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Waynesboro City Council member asks Jim Wood to resign over Pete Buttigieg slur

Chris Graham
waynesboro
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Two of Jim Wood’s colleagues on Waynesboro City Council requested Monday night that he relinquish the title of vice mayor, and a third demanded that he resign his seat on City Council altogether.

Wood, upon hearing from his colleagues at the City Council’s first public meeting since controversy erupted over Wood’s homophobic slur of Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg on his Facebook talk show on Feb. 15, declined the opportunity to speak in his defense, or to respond to their calls on him to step down.

Wood, who was elected to the Ward D seat on City Council in November, and was then elected vice mayor by his colleagues last month, addressed Buttigieg, a former Navy intelligence officer who came out as gay in 2015 during his successful run for re-election as mayor of South Bend, Ind., as “ol’ Pete Buttplug, or whatever his name is,” on his weekly Facebook talk show, which he has since deleted from his Facebook page.

The talk show slur came two days after the city sent a letter to Buttigieg, with Wood’s name prominent on the letterhead, asking the Transportation Secretary to give his approval for federal grants to go toward a  project to connect Waynesboro to the Claudius Crozet Blue Ridge Tunnel.

Mayor Lana Williams issued a statement last week rebuking Wood, and she read a statement at Monday’s meeting reiterating what she said then, emphasizing that Wood’s comments in the podcast “do not reflect the city or City Council, nor did his comments reflect the policy of the city and Council to respect and be respectful of everyone and to treat everyone with compassion and dignity.”

“Such language is unacceptable in any context, and has no place in our city,” Williams said. “As a representative of Waynesboro, he should not be making remarks that are insulting and demeaning. I cannot condone Mr. Wood’s comments in the podcast. Although he was speaking as a private citizen, his comments have a negative impact on the city as residents and Council.”

Williams then added that “Council has no legal authority to remove Mr. Wood from office or remove his title. I have, however, heard from many citizens and have discussed amongst Council, who believe it would be in the city’s best interest if Mr. Wood were willing would relinquish his vice mayor title,” Williams said.

Kenny Lee, who was elected to the Ward C seat in the November election, offered his first public comments on Wood’s podcast slur at Monday’s City Council meeting.

“As an African American, I’m not immune to derogatory slurs used to describe people of color. Even serving in the armed forces for 28 years, I experienced this type of behavior,” Lee said. “I want to emphatically state that I deplore any such behavior to any group. And I’m shocked, angry and sad that my colleague decided to use such a disparaging term against the LGBTQ community.

“It is difficult that we must address this tonight, rather than doing what we were elected to do. It is difficult that this will only create yet another opportunity to divide us, not unite us. It is difficult that Waynesboro has now made national headlines in a negative way,” Lee said.

“It is difficult, but the right thing to do, that I ask my colleague to voluntarily relinquish the title of vice mayor,” Lee said. “We all make mistakes, and forgiveness should be the order of the day. But Mr. Wood’s comments, while not representative of Waynesboro or this Council, have clearly shown that the title of vice mayor should not be associated with his name.”

Terry Short was the City Council member who took it to the next level, demanding that Wood resign his Ward D seat.

“I, too, like my colleagues, am embarrassed and disappointed in Mr. Wood’s pattern of ugly and homophobic rhetoric,” said Short, who read an excerpt from one of Wood’s attempts at a written apology. “‘My priority is the City of Waynesboro, and I would never intentionally want to have a negative impact on our city, our Council or our citizens,’” Short quoted from Wood’s apology. “As I see it, those priorities now rest with an exhibition and pattern of divisive and hurtful rhetoric that have now undermined our city’s competitiveness for both federal and state grant opportunities, quite possibly for the duration of Mr. Wood’s term.

“To date, you have not even acknowledged that you did anything wrong,” Short said. “Rather, you have blamed others for misconstruing your words. Examples of this deflection can now be seen in the print of our local or regional papers, state media, and now national publications. If anyone were to open up a browser and search, a simple search for the City of Waynesboro, and our vice mayor, those are going to be the first responses that you see on a Google search.

“So, reflecting on that statement made to various media outlets, I, tonight, I am also asking you, Mr. Wood to prioritize our city, prioritize this Council, and all of its citizens, and I ask that you do the right thing to support the future economic prosperity of our city, and resign from the Waynesboro City Council,” Short said.

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Chris Graham

Chris Graham

Chris Graham is the founder and editor of Augusta Free Press. A 1994 alum of the University of Virginia, Chris is the author and co-author of seven books, including Poverty of Imagination, a memoir published in 2019, and Team of Destiny: Inside Virginia Basketball’s Run to the 2019 National Championship, and The Worst Wrestling Pay-Per-View Ever, published in 2018. For his commentaries on news, sports and politics, go to his YouTube page, or subscribe to his Street Knowledge podcast. Email Chris at [email protected].