifying a lack of any will to bridge gaps,” he continued. “To that effect, a recommendation has been made to appeal the council for actions foregoing the appropriate level of representation and unity by which the committee was founded.”

Jack Grubb, appointed by District 3 councilman Ryan Tucker, resigned after the first meeting. Thomaston-Upson Board of Education member Sheila Hall, appointed by District 4 councilman Don Greathouse, resigned weeks later after a verbal exchange with Pastor Greg Smith, who was appointed by Mayor Pro Tempore Doug Head.

The resignations left Smith, McGill (appointed by councilman Jeff Middlebrooks), and Priscilla McCoy (appointed by council member Lakeitha Reeves) on the committee. The exit of Grubb and Hall, both white, resulted in an all-black committee voting unanimously for a recommendation on a racially charged issue, to relocate city offices.

“The question before our council should not be whether to act on this recommendation, but rather to question the vitality of this committee and whether or not its commission serves the interest of our citizens,” Stallings told council members. “To say that, I would say it does not.

“And I would ask this council to entertain a motion to disband the Community Relations Committee,” he continued, “and further advise that any questions before the council that can be legally decided by the council be deliberated on and voted on as such.”

City Attorney DeAnn Wheeler advised council last year that Georgia law prohibits the removal of the R.E. Lee name and related articles from the complex on East Lee Street, citing “monument” status.

“I’m a little confused,” Tucker said. “I heard the recommendation, but the one we have is different. The one in our packet is to relocate into a different building.”

McGill corrected his previous statement to coincide with the CRC’s 3-0 vote to recommend relocation of city offices.

“This committee met only one time with all districts represented. After the first meeting, the representative from District 3 resigned,” Reeves said. “Therefore, I do not think that the committee has done what I feel needs to be done to come to a recommendation.

“I think we should go back with all districts represented, and maybe the mayor having an appointment, and let this group go back and look at this again,” she continued. “It was not well represented, because all districts did not have representatives. For that reason, we should appoint new reps and start this again.”

Despite seemingly agreeing with the mayor’s assessment, Reeves cast the only vote to accept the committee’s recommendation to relocate.

“It’s not from a lack of trying to find a person to serve,” Tucker said about his inability to secure a representative from his district. “I was turned down many, many times.

“I would like to see this group take on more issues [than the R.E. Lee name],” Tucker continued. “There are other pressing issues, and my constituents are concerned [that too much focus has been placed on the government complex].”

CRC members recently toured the city with attention toward litter, homelessness, and property upkeep, but have not submitted a recommendation to council on any of the issues.

Head moved to reject the committee’s recommendation, followed by a second from Tucker, leading to a 4-1 council vote for non-acceptance.

“This committee deals with a number of topics. This was only one of them, and a more difficult topic to talk about,” said Head, who faces opposition to re-election this year. “To discuss something this sensitive, I think you really need a broader discussion. And it certainly needs representation on both sides.

“It’s hard to support the recommendation because it didn’t come from a broader discussion representing both sides,” Head continued. “But I do think the discussion on this topic needs to continue, whether it’s among the committee, or among us.

“We all need to be closer together,” Head concluded.

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