Two Hoschton City Council members are renouncing recent comments by the city’s mayor and mayor pro tem and are calling for their resignation.
The issue involves racial comments during the recent search to fill a vacant city administrator position in Hoschton.
MAYOR ‘DIDN’T KNOW IF HOSCHTON WAS READY’ FOR BLACK CITY ADMIN
Council member Susan Powers said Mayor Theresa Kenerly and a panel conducted the first round of interviews for the candidates. The council was presented with three resumes.
“…We were told we had four qualified candidates. And we asked to see that fourth resume,” said Powers.
That fourth resume was for Keith Henry.
Council member Hope Weeks said Kenerly later told her Henry was a really good candidate, “but he’s black.” Weeks said Kenerly told her she didn’t know “if the community and Hoschton is ready for that” and that the city didn’t have a large black population.
“I was appalled,” said Weeks.
Powers and Weeks took the issue to the city attorney. Weeks said they came together to decide how to proceed and make sure Henry was given a fair chance.
They decided the mayor could be present at the meetings, but couldn’t speak, and that in-person interviews would be conducted for all four candidates.
Powers said she still took exception to Kenerly being in the room. She said the mayor later told them she would take the recommendation of Mayor Pro Tem Jim Cleveland.
Henry had withdrawn his candidacy at that point, however, taking a position in Texas. (He withdrew after the council began scheduling the four in-person interviews.)
The council unanimously decided on its top pick, Dale Hall.
Powers and Weeks said Hall and Henry were their top two picks.
CLEVELAND’S COMMENTS ‘APPALLING’
The story was first reported by the Atlanta-Journal Constitution on Monday, May 6.
In that story, Kenerly denies making the comment and Cleveland defends Kenerly and shares his beliefs on race.
“I’m a Christian and my Christian beliefs are you don’t do interracial marriage,” the story quotes Cleveland as saying. “That’s the way I was brought up and that’s the way I believe. I have black friends, I hired black people. But when it comes to all this stuff you see on TV, when you see blacks and whites together, it makes my blood boil because that’s just not the way a Christian is supposed to live.”
Powers and Weeks said Cleveland’s comments were appalling.
“I thought they were beyond horrendous,” said Powers. “I felt like I was reading something out of the 1950s.”
“Those comments don’t represent me, the city as an organization or our community,” Weeks echoed. “It’s absolutely just appalling.”
Powers and Weeks both said the incident has shocked them.
CALLING FOR RESIGNATION
Both Powers and Weeks said they think the two council members need to resign.
“If (Kenerly) loves Hoschton as much as she says she does, she will,” said Powers. “I believe if they resign that we will move forward. But as long as they’re in those two seats, we can’t do that.”
“I think it would be in the best interest of the city (if the two of them would resign),” said Weeks. “I think at this point, the city needs to be able to move forward without this hanging over our heads.”
Powers said comments on social media have rumored that she and Weeks want the mayor position.
“That cannot be further from the truth,” said Powers.
Some comments also reportedly claimed the two women are “left-wing.” (Both Powers and Weeks hold executive committee positions in area Republican Party groups.)
The Jackson County GOP also weighed in on the issue, defending Powers and Weeks in a social media post.
"As the Chair of the Jackson County Republican Party, I’m infuriated at what I just read," said GOP chair Katie Griffin. "However, I’m so proud of my treasurer, Hope Weeks and our 9th District secretary, Susan Powers, for taking a stand. These comments do not reflect our county or our party. Thank you, Hope and Susan, for fighting against racism."