Home Waynesboro leaders seem to have forgotten they’d asked Vice Mayor Jim Wood to resign

Waynesboro leaders seem to have forgotten they’d asked Vice Mayor Jim Wood to resign

Chris Graham
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Photo: Facebook

Waynesboro City Council met last week for its second business meeting of the month of March, with nary a word uttered regarding the status of the embattled vice mayor, Jim Wood, who had faced calls from fellow City Council members just a few weeks ago to resign.

Mayor Lana Williams, at Waynesboro City Council’s Feb. 27 meeting, urged Wood to step down as vice mayor in the wake of his homophobic slur of Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg on a Feb. 15 Facebook talk show.

That call from Williams was echoed by Ward C City Councilman Kenny Lee.

At-large City Councilman Terry Short went a step further, urging Wood to resign his City Council seat.

Wood was not in attendance for the March 13 City Council business meeting, which he missed after the death of a cousin, Rocky S. Wood, who was killed while helping fight a 15-acre wildfire in Buchanan County on March 9.

The matter involving Wood’s slur of Buttigieg, which was made two days after Wood’s name appeared on a letter from city leaders requesting that Buttigieg give his approval to a city transportation project.

The slur of Buttigieg – Wood referred to him as “ol’ Pete Buttplug, or whatever his name is” – led to a sternly worded rebuke from Williams, who said Wood’s comments in the podcast, which Wood has since deleted, “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 at City Council’s Feb. 27 business meeting. “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.

Lee, who was elected to the Ward C seat in the November election, said “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.”

“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,” Lee said. “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.

“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.”

Short said he was “embarrassed and disappointed in Mr. Wood’s pattern of ugly and homophobic rhetoric.”

“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,” Short said.

“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.

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].