Sylvia Cooper

City Ink columnist and correspondent for The Augusta Chronicle.

Russell looks like mayoral candidate

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Fired City Adminis­trator Fred Russell wants to be the next mayor of Augusta. He’s just not ready to say so.

After losing his office in the Marble Palace on New Year’s Eve by an unexpected 7-0 commission vote two weeks before Christmas, Rus­­sell set up shop on Broad Street, where he’s been seen smiling (for the first time in 12 years) and shaking hands with folks before entering and leaving his new office at the Coffee Break Café.

A table there isn’t nearly as impressive as his former desk, and the telephone doesn’t ring like it used to, but the folks he’s been meeting with – local politicians, businessmen and church leaders – don’t insult him and his staff just to get a little face time on TV. Besides, the coffee’s better.

Some folks say Russell shouldn’t run for mayor because it would be awkward trying to work with the commissioners who fired him. Well, it might be awkward for them, but not for him. Con­sidering his previous working conditions of overseeing 2,400 employees and multimillion-dollar building projects while answering to 10 big egos in search of a scapegoat, mayoral duties such as promoting the city, cutting ribbons and speaking to the Kiwanis Club would be like falling off a log.

Besides, three commissioners who voted to fire him won’t be there after this year. Joe Jackson, Corey Johnson and Al Mason go off the board Dec. 31. And 10th District Commissioner Grady Smith, who definitely plans to run for re-election this year, wasn’t there during the firing but said he wouldn’t have voted to do it.

I’LL DO ANYTHING. JUST LET ME OUT OF HERE! Sources say some commissioners who voted to fire Russell are wishing they hadn’t.

At least not the way they did. Although it sounds like a pretty lame excuse, they say after two hours cooped up with Commissioner Mar­ion Williams calling for Rus­sell’s head, they just decided to go ahead and get it over with.

WHEN YOU’RE NO LONGER SOMEBODY, NOBODY KNOWS YOUR NAME: Russell and his wife, Teresa, were among about 200 folks who attended Rich­mond County Sheriff Richard Roundtree’s 2nd Annual Gala on Friday night at the Legends Club.

Many top politicians attending the gala felt comfortable at the club because, as we all know, they’re legends in their own minds.

Mayoral candidate state Sen. Hardie Davis failed Politics 101 by not being in the room when his name was called during the introductions. Others present were Mayor Deke Copenhaver; State Court Solicitor Kellie McIntyre; commissioners Mason and Williams; Randy Frails, the new attorney for the sheriff’s office; and U.S. Rep. John Barrow.

Probably for the first time since being named administrator, Russell was not among those introduced during ceremonies acknowledging VIPs, an omission the mayor remedied when it came his turn to speak. Much to his credit, he introduced Russell to a hearty round of applause.

After a dinner and silent auction, Round­tree donned his auctioneer’s hat to raise money for local charities and amazed the crowd by sounding like the real thing.

SEVERANCE IS SUCH SWEET SORROW: The city and Russell have agreed on his severance package: six months’ salary and benefits. He said he had no intention of trying to double dip and seek the package outlined in his employment letter and the one in the city’s personnel and policy manual.

WATCHING COMMISSIONERS IS ENTERTAINMENT ENOUGH: It’s not that I don’t believe Johnson when he said he’s been working on a plan for the past three years to create College Row, a mixed-use and entertainment district for college students along Walton Way between Summerville and downtown Augusta. It just seems strange that he never mentioned it until he decided to run for the state Senate.

Since many people know big plans are in the works for 15th Street, the MCG Foun­dation property in the Kroger shopping center and Walton Way, could this be a case of planting your flag to see which way the wind is blowing and going that way?

Actually, it sounds like some campaign advisor told Johnson he needed a positive project to campaign on.

Meanwhile, Mason wants to tear down the river levee and create a Leveeless District, which isn’t a bad idea until you start thinking about what the city would do with who-knows-how-many-billions of tons of contaminated dirt.

PARTING IS SUCH SWEET SORROW WHEN YOU’RE NOT THE ONE LEAVING: Russell’s firing and the cold, gray weather put me in mind of the many government officials I’ve seen come and go during my years with The Augusta Chronicle.

Some of them left on their own. Some left before they could be fired. Some were fired. And some died in office. And almost without exception I wrote their obituaries. So when pompous officials tried to hide information or shut me out of a meeting, I’d warn them to be careful because I’d have the last word to say about them when they died. That might not have been exactly ethical, journalistically speaking, but I got a kick out of it.

The first administrator I saw who was “asked to resign” was Robert Dixon in 1992. He went on to have a career in real estate, and I see his postings on Face­book from time to time.

Augusta Mayor Charles DeVaney lost his job when the city and Richmond Coun­ty consolidated in 1996. He’d served the rest of Mayor Ed McIntyre’s term when McIntyre went to prison, then had three more three-year terms.

As I wrote after his funeral in 2007, DeVaney was the smartest man in town. He was a gentleman and a scholar. He’d been to Russia and England, France and Ja­pan many times over. He could play politics as well as the piano. He knew everything about everything and everybody and loved a good gossip.

He was a wonderful speaker and could, as former City Councilwoman Carolyn Usry once said, speak with aplomb on almost any subject.

“If you said, ‘Charles, get up and talk about brain surgery, he could do it,’” she said. But, according to Usry, he wasn’t perfect. The two had some legendary battles while he was mayor and she was on the city council. She got so mad at him one time when he thwarted one of her political ploys that she threw her purse from one end of the hall to the other in the Marble Palace.

They eventually outlived their feuds, mostly. I wrote her obituary when she died in 2007.

The second administrator I saw fired was Linda Beaz­ley, who was interim administrator along with Charles Dillard, immediately after consolidation. Mayor Larry Sconyers wrote each a letter stating their services would no longer be needed. Beazley went on to work in the secretary of state’s office in Atlanta, and Dillard went to work for an Augusta engineering firm.

Beazley died in 2011, and I wrote her obituary.

I did an in-depth interview with Coroner LeRoy Sims as he sat behind his desk at his Bay Street office in 2001. He was smoking forbidden cigarettes and thumping the ashes into a Coca-Cola can. Two years later, I wrote his obituary.

I also wrote a long feature story about Sheriff Charlie Webster before his retirement in 2000. He was sheriff from 1984 until 2000. He died in 2012.

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Riverman1
93481
Points
Riverman1 01/04/14 - 09:05 pm
12
2
Ashes in the Coke Can

If I were Fred Russell after this column, I’d go get my doctor to give me a good physical.

Little Lamb
48959
Points
Little Lamb 01/04/14 - 09:33 pm
5
2
:-)

Good one, RM.

jwilliams
1111
Points
jwilliams 01/04/14 - 10:49 pm
11
2
Sylvia your assertion of

Sylvia your assertion of Corey “Because I’m Great” Johnson (his words not mine) is right on point. There is “NOTHING” original about this guy. If he’s saying it you can bet your last dollar he heard it from someone else, or was told to say it by someone. This is indeed a good idea, but let us not “CROWN” the “Great One” yet. Anyone that thinks that Corey “Because I’m Great” Johnson came up with this plan all by his lonesome should take a look at this; taken from the Augusta Chronicle 2011, Commissioner Corey Johnson said he mistakenly (I’m glad on one’s life was hanging in the balance) voted in favor of The Patch in Augusta LLC, thinking it was "James Kendrick's thing." This occurred during a regular ARC commission meeting on 7/19/2011, Also at that same meeting in reference to this same item (no. 25), “The Great One” stated after several questions that “I just wanted to be clear on what we was doing with this item.” I guess he wasn’t as clear as he thought (and he never is), because through his own admission he “MESSED UP.” Is this the type of INCOMPETENCE, UNPREPAREDNESS, and DECEPTIVENESS the good people of district 22 want representing them under the golden dome? But wait here’s more on Corey “Because I’m Great” Johnson taken from the Augusta Chronicle 2010, City employees are holding their breath, waiting to hear whether they'll have jobs next year, after City Administrator Fred Russell announced his extreme government makeover. Meanwhile, Commissioner Corey Johnson is in Denver at the National League of Cities Conference at taxpayers' expense, without having paid his property taxes this year. Commissioner Joe Jackson said "Just because you can do it doesn't make it right," he said. "I don't think he's representing his district. We're spending a thousand dollars to send him out of town, and we're furloughing firefighters and policemen." I wonder how many of those furloughed employees currently reside in district 22.

dichotomy
37414
Points
dichotomy 01/05/14 - 12:21 am
11
1
"At least not the way they

"At least not the way they did. Although it sounds like a pretty lame excuse, they say after two hours cooped up with Commissioner Mar­ion Williams calling for Rus­sell’s head, they just decided to go ahead and get it over with."

And any commissioner who would fold up and do Williams' bidding doesn't deserve to be on the commission. They have basically admitted they would vote for ANYTHING just to get Williams to shut up. You cannot vote for things just because some babbling idiot won't quit talking.......especially in THIS town where we have so many babbling idiots on our commission.

Apparently the 2 commissioners who went along with this even though they knew what they were doing was not appropriate do not have what it takes to handle the job and stand up for what is right. It makes me think that if Williams would keep flapping his gums about ANYTHING they would vote with him just to shut him up. They set a dangerous precedent. "Let's just give him what he wants to shut him up."

I understand why 5 of them voted to fire Russell because I know their primary motivation. The other 2 should resign in shame for going along with them. Regardless of whether what they did was right or wrong, they WAY it was done was WRONG. If you will cave in and do things the wrong way....you will also cave in and do the WRONG things.....just to shut the idiots up.

jwilliams
1111
Points
jwilliams 01/05/14 - 06:14 am
8
1
Hello dichotomy, in respect

Hello dichotomy, in respect to Mary Davis (who is one of the two that you are referring to); you may have to be “PATIENT” with her pertaining to her voting ability. You see, according to her, she just recently “LEARNED” that her vote made a difference. Good people/voters of precincts 306/310 “YOU” deserve better. Wake up ARC!

agustinian
723
Points
agustinian 01/05/14 - 07:17 am
3
1
Ink by the Barrelful

The old adage used to be, never tick off people who buy ink by the barrelful (the press).
Now it is: Never tick off people who ply "city ink" in the "url"-ful.

Riverman1
93481
Points
Riverman1 01/05/14 - 07:49 am
4
4
Trying To Figure Out The Correlation

I'm trying to figure out why JWilliams dislikes Mary Davis and Corey Johnson so much? What's the correlation?

rebellious
21838
Points
rebellious 01/05/14 - 07:52 am
12
1
Fred as mayor

is an interesting "what if" to ponder. Given his proven ability to bob and weave, obfuscate, twist and turn, pick and roll, duck and cover, etc... he may be moderately as effective as the sitting "hizzoner". But that ain't saying much. I would be more concerned with him as mayor, with easy and ready access to a new administrator, exerting and inserting influence to produce the same unproductive government of the past. And what are we doing here in Augusta if nothing more than playing musical chairs with politicians? Let's see:
Administrator wants to be Mayor
Mayor wants to be ......(TBA)
Commissioner wants to be Senator
Senator wants to be mayor
Term limited commissioner is now district 9 commissioner
Resigned Investigator is now Sheriff

Time for Augusta to start refreshing our wardrobe. The old threads are looking tattered.

teaparty
11313
Points
teaparty 01/05/14 - 07:52 am
7
4
Is it April fool's day
Unpublished

Is it April fool's day already? Oh I forgot it is always April's fool's day in Augusta.

diamond in the rough
45
Points
diamond in the rough 01/05/14 - 08:05 am
2
2
Wow didn't see that coming!

Wow didn't see that coming! Not sure if he will be able to pull it off!

jwilliams
1111
Points
jwilliams 01/05/14 - 08:40 am
6
2
Hello RM you posted, “I'm

Hello RM you posted, “I'm trying to figure out why JWilliams dislikes Mary Davis and Corey Johnson so much? What's the correlation?” First of all I do not dislike these two individuals I am only reprinting “TRUE” documented statements (not lies) that “THEY” themselves said. I did not give Corey “Because I’m Great “Johnson his title, “HE” did so himself on a local morning radio show with thousands of listeners listening in. I did not hinder Mary Davis from voting as an adult, “SHE” chose not to on “HER” own, although early voting and absentee ballots were available. As to the correlation; can you say mediocrity?

nocnoc
49121
Points
nocnoc 01/05/14 - 08:58 am
6
1
Mixed feelings on my side

Fred had to go as a City Admin, there was no doubt.
But we must also remember he was given budgeting requests to fill by 8 district commissioners. The required result would always be, for ANY person appointed City Admin, to present a proposed budget to meets those requests. So the blame dumped on him also needs a little sharing.

By ARC Charter,
the mayor is a politically designed weak position and can do little harm or no help when 6 Commissioners agree on something. We have see from time to time they can agree on some really stupid costly things, while playing tit for tat with taxpayer $$$$.

Yes I could enjoy seeing Fred as mayor for 1 term and the feathers it would ruffle, at least of 5 maybe 6 downtown commissioners would pop a cork.

But seriously we all need to look beyond tossing gas on the elected fools downtown, just to start another political fight that surely will cost the Taxpayers $$$$ in the end.

corgimom
38318
Points
corgimom 01/05/14 - 08:48 am
7
2
Only in Augusta does a fired

Only in Augusta does a fired city administrator want to run for mayor!

Does that mean the Paine College gig fell through?

Riverman1
93481
Points
Riverman1 01/05/14 - 09:02 am
6
2
Equal Opportunity Targets

JWilliams, it seems you zero in on those two. I see what you're talking about, but couldn't you also find similar faults with most of the others on the Commission? To me the entire Commission and Mayor are equal opportunity targets.

Little Lamb
48959
Points
Little Lamb 01/05/14 - 09:20 am
6
2
Faults

Exactly right, RM. I had high hopes when Comm. Donnie Smith was elected. I even had a campaign sign for him out in my front yard. But he has been disappointing to me. He has no cogent and consistent philosophy of government. It's just what seems good to him at the moment. Perhaps he learned this method of interacting with the public while training and working in the State Patrol. Just do whatever it takes to survive the moment.

Likewise, Comm. Grady Smith is just in it for himself — from the golf course debacle to the unethical seeking and accepting city contracts for his business.

And Comm. Bill Lockett has become star-struck with businessman Paul Simon and wants to follow him everywhere.

Bulldog
1333
Points
Bulldog 01/05/14 - 09:44 am
5
0
Mayoral election

As we all know, it is often very difficult to get "good" people to run for public office. I suspect, that at least as far as our mayoral election goes, we will again be trying to pick the best of a bad crop... While Fred may seem like a questionable choice at first blush, he looks a lot better when compared to those already announced. To paraphrase Mr. Gilley; "Don't they all get prettier at closing time?".

Conservative Man
5578
Points
Conservative Man 01/05/14 - 11:30 am
2
1
Run Fred Run!!

……He doesn't stand a chance…with the current demographic makeup in RC the next Mayor is almost assured to be a minority..

But hey, look at all the fun we could have with him in the race...

Riverman1
93481
Points
Riverman1 01/05/14 - 12:00 pm
2
1
Who Would Be Strongest White Candidate?

Conservativeman, who do you see to be the possible strongest white candidate? I agree it's not Russell. What about Mary Davis? She ran Deke's campaigns and knows in detail how to get a white candidate elected even though the city is majority minority (if that phrase makes any sense, heh). Deke had nothing going for him, but money and his campaign manager and staff. Davis knows all the tricks and has the connections passed on from Deke. If she doesn't run, whoever does should hire her.

Darby
29215
Points
Darby 01/05/14 - 12:13 pm
5
2
Fred, a bit of

unsolicited advice..

Stay out of elective politics. You don't have the savvy, the gravitas, or the charisma for it.

They'll eat you alive.

Then there's that matter of where your ancestors originated. That and the fact that this is Augusta and ..........

SemperParatus
3225
Points
SemperParatus 01/05/14 - 01:25 pm
4
0
Although it is probably too

Although it is probably too early to mention, I can't help myself. Since Hardie Davis became a state senator, I have written, e-mailed and called his office seven times regarding various issues and NOT ONCE did he reply. Not once. I know he was getting my messages because I called his state office and his secretary informed me that she gets a duplicate copy of all of his emails in real time! I consider this behavior by Hardie Davis to be rude, unprofessional and, frankly, unacceptable. He and all elected officials WORK FOR US, the taxpayers. He won't receive my vote regardless of what office he is running for. Period.

Little Lamb
48959
Points
Little Lamb 01/05/14 - 01:46 pm
3
1
State Senator

I agree, SemperParatus, that Hardie Davis has been a disappointment as state senator. He likely will be worse as mayor.

countyman
21630
Points
countyman 01/05/14 - 02:38 pm
2
4
Fast pace

The next mayor of Augusta must be able to capitalize on the unprecedented growth taking place. The private developers from across the US don't have the patience for moving slowly. The mayor has to remain focused on the bigger picture and not get bogged down in the frivolous arguments. The mayor will have to use the existing assets to leverage private investment.

New commercial growth in South Augusta, redevelopment of the Regency Mall, expanded public transportation, additional riverfront development, green space in West Augusta, small precinct in the CBD, street car/light rail in the urban core, etc can dramatically help attract the private sector.

The number one priority for the next mayor is to attract jobs, jobs, and more jobs..

blues550
380
Points
blues550 01/05/14 - 02:45 pm
0
0
Several Commissioner Are Now Sorry?
Unpublished

Can guess who they were but how weak can you be...those spineless fools are worse than the Marion Williams Circus.

teaparty
11313
Points
teaparty 01/05/14 - 02:46 pm
4
2
" He doesn't stand a
Unpublished

" He doesn't stand a chance…with the current demographic makeup in RC the next Mayor is almost assured to be a minority.."
You are correct, Augusta will become another Detroit.

countyman
21630
Points
countyman 01/05/14 - 03:10 pm
2
3
Entire metro area of Detroit lost population in the past

Where are the black mayors in Columbia or Aiken Counties? The comments related to any particular race are hilarious considering the slim amount of black leaders in either county. The current mayor of Augusta is white and he won two straight elections with over 60% of the vote.

The city of Detroit is turning things around in 2014 and the same few people only mentioned the city because they have a lot of black people. The city of Atlanta is growing and their black population is huge.

Private developers will look at the facts(Cyber Command, Medical Commons, 2nd in high tech job, Starbucks plant, etc) and that's why H&M announced their new Augusta mall store even before the Charlotte(2.2 metro) location..

I also hope that people realize if Augusta were to become another Detroit. Both Columbia County and Aiken County would immediately start to lose population, jobs, etc.. I would really feel sorry for Columbia County since almost 30,000 people commute into RC for employment daily..

Instead of the always pointing the finger at the city of Augusta or Richmond County. The CSRA would be in a much better position if the suburban counties spent more time focusing on their own dirty laundry..

corgimom
38318
Points
corgimom 01/05/14 - 03:17 pm
2
1
Yes, Countyman, that H&M

Yes, Countyman, that H&M announcement makes perfect sense, they are a cheap, discount clothing store, and Augusta fits their niche perfectly.

Hey, Countyman, I drove by your place last night. I wanted to stop by and say hello, but I didn't think you'd like that.

"The number one priority for the next mayor is to attract jobs, jobs, and more jobs.."

No, the number one priority for the next mayor is to attract JOBS THAT PAY PEOPLE A LIVING WAGE and NOT more retail and call centers!

corgimom
38318
Points
corgimom 01/05/14 - 03:18 pm
1
1
But it makes absolute sense

But it makes absolute sense for all the retail to come here, it's a low-education job that doesn't require a high-school diploma. That fits Augusta perfectly.

countyman
21630
Points
countyman 01/05/14 - 04:54 pm
1
2
Corgimom... The sarcastic

Corgimom... The sarcastic opinions won't change the facts on the ground.. Augusta ranked second in the NATION for high tech job growth between 2006-2011..

The city of Augusta had the second fastest percentage for high tech employment in the US and beat out Seattle, Austin, San Jose, Raleigh, Boston, Minneapolis, etc... Augusta did a much better job attracting high tech jobs compare to the city you call home in Charlotte.

The recent jobs include ADP, Rural Sourcing, Starbucks, Rockwood, Cyber Command, etc which aren't call centers or retail.

The additions of Whole Foods, Cabelas, H&M, Michael Kors, etc have more to do more with the prestige versus the quality of jobs.. H&M doesn't open up everywhere and they usually locate in metros with over 1 million people. All of the H&M locations in Georgia are located in metro Atlanta. The state of South Carolina has one in Charleston which just opened but was announced after the Augusta mall store.

I can't wait to hear the amount of spin when the outlet mall comes to Nort Richmond.

countyman
21630
Points
countyman 01/05/14 - 04:56 pm
1
2
Augusta is the next Raleigh

High tech job growth between 2006/2011.. The negative nancies will either have to jump on the bandwagon or watch Augusta leave them behind.

Augusta = 81.9%

Charlotte= 22.3%

Developers are very intrigued by Augusta because we're still the unknown compared to many other cities. The metro area of Charlotte is much closer to their final product versus metro Augusta.

KSL
143536
Points
KSL 01/05/14 - 04:52 pm
2
2
Countyman, Last I knew, Aiken

Countyman,

Last I knew, Aiken Co was 60/40. City of Aiken was 70/30. Aiken County is a unique place with a very unique history. I can not tell you how glad I wound up here.

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