Mayor Mark Mathews and the rest of the council took pains not to re-enact the divisive, name-calling showdown that unfolded last week when they fought over who should serve out the remainder of the late Post 4 City Councilman Bill Thrash’s term.
Cancer claimed Thrash on May 22.
The mayor and council voted last Wednesday in a 3-2 split to approve Riedemann, founder of the real estate firm Ashford Capital Partners, to serve out Thrash’s term until the November election.
Though Thrash’s wife did not attend, his daughter, Mandi Thrash, a law student, gave a tearful and emotional congratulations to Riedemann and asked the council to work together to continue her father’s vision.
“In my eyes, there’s no one as great as my father who can fill his seat,” Mandi Thrash said. “My father loved this city and cared about it. My father would, however, want the city to move forward as one. May you represent this city well, Mr. Riedemann. Congratulations.”
Several council members spoke on the topic of moving forward, with Councilwoman Cris Welsh saying now that Riedemann has been sworn in, the city can finally begin a period of healing.
“We’ve got a lot of personalities up here, a lot of personal issues, a lot of personal differences, but the one thing that does unite all of us is we have got the exact same focus and vision and dedication for the development of our community,” Welsh said, “All personalities aside, we’re going to do that legally and ethically and treat this dais and this council with the decorum and professionalism it deserves, regardless of our personal differences.”
Riedemann — who was sworn in at the beginning of the meeting by Magistrate Judge Phil Taylor — said the different personalities coming together are what make Kennesaw a great place.
“I think the city of Kennesaw is in a great position,” he said. “I could never even consider to think that I could fill Mr. Thrash’s shoes, but I do share his visions for a great Kennesaw as a great place to live, work, pray, play and raise a family. I’ll work to do whatever I can to push it forward.”
Council members Bruce Jenkins and Jeff Duckett agreed, continuing the cooperative momentum of the evening.
Mathews added that he thought the only way to continue on with that collective vision is to continue working together to maintain a productive attitude not just in the council chambers, but outside in the community.
“With the exception of past Wednesday night, the decorum and respect and dignity that is deserved in these chambers has been honored,” said Mathews, who recently texted a former campaign volunteer that before Thrash died, Thrash hallucinated about a dog jumping out a window.
In the same text, Mathews blasted Thrash’s widow, Suzanne Thrash, accusing her of such things as complaining about the size of her lobster dinner at a city function.
“The real issue has been outside the dais, outside the chambers. I don’t think we can successfully move forward until we make that same level of integrity inside and outside. I’m very hopeful we can do that and I hope we can, but it is something that is desperately needed. ... You have my commitment that I will not be acting any differently outside or inside when it comes to issues related to the city.”
In other business, the council presented plaques to several businesses for their donations of time, materials and labor to help build the city’s new DUI car, including Kennesaw Mountain Collision Center, High Stakes Digital, Diversified Electronics and N.J. Window Tint.
Officer Richard Rivera said the car, which is painted to make the front half look like a police car and the back look like a taxi, was inspired by a similar vehicle used by the Marietta Police Department. It cost the city $78 thanks to the local business donations. The car is parked in front of local bars and restaurants several times each week to remind patrons of the consequences of a DUI charge as opposed to paying for a $20 cab ride.
“My goal is to raise awareness,” Rivera said of his plan for the car. “This city’s growing. We’re going to continue to grow. I want to prevent DUIs and save lives.”