New Day Dawning

Fear and Loathing in Waynesboro column by Chris Graham
freepress2@ntelos.net

“We’re going to undo everything you’ve done the past five years. You don’t want to be around for that.”

That’s what they told Doug Walker. Not exactly Don’t let the door hit you in the ass on your way out, but it’s pretty close.

And so begins the New Day Dawning in Waynesboro, four weeks and change early. The new ultraconservative majority has already begun throwing its weight around, and we’re nowhere near July 1.

“It is what it is,” Walker told me after a tumultuous city-council meeting that ended last night with him offering his resignation effective June 30, and city council voting 3-2 to accept his offer to stand down.

In between the offering and the accepting, some things were said that have to make you worry for the future of this city. Vice Mayor Nancy Dowdy, in a prepared statement, said that she, along with Mayor Tom Reynolds and Councilwoman Lorie Smith, had been informed late last week that Councilman Tim Williams and Councilman Frank Lucente had asked Walker soon after the May 6 election to offer his resignation.

“Both informed Mr. Walker that they did not trust his leadership,” Dowdy said. “Mr. Walker was told that if he did not resign, the new majority, with (Councilman-elect Bruce) Allen’s support, would fire him on July 1. Mr. Allen has confirmed his position on this matter.”

Lucente spoke briefly with reporters following the meeting, though he would neither confirm nor deny the account offered by Dowdy.

“I’m not going to talk about personnel issues. I don’t think they should be discussed in the street,” Lucente told the News Leader.

I can confirm that Lucente had spoken in harshly negative terms about Walker in a lunch meeting with me a week after the election, focusing his fire on his feeling that Walker injected himself too much into policy issues. As fate may have it, Lucente and I were meeting to discuss among other things a column that I had just written in which I was critical of Lucente for insisting that Walker come up with budget cuts to bring city spending in line with balanced-budget requirements in a way that I thought was asking the administrator to do what was supposed to be the job of the elected city council.

Lucente said during that May 13 meeting with me that he had addressed his concerns regarding Walker’s job performance in a one-on-one meeting with the city manager that morning, though he did not tell me that day that he had asked the city manager to step down.

It’s interesting what Mr. Lucente is willing to say in one-on-one meetings and what he isn’t willing to say publicly. This makes it twice in two weeks that Lucente has sidestepped public discussion of matters involving leadership positions in City Hall. Last week it was the issue of who will succeed Reynolds as mayor, with Lucente pushing behind the scenes for Williams while saying publicly that he will not make any comment about who he wants to see installed in the position “because I don’t think that should be a public discussion.”

My guess is that he didn’t want his promise to “undo everything” that Walker and city council had accomplished in the past five years to be a public discussion, either.

That is what has me worried for the future of Waynesboro, in case you were wondering. Because the craprain is only beginning to fall. And it’s going to be a long nuclear winter before we can get the hazmat teams in.



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