Squelched? Really?

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

Maybe Alicia Rimel knows something I don’t.

“The news squelched rumors that former City Manager Jerry Gwaltney might return to the job,” Rimel wrote in her story that appeared in Tuesday’s News Virginian about the appointment of assistant city manager Mike Hamp as the interim city manager effective midnight July 1.

Rimel wrote later that Gwaltney had said on Monday that rumors of his return to Waynesboro are unfounded, which is probably the stronger statement to make regarding the matter, since she apparently talked to him about the rumors.

The rumors have persisted since word reached Waynesboro of Gwaltney’s surprise resignation from his current post as city manager in Danville on May 28, hours after Doug Walker had tendered his resignation from the top job in Waynesboro.

Both Walker and Gwaltney are leaving their jobs on June 30.

Gwaltney has told the Danville Register and Bee a couple of slightly different stories about what he plans to do after June 30. One account, in a May 29 story, has him staying in Danville with plans to eventually move to Smith Mountain Lake, where he has a second home. A second account, published a day earlier, has him interested in using his experience in municipal government as a consultant to other local governments.

It was those statements, plus word from Danville that Gwaltney’s departure was viewed as being somewhat sudden and shocking by members of Danville City Council, and talk on the street in Waynesboro that Gwaltney had apparently been contacted about his interest in the job in the River City, that formed the basis of my reporting on the subject.

Gwaltney’s word to Rimel that the rumors are unfounded is important here, of course. But the news of the Hamp hire doesn’t in and of itself mean anything in terms of the Gwaltney story, or the reports circulating around town that former Hershey Chocolate of Virginia plant manager Tom Reider is being looked at as a candidate for the interim or full-time city-manager job.

As I reported on Monday night, the resolution naming Hamp the interim city manager makes his appointment effective at midnight on July 1 and runs through 9 a.m. the morning of July 1. The new city council will take office at an organizational meeting at 9 a.m. on July 1, and will have to deal with the issue of who will serve as the interim city manager from that point forward at that meeting.Interesting wording in Rimel’s story yesterday morning – city councilmen Frank Lucente and Tim Williams, who will form the new majority on the city council with Councilman-elect Bruce Allen, told her that Hamp’s interim appointment “will likely remain in effect after the July 1 meeting,” according to her report.

“There’s no hidden agenda,” Lucente told Rimel after Monday’s city-council meeting. “He’s appointed the interim city manager with the idea that he can apply for a job on a permanent basis. It looks like we had a unanimous vote tonight. Everybody will be there July 1. I think that it would be a fair assumption to think that that would continue.”

Maybe it’s just me, but I see enough wiggle room there for Bill Clinton to drive a Mack truck through.

So much for our “squelching” …


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