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Russell's mayoral run not welcomed by some Augusta commissioners

Saturday, Feb. 1, 2014 4:58 PM
Last updated Sunday, Feb. 2, 2014 2:11 AM
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They’ve worked closely with him, some for seven years, but Augusta Com­mis­sion members have mixed feelings about former Ad­min­is­trator Fred Russell running for mayor.

Russell  FILE/STAFF
FILE/STAFF
Russell

Russell managed the city government for 10 years until the commission voted 7-0 to fire him Dec. 9, citing a need to move in a “different direction.” He is expected to officially announce his candidacy soon, campaign manager Duncan Johnson said Tuesday.

The election is set for May 20 for a job loaded with exposure but limited in actual authority by authors of Augusta-Richmond County’s 1996 Consolidation Act. The so-called “weak” mayor can’t set the budget, veto commission actions or set policy, but he or she has a staff of two and a full-time office in the Municipal Building, and near-unfettered access to the administrator.

The harshest words about Russell came from Commis­sioner Bill Lockett, who will be term-limited in 2016 and has said he will not seek elected office again.

“Fred is a nice guy to have a beer with; he’s very friendly, he’s very personable,” Lockett said, but “Fred was a lousy administrator. He overstayed his welcome.”

While there were previous commissions “that just (went) along with things,” Lockett said the group that fired Rus­sell would not tolerate a mayor who acted against the commission’s will.

“He can’t do anything unless the commission allows him to do it,” Lockett said.

Russe­ll’s exp­erience w­ith Au­gusta gov­ern­ment an­d widespr­ead name recognition is both an asset and a potential liability, Commis­sioner Donnie Smith said.

“I think Fred Russell has a great deal of institutional knowledge because he was the head of our government for 10 years,” said Smith, who butted heads with Russell over budgetary issues last year. “The second part of that is people either genuinely like Fred, or they genuinely dislike Fred. There are not a lot of people in the middle.”

If elected, Russell will have to choose a path, Smith said.

Mayor Deke Copenhaver focused heavily, with Rus­sell’s help, on economic development and spoke often on the city’s behalf at national events. He appeared frequently at local events such as ribbon cuttings and played host to monthly community prayer breakfasts.

“Deke has been pretty focused on economic development; what would Fred want to do?” Smith said. “Would he be active in trying to focus on the operations of the government, would he want to be focused on the recruitment of industry, the image the city has, or would he be focused on some of those partisan groups who have lined up to help him?”

Smith said the next mayor must grasp the importance of managing growth from the arrival of the Army Cyber Com­mand at Fort Gordon, which is expected to bring thousands of high-paying jobs to the region.

“Our next mayor needs to be prepared to handle the growth that is imminent due to Cyber Command, the Georgia Regents University-Augusta expansion, and other possible economic development opportunities,” said Commissioner Mary Davis, who declined to endorse a candidate.

None of the commissioners reached last week would endorse Russell or any other of the six candidates running for mayor.

For one, the decision was very easy. Commissioner Alvin Mason is running for mayor himself and, whether elected or not, will not be working with Russell in January 2015.

“The registered voters of Augusta will judge us all,” Ma­son said. “As a 20-year veteran who defended the freedoms of this nation, it would be hypocritical to say anything negative about Fred running.”

Mayor Pro Tem Corey John­son, who is seeking the state Senate District 22 seat being vacated by Sen. Hardie Davis, who is also running for mayor, said Russell had developed many relationships and skills that will help him, including dealing with the commission.

“Fred has a clue,” John­son said. “He can do mayor all day long. You can’t question his fortitude to do the job.”
As administrator, Russell bore most public criticism over the government’s activities, such as issues arising during construction of large city projects, including the downtown library and convention center.

Johnson said he liked all the candidates and wasn’t going to get involved in the mayor’s race.

Commissioner Bill Fen­noy, whose downtown District 1 has been the focus of most city government construction and development initiatives, also declined to endorse any candidate and said he will work with whoever wins.

“I think Fred is very knowledgeable about day-to-day operations and the projects the city has started,” Fennoy said. “We have some good qualified candidates. … Hopefully they are all running to improve the quality of life for all the citizens of Augusta-Richmond County.”

Super District 10 Com­mis­sion­er Grady Smith, who is facing re-election, backed off from endorsing Rus­sell, though he was the only commissioner to openly disagree
with the decision to fire him.
“I admire somebody who will stick their neck out on the line,” Smith said. “Right now, since I’m in the ball game and having to run my race again, the safest thing is running my race on what I’ve done the past three years and let each other person run their own race – there are good, qualified candidates running
for mayor – and the chips will fall where they may.”

Russell did not respond to a request for comment. The only commissioner who has endorsed Russell, Joe Jackson, also did not return calls seeking comment.

Comments (28) Add comment
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Conservative Man
5577
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Conservative Man 02/01/14 - 08:34 pm
9
2
This column verifies…..

… that this is one of the MOST unpopular candidates to run for public office in many a year….

Methinks this is less about Fred's wanting the office, than it is about those who are backing him wanting to keep the status quo in place...

dichotomy
34495
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dichotomy 02/01/14 - 09:31 pm
13
3
Hmmm, "what, me worry"

Hmmm, "what, me worry" Russell or "skybox, let's go to Vegas" Mason.

Welcome Mayor Russell.

Hey, it ain't like we have any outstanding choices. It might be nice to actually have a mayor that could read and understand the budget and explain it to the commissioners.

countyman
20628
Points
countyman 02/01/14 - 09:38 pm
4
11
Vote

Hardie Davis..

Pops
10574
Points
Pops 02/01/14 - 10:27 pm
7
2
The job is

ceremonial akin to the British monarchy. It's a waste of time talking about who will get the high paying, high profile, do-nothing job.

Graymare
3373
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Graymare 02/01/14 - 10:36 pm
11
0
He was cunning enough to

He was cunning enough to maneuver himself into a hefty severance package by getting fired, instead of the inept commissioners waiting for him to retire in a few more weeks. They should have had to pay him out of their own money instead of taxpayers footing the cost for that faux pas. Or was it really a faux pas? Perhaps he can maneuver them into other things too. Never a dull moment in this county and I'm sure that trend will continue. P.S., before Deke ran for office I had never heard of him. I venture to guess most citizens (not the elite) hadn't heard of him either.

Graymare
3373
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Graymare 02/01/14 - 10:38 pm
6
0
For Pops

Then maybe we should elect Marion Williams for the mayor's seat. Sounds like it would suit him perfectly! lol!

jwilliams
960
Points
jwilliams 02/01/14 - 10:39 pm
11
0
Statement from Corey “Because

Statement from Corey “Because I’m Great” Johnson (his words not mine), Johnson said he liked all the candidates and wasn’t going to get involved in the mayor’s race. “It’s going to be interesting, there’s no doubt about that,” Johnson said. “Great One”, you won’t have time to be concerned with anyone else’s race, because you will have your hands full in your own race, and that what’s going to be interesting. You are being “USED’ to push the agenda of a few that do not live in district 22 and cannot vote for you , over the many that live in district 22 and WILL NOT vote for you based on your do nothing history on the commission. There are many good people of commission district 2 that are still waiting on you to do what “YOU” told them you would do in your first term as commissioner to no avail. We the good people of senate seat district 22 deserve better, let’s send Corey “Because I’m Great” Johnson (who hasn’t done anything great as a commissioner) to the house for good.

corgimom
34215
Points
corgimom 02/01/14 - 10:40 pm
4
7
It's going to be a black

It's going to be a black candidate.

Little Lamb
47012
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Little Lamb 02/01/14 - 10:44 pm
12
0
Not Quite

Susan McCord wrote:

Russell . . . managed the city government for 10 years . . . .

Actually, it would be more accurate to say that the city managed him. Russell just played rope-a-dope with the commissioners and allowed private interests such as Billy Morris and Paul Simon and Julian Osbon and Dan Blanton to call the shots.

Conservative Man
5577
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Conservative Man 02/01/14 - 11:12 pm
6
0
Agree with LL, and disagree with Pops!….

…Why?…
LL is right..It is common knowledge that those at the highest levels of government in RC are nothing more than shills for the five or six families who have run this county for generations….if THEY don't agree with it , it won't happen…

Pops ….I disagree….Why?

The ARC charter clearly states: "It shall be the duty of the Mayor to ensure that all codes and ordinances are enforced"

That sounds like real power to me….

What we've had for 9 years is a Mayor who has made a conscious effort to concentrate on issues "behind the scenes"…Much like those who put him in power…Rather than leading , he has been "cheerleading"…

Fine …but remember, the "cheerleaders" don't win the game…the actual "leaders" do…
Augusta needs a leader ….not another cheerleader..

And my take is that Fred Russell will be just another "shill" …not a leader..

I've said it before, and I'll say it once again…as a conservative, and given what I know about the candidates in this race, I will NOT vote for Mr. Russell for Mayor..

corgimom
34215
Points
corgimom 02/02/14 - 01:46 am
3
2
The ARC charter clearly

The ARC charter clearly states: "It shall be the duty of the Mayor to ensure that all codes and ordinances are enforced"

Just ask Lori Davis about that one.

And I, too, agree with LL.

InvestedInAugusta
32
Points
InvestedInAugusta 02/02/14 - 02:11 am
5
2
Mary, Mary, quite contrary
Unpublished

Mary, Mary, quite contrary,
Freddie and Teresa how does your libido grow? The scandal that is brewing over a shared blond skeleton.

dickworth1
954
Points
dickworth1 02/02/14 - 05:56 am
5
2
go fred
Unpublished

I am sure a lot of commissioners and city dept. heads and workers are not backing fred, but I will support fred for mayor.

geecheeriverman
3106
Points
geecheeriverman 02/02/14 - 06:45 am
9
1
invested in augusta

is there something here that we will soon hear about?

Riverman1
87133
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Riverman1 02/02/14 - 09:42 am
6
2
I don't hear any of the

I don't hear any of the regulars supporting another candidate which is interesting. Not much to choose from.

diamond in the rough
45
Points
diamond in the rough 02/02/14 - 10:50 am
5
1
Here we go again!

I guess nothing was learnt from 2008 & 2012 Presidential elections. Let's NOT make the same mistake again. Vote NOT by color of skin. BEWARE OF: stalking-horse - a candidate put forward to divide the Opposition or to mask the true candidate

corgimom
34215
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corgimom 02/02/14 - 11:10 am
0
3
Is Fred married?

Is Fred married?

InvestedInAugusta
32
Points
InvestedInAugusta 02/02/14 - 12:08 pm
2
1
Fred is married and has a
Unpublished

Fred is married and has a blond skeleton that is toxic.

dichotomy
34495
Points
dichotomy 02/02/14 - 12:14 pm
3
1
"has a blond skeleton that is

"has a blond skeleton that is toxic."

Unless it's worse than Bill Clinton I don't care.

micbare
18
Points
micbare 02/02/14 - 12:16 pm
2
0
Winters for mayor

Does anybody know if Ken Winters is running for mayor?

seenitB4
90981
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seenitB4 02/02/14 - 12:22 pm
2
2
Invested

When you say Freddie & Teresa ..do you mean Sanders??

southern2
6629
Points
southern2 02/02/14 - 12:23 pm
4
2
Never was a big Fred fan but

Never was a big Fred fan but if rattles Lockett and Williams he has my vote!

Graymare
3373
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Graymare 02/02/14 - 12:30 pm
2
0
LMAO! Let the games

LMAO! Let the games continue! Things that make you wanna go hmmm? To quote a country song, "God is Great, beer is good, and people are crazy"!

badmoon426
1187
Points
badmoon426 02/02/14 - 12:33 pm
4
0
Some questions you should ask the candidate...

...Fred Russell.

Exactly how can he explain the contract that is so one sided in favor of the Marriott Hotel.

Augusta Richmond County takes 100% of any losses and Augusta Richmond County gets a very small share of any profits?

Why did the contract pay for the remodeling of the kitchen facilities for the Marriott Hotel and exactly where did the new kitchen equipment end up? The purchase of the new equipment was paid for by the taxpayers and there should be an accounting for this.

Why does the ARC taxpayers have to foot the bill to keep the kitchen stocked all the times including times when the TEE Center is not in use?

There are plenty more questions I could ask regarding the TEE Center and its parking deck mess, the LWB Overlay mess and the lack of transparency with public hearings regarding the EZ, OZ and TAD processes in ARC.

The person at the center of it all was Fred Russell...

InvestedInAugusta
32
Points
InvestedInAugusta 02/02/14 - 12:39 pm
4
0
seenitB4, Freddie is Fred
Unpublished

seenitB4, Freddie is Fred Russell.

dichotomy, Would you care if the city does business with the little blond skeleton?

Georgialina
7441
Points
Georgialina 02/02/14 - 12:45 pm
3
1
Vote for Fred ???

Not that I am a big fan of Fred, I do think it would be hilarious to watch him interact daily with the commissioners who clearly hate him. They may not have said it in the article but anyone who spends any time in the Marble Palace knows there is no love lost between several of the comish and Fred. The next four years would be like a 3 ring circus. Not much would get done in the City but it sure would be entertaining.

seenitB4
90981
Points
seenitB4 02/02/14 - 01:00 pm
2
1
invested

Thank you for clearing that up.:)

Establishment
64
Points
Establishment 02/02/14 - 01:12 pm
1
1
The Establishment

We approve of this choice. Augusta will elect an African American mayor instead of Mr. Russell, and then enlarge his or her powers since Race will no longer be a factor. At the next election cycle, We in the Establishment will install the next Establishment mayor into a more powerful office. Thank you for the Convention Center, btw. That is all.

corgimom
34215
Points
corgimom 02/02/14 - 04:36 pm
1
1
I think Establishment ^^^^^

I think Establishment ^^^^^ is making a very plausible scenario in the first part, but not about the second part.

The blacks in Augusta have figured out how to win elections, and they aren't going to stop now.

Little Lamb
47012
Points
Little Lamb 02/02/14 - 04:42 pm
2
2
At Last

I'm glad a member of the establishment has created a screen name and presence on this forum. We will be glad to get your ideas and opinions whenever you deign to address us.

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