The meeting kicked off with the board’s chairman, J.D. Van Brink of Acworth, explaining that the board met Sunday and removed members Field Searcy, Bill Hudson and Sue Stanton.
“For quite some time, the board had been split on the future direction of the organization, with two thirds wanting to stay true to the Georgia Tea Party’s founding principles and one third wanting to go in a different direction,” Van Brink said. “The decision of the majority of the board was to save the Georgia Tea Party from eventual but certain destruction.”
Van Brink said it was important for the group to remain independent and on a grassroots level rather than joining up with other groups. He wants it to continue to be modeled after the Heritage Foundation, a conservative think tank, he said.
“We want to continue the Georgia Tea Party’s standard of working with elected and appointed officials to impact public policy,” he said. “Now that does not mean being a protest movement. We feel we’ve grown beyond that. What we need to be concentrating on is getting public policy passed.”
Moving forward, the tea party would continue to garner input from its volunteers about what qualities are needed in board members, he said.
“One of the qualities … is they’re going to have to be able to work with the group, and that is what we didn’t have,” he said.
Volunteer Pat Negron was next to speak, noting she had been part of the group for more than a year and a half. Negron defended the ousted board members, who were not in attendance. She said Hutson and Stanton were at the Capitol so often they practically lived there, while Searcy put together the group’s newsletters.
“What the remaining board members have done to these three patriots is a disgrace and only condemns them and not Field, Sue or Bill,” Negron said. “I will end by saying this is the last Tea Party meeting I will attend.”
Next to speak was former member Ben Mihalski, who was blocked from speaking at the lectern, but stood in front of it and spoke loudly anyway. Mihalski said he and Hutson were among the group’s founders.
“I’m asking for the immediate resignation of all board members due to the tyrannical rule this group has now performed,” Mihalski said. “I ask for all your resignations now. If you will resign now we will install new members. We will redo the bylaws making it more open and fair to the people, rather than tyrant’s rule.”
This prompted a member to announce he was calling the police, although no police officer arrived during the meeting, which lasted about two hours in a conference room across the street from Roswell Street Baptist Church.
Joyce Schumacher of Marietta also expressed her displeasure.
“When we started three years ago, we were all together, we worked on different events, we had the membership events, we had a media group, we had several different groups going on and everybody felt part of it and they all contributed and we had a tea party togetherness,” Schumacher said. “Slowly over the past year or year and a half, things have changed. All of a sudden people really weren’t part of things like it was before. It wasn’t grassroots anymore. It changed.”
Johnell Woody of Marietta, who serves as the Cobb Republican Party chair of House District 38, called on the audience to put things in perspective.
“I have been embarrassed as a Republican and as a conservative … at the Capitol by some of our members,” Woody said. “I forgive them for it. We all make mistakes. But you can’t separate yourself from the organization.”
Woody said the mission was greater than the individual members.
“What is our No. 1 objective right now?” Woody asked. “If we fight among ourselves, how are we going to get rid of (President Barack Obama)? How? You cannot.”
Some have their own agendas that seek to bring the tea party down, she said. Woody said her first pick for president is no longer an option and neither is her second or third choice. And her fourth choice will be out of the race soon.
“Does that mean I’m not going to support the party?” she asked. “If my dog was running for president, I would vote for him over Obama. That is the only thing that matters.”
Doris Fowler of Powder Springs also called for unity.
“If we don’t stay together, the Muslims are taking us, the communists are taking us, they’re taking our country and I’ve seen things in my life that I never thought I would see,” Fowler said.
Fowler said the tea party has too many important issues to deal with, from defeating the July 31st transportation referendum to electing a new president, to be distracted by a personality fight.
“There’s no point in people being rude and yelling and acting like you’re a child when it’s a personality thing,” she said. “If this country does not get together, and we don’t get together, we are going down and we are going to have a Muslim communist and Obama can still win this election, and it’s going to take every one of us, so my thing is ‘God bless this tea party.’”
Board member Tom Maloy said after the meeting that he was optimistic.
“I believe it will actually make the Tea Party stronger because we had an opportunity to reiterate our core principles and to discuss them,” Maloy said. “We found out a lot about what our volunteers are thinking about, what they want, and we’ll move on from there. Our task now is to keep on going and doing what we’ve been doing and at the same time find three new board members. … the board members that left the board are still our friends, they were our friends before, I consider them our friends still, and I hope once they think about it they still consider us friends as well.”
Maloy said the Georgia Tea Party, which is governed by a nine-member, self-elected board that serves two-year terms, has about 50 to 130 people who show up at its regular meetings, with a mailing list of about 3,000.