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Small-town dysfunction

David Epps's picture

Generally I stay away from local politics in this column unless something that happens rises to astronomical levels of absurdity — then I may wade into that murky water a bit.

In Grantville, Ga., just a few miles from my home, the antics of the City Council have tweaked the local newspaper in Coweta County enough that there have been several editorials lamenting said absurdity. Last week, the City Council finally got my attention.

It seems that the Grantville City Council went into a closed session and, when they returned to the council chambers, they voted unanimously to fire the city manager, Johnny Williams. No reason was given.

The city manager said, “This came as a total surprise to me ... I’ve been totally blindsided.” Apparently, Mr. Williams’ evaluations have all been good and he was not given a reason why the action was taken. In fact, only two months ago, Williams was given a new contract.

Williams said that, just days prior to the vote, the mayor told him that he had the “support of the majority of the council.” The mayor said that Williams “has done a good job, but the council has decided to move in a new direction.”

The council didn’t know that two months ago? Williams was on the job only two years so it’s not like he was an entrenched bureaucrat. Why does a man who has done a good job get fired? My guess is that small-town politics is at work again.

Over the years I have seen the same kind of decision-making and dysfunction played out in small churches where, for the first time in their lives, people on the church boards had gained a certain amount of power.

A few years ago, the local boards of churches of a certain evangelical denomination fired or forced the termination of approximately three pastors a week. Only a few of these actions were taken as a response to immorality or some serious charge. Most terminations were in small congregations and most were about power. Larger churches have generally outgrown such silliness.

In a town in Georgia a few years ago, there existed a church that the clergy in the denomination called a “pastor killer.” The board seemed to always find a way to fire the pastor before he could get his feet wet. I started telling my friends that, when the pulpit became vacant, they should not even consider going there. Others did the same. Word spread and, before long, no one would go to serve that church. The church died and was buried, never to kill another pastor.

Maybe that’s the way to deal with small-town political dysfunction. Perhaps no one should accept employment in a town like that. If firefighters, police officers, and other professionals refused to work in those kind of towns, maybe things would change. Perhaps business should re-think locating within its city limits. People looking for housing might be better served by buying houses elsewhere.

The best way, of course, is for the townspeople themselves — the voters — to stop putting up with the antics of politicians who publicly embarrass their community on a continual basis. If they will not do that, then the voters have no one but themselves to blame.

[David Epps is the pastor of the Cathedral of Christ the King, Sharpsburg, GA (www.ctkcec.org). He is the bishop of the Mid-South Diocese which consists of Georgia and Tennessee (www.midsouthdiocese.org) and the Associate Endorser for U. S. Military Chaplains, ICCEC. He may contacted at frepps@ctkcec.org.]

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