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Don’t let the door hit you on the way out

Fear and Loathing in Waynesboro column by Chris Graham

“I’m sorry.”

Come on, Frank.

You know you need to do it.

And not just to make amends to Meghan Williamson.

Your ability to lead city government is on the line here.

“It’s a loss,” Vice Mayor Frank Lucente said of the news that Williamson is resigning her post effective Aug. 8, first reported in The Augusta Free Press on Friday, “but I think she’s young, and she wants to travel a bit. You’re only young once, so it’s not such a bad idea.”

For the record, Williamson, 24, isn’t leaving her post because of a busy travel itinerary. And Lucente, who helped engineer the effective firing of the person who hired Williamson two years ago, former city manager Doug Walker, has to be well aware of that. Which is why it bothers me royally that he would put this kind of statement out there knowing full well the damage that could be done to Williamson’s reputation by leaving the impression that she’s moving on from her time in Waynesboro because she “wants to travel a bit.”

Williamson did more than keep a seat warm in city government for two years. She was a key player in the effort to have Downtown Waynesboro, Basic City, the East Main corridor adjacent to both and the city industrial park in the West End designated a Virginia Enterprise Zone, which will be a boon to development in all four areas for many years to come. She also played important roles in several development projects in our thriving West End and helped steer the successful Kline’s Dairy Bar to a downtown location.

She doesn’t deserve to have this callous statement that she is leaving Waynesboro because she wants to travel on the part of Lucente hanging over her head when she’s out applying for her next job in the development sector. The impression left by the statement is that Williamson is leaving the city high and dry because she’s immature and wants to sling a backpack over her shoulder and go hike a mountain or two so that she can find herself. Anybody who has worked with her in the local business and industry community and in local and regional economic-development circles knows a different Williamson than the one in the picture that Lucente is trying to paint of her. She has been a tremendous asset to the Waynesboro community, and she will make another community a great place to live when she finally moves on.

The least that Lucente could have done when contacted by the News Virginian to talk about her imminent departure would have been to have publicly thanked her for her service to the city. By going 180 degrees in the other direction, Lucente has sent a clear message to those working in city government, from the top administrators to those working on the front lines, exactly how much he values them.

We can rest assured that Williamson’s departure is not going to be the last under the new Lucente regime. Good luck to us finding people with any feelings of self-worth to fill the openings.

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