Kennesaw City Council’s 3-2 voting bloc may be in jeopardy as Tuesday nears
by Hannah Morgan
November 02, 2013 11:48 PM | 3383 views | 8 8 comments | 16 16 recommendations | email to a friend | print
KENNESAW — This year’s election has ripped the city of Kennesaw apart, candidates say, over issues of elected officials’ spending habits with the city credit card, travel expenditures and other city expenses.

Three seats on the City Council are up for election, and the city’s historic 3-2 voting bloc might be shattered if familiar faces get replaced by new ones.

With the current council, Mayor Mark Mathews has received unwavering support from council members Tim Killingsworth and Jeff Duckett, while council members Bruce Jenkins and Cris Welsh have tended to vote against the mayor on important issues.

Councilman Matthew Riedemann has been on the council only four months, not long enough to establish a voting pattern one way or the other.

But Riedemann’s appointment to the council was made possible by a tie-breaking vote from the mayor in late June, when a temporary replacement was needed following the death of Councilman Bill Thrash from cancer.

The mayor’s voting bloc is on the line in Tuesday’s election.

Duckett and Riedemann are facing challenges from upstart candidates who say they want to see change.

James Sebastian, chair of the Kennesaw Citizens Advisory Committee and owner of SAFE LLC, a consulting company specializing in product warrantees, is pitted against Duckett.

Debra Williams, who owns her own public relations and marketing business and serves on the Kennesaw Planning and Zoning Board, is challenging Riedemann. If even one of those incumbents loses, it will shake up the council, depending on what happens in the third race, in which incumbent Jenkins faces opposition from Briggett Washington, CEO of the nonprofit, Marietta-based Cobb Alzheimer’s Foundation, and former Mayor Leonard Church.

Welsh said previously ignored efforts to approve a strict credit card and travel expense policy for elected officials, a ban on texting during meetings and a discussion on how to fix the city’s debt-ridden Southern Museum of Civil War and Locomotive History might make it past mere discussion at council meetings.

Residents of the city have weighed in on the election’s biggest issues this year more than ever before, candidates say. And that community passion about local government is something they hope to maintain, they say, regardless of who is elected.

“This election has absolutely torn this city apart,” said Welsh, who has brought forward controversial issues such as a city-wide smoking ban and a ban on texting during meetings, only to see them stalled until after the election.

A recent MDJ report on Riedemann’s personal bankruptcy and other financial troubles, along with a second report on how each elected official has used the city credit card, caused the discussion to shift from city issues to personal issues, Welsh said.

Welsh, who is not up for re-election, said she hopes the election will enable the council to “have a disagreement with each other and walk away and still be friends.” She added “the tone that we have right now doesn’t really allow for that kind of conversation.”

Debra Williams, who is challenging Riedemann, agrees.

She hopes real discussions will be conducted in council meetings dealing with important financial issues. She wants to see a strict credit card policy put in place and enforced, and she also wants the council to take up the issue of why the city offers pension plans to part-time elected officials.

Jenkins, who is being challenged by Washington and Church, said the election has brought out many residents, albeit divided.

Regardless of who is elected, Jenkins hopes the council will come up with “a very tight understanding” of what the city’s financials are regarding credit card policies and the museum funds.

James Sebastian, who is running for Duckett’s seat on the council, has previously stated that he is in support of stricter spending policies for elected officials, as well as of having council members take a close reading of the city’s budget, especially the funds currently going to support the city’s museum.

Council members Riedemann, Duckett and Killingsworth did not return phone calls or emails for this article.

When Jenkins stopped by an early voting site Friday afternoon, he said 200 residents had already been out to vote, much higher than he had anticipated.

Voting will take place across the city on Tuesday.

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Susanna Salter
November 04, 2013
All women should take offense to Ms. Franklin's comment. Dr. Cris Welsh is the only woman on Kennesaw's city council in a city whose population is half female. When she brings forth debate for issues that a voting block has refused to, SHE'S "pulling strings." When she wants to address debt from the city's centerpiece museum while council members use city credit cards with no strict rule policy, she's "grand-standing."

She wants to have a rule of no texting during council meetings. Seriously, that has to be a rule?

For those out there who will label this post from a feminist, you would be wrong. I am not. I am a mom, a sister, a wife and a daughter. I've seen far too many brilliant women called names and far too many idiots govern because people couldn't be bothered to go to the polls. Be bothered this time. I've met Debra Williams and she is worth getting to the polls. Jim Sebastian is a financial genius. I don't know Briggett Washington, but I would love to see three women take over Kennesaw's City Council this year. That would send a message.

Janice Franklin
November 03, 2013
Regardless of who wins or loses as long as CEW is still part of Kennesaw politics pulling strings and playing dirty... we all lose! She is like a cancer in Kennesaw
November 03, 2013
Ms. Franklin. You have shown your true colors. I guess it doesn't bother you to call someone a 'cancer' without any regard that her Mom has survived cancer twice. Just remember when you're pointing your finger, you have three pointing back at you. Take your kindergarten name calling and go play with those who are truly playing dirty politics. You know, the ones that need to be out of post 2, 4, 5, and the Mayor!
Pam Eaton
November 03, 2013
Janice, OOOPS!, I really don't think you should have made that remark about cancer. That was a real FOPA. Cris has been so supportive of the health related issues in this city. One of the races in this city started to honor Ms. Faith Kline with the Elf Trot 5K. Faith died from Brain Cancer. The proceeds of that race, a part of the Kennesaw Grand Prix series, go to the Brain Cancer Foundation in her honor. Councilman Bill Thrash died in office of Bladder Cancer. Cris is a strong supporter of Loving Arms Cancer Outreach. As her mother I am deeply offended as I personally am a survivor of both Ovarian and Breast Cancer. Your lack of sensitivity to all of the citizens of Kennesaw who have dealt with this terrible disease is indeed apparent. I hope you never have to deal with it yourself. Shame on you, Enuf Said!
Disappointed Reader
November 03, 2013
Biased much MDJ? Welsh makes me what to vomit with her two faced grand standing... She is about as low class as it gets! Report on that MDJ
Touched A Nerve
November 03, 2013
Ms. Welsh had nothing to do with Killingsworth, Riedemann, and Duckett not responding. I guess you like the current political situation in Kennesaw, well if that's the case, you are more than welcome to pay my part of the outrageous spending that's going on.
Janice Franklin
November 04, 2013
The only person spending excessively is Bruce Jenkins. Bruce spending $16,000 in the last couple of years.
November 03, 2013
Duckett, Killingsworth and Reidemann didn't respond. Enough said??

These are elected officials. They are SUPPOSED to respond when questioned.

But instead, they hide.

Yes, this is Kennesaw's chance to break free of unethical government if Williams and Sebastian are elected.
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