RECENT DAYS have been the best of times for Marietta Mayor Steve Tumlin, as a committee of the city council saw the wisdom of his redevelopment proposal for problem-plagued Franklin Road and voted to forward his plans up to the full council; and as the city’s bond consultant reported the cheering news that City Hall’s original calculation that a 2 mill general obligation bond issue for Franklin would generate $35 million was wildly off the mark and would actually rake in twice that amount.
But recent days have been the worst of times for Kennesaw Mayor Mark Mathews. Incredulous MDJ readers have had front-row seats to front-page coverage of the mayor’s bare-knuckle efforts to ensure a political ally was appointed to the Kennesaw Council to fill the unexpired term of his foe Bill Thrash, who died of cancer last month.
Thrash’s dying wish was to see his wife, Suzanne, appointed as his successor. But it was not to be. Mathews, who had numerous political disagreements with the late Thrash, cast the deciding vote (joined by members Tim Killingsworth and Jeff Duckett) to appoint Kennesaw Development Authority member Matthew Riedemann instead.
It’s customary, though not required, for widows to serve out the remainder of their husbands’ terms in office. In fact, that’s how Rebecca Latimer Felton of Cartersville — the only female thus far ever to represent Georgia in the U.S. Senate — got there back in 1922.
But Mathews had other plans.
“How silly of me to think it would have worked out,” Suzanne Thrash told the MDJ. “I should have known better. Now everything is tainted, it’s dirty.”
THRASH and Mathews had been at odds the past year or so over the question of which company should provide ambulance service to the city. The Thrashes were supporters of Georgia EMS, which provided that service to the city for 14 years. Mathews supported MetroAtlanta Ambulance — which interestingly is the same company for which he works as a government liaison.
It was later determined Kennesaw was breaking the law by not using Metro, which in turn prompted an effort by the council to pass a resolution (supported by Thrash) urging the state Legislature to change the law. The resolution was adamantly opposed by Mathews, Killingsworth and Duckett.
“(Bill) was fighting Mark all the time on that,” Mrs. Thrash said.
Mathews says the ambulance fight didn’t have anything to do with his preference for Riedemann over Mrs. Thrash.
BUT THE “AGE OF FOOLISHNESS” in Kennesaw grew even more toxic with the emergence late this week (as reported in the MDJ) of damning text messages from this spring between Mathews and his former PR consultant, Debra Ashley-Williams, on the subject of Thrash.
One of the conversations involved Mathews’ assessment of Thrash’s ability to make a clear recommendation about his successor.
“Bill’s wish at the point of coherent abilities or at the point of hallucinating about dogs jumping out of the car?” Mathews wrote. “Any clue how many times he apologized for her comments or actions? I’ve yet to attend an event or been at a function that she didn’t have a complaint. #1 complaint was always the size of her lobster or not getting ‘appropriate’ recognition. It was never what she deserved. I’m sorry but the city already has a person that abuses the position and wastes money with no remorse ... and believe it or not it’s not me.”
Asked on Thursday by the MDJ about the texts, Mathews described them as “inside conversations, personal friend-of-friend conversations that were being had, and yes, he had hallucinations towards the end of his life,” Mathews said. “And it was joked about by him and by his close friends. … I had candid conversations with a friend, who I thought was a friend, that were the exact conversations I had with Mrs. Thrash.”
THE EMBARRASSING TEXTS were released by Ashley-Williams. Some were quick to speculate that her decision to release texts showing her former client in such a bad light might have short-circuited her chances of being hired to do future PR work.
But as she apparently wrote on the “Reader Comment” area of the MDJonline.com website on Friday, “I worked on his Campaign the FIRST time, I wasn’t his Campaign Manager. I refused his requests the second Campaign because I witnessed events I could no longer support. …
“There are 4-5 people in this town who was (sic) with Mr. Thrash often in his final months when he was very lucid and he shared his desires with them. I was one of them, and if the Mayor considered me knowledgeable enough to ask for my feedback, suggestion, and guidance on what he should do following the June 12 meeting, then why did he not have that same belief when I shared with him Bill’s request?”
THINGS ARE LOOKING UP in Marietta, where Tumlin is confident the council will agree (although not unanimously) July 10 to call a $68 million bond referendum for November.
It’s a different tale in Kennesaw.
“There’s something wrong here,” Suzanne Thrash told the MDJ. “There’s something really stinky in Denmark.”
It is the best of times, it is the worst of times. … It just depends on where you live.
COBB BOARD OF EDUCATION member Scott Sweeney of east Cobb was supposed to be a reformer, a breath of fresh air who came from the outside, not a rubber-stamping insider willing to do the central office’s whim. At least that’s how Sweeney campaigned in 2010.
During that campaign, Sweeney criticized then-Superintendent Fred Sanderson for his “lack of authentic engagement in numerous areas; including grand jury investigations, employment recommendations, support of unwarranted financial perks, and curriculum decisions,” hinting that he would not favor extending Sanderson’s contract.
Now Sweeney rarely returns calls from the media and is seen by many as a rubber stamp for the superintendent’s office.
Current Super Michael Hinojosa has described Sweeney as the best chairman he ever worked with. And Sweeney’s tour as chair clearly hastened his evolution from “reformer” to Central Office surrogate.
Now Around Town is told that Sweeney is threatening board Chairman Randy Scamihorn behind the scenes — warning that he’ll sic the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools (better known as SACS) on Scamihorn for allegedly violating his role as a board member.
THE Southern Association of Colleges and Schools is a nongovernmental, non-elected agency that accredits about 13,000 public and non-public institutions worldwide. It is well known for advocating that school systems be run by strong superintendents and subservient boards.
SO WHAT IS SCAMIHORN’S “CRIME”? Having the courage to stand up to the superintendent and Central Office educrats. Namely, he insisted at the June 12 meeting board meeting that Hinojosa send an email to all county staff correcting misinformation about the board’s vote on the controversial Common Core Curriculum. The misinformation was spread in a May 28 email blast from one of the super’s top underlings, who also urged recipients to lobby the board to change its mind.
Hinojosa sent the email as directed — but didn’t do so until Tuesday, nearly two weeks later. Most people don’t take such a blasé attitude about carrying out orders from their boss. And yes, the superintendent works for the board, not the other way around.
FORMER Marietta Council veteran Betty Hunter will be grand marshal for this year’s July Fourth Parade, which steps off at 10 a.m. Cobb Democrats will hold their annual Herb Butler family picnic at the IAM Local 709 Union Hall next to Southern Poly. The Republicans’ picnic will be from 11:30 a.m. to 3 p.m. at Jim Miller Park. Headlining will be Gov. and Mrs. Nathan Deal, reports Cobb party Chair Joe Dendy. Also due are U.S. Reps. Tom Price plus four candidates for U.S. Senate: Phil Gingrey of Marietta, Jack Kingston of Savannah, Karen Handel of north Fulton and Paul Broun of Athens.
HAVE A HAPPY FOURTH! Around Town will be back next Saturday, July 6.