Floyd County Republican Party ads endorsing candidates in the nonpartisan Rome City Commission race weren't meant to signal a politicization of city government, the GOP chair said Tuesday.
"I don't foresee a trend of partisanship. This may be an isolated incident," Andy Garner said. "The point was to let the public know of her affiliation."
Commissioner Wendy Davis was the target of the party's ads that ran in the Rome News-Tribune and aired on WLAQ before the Nov. 7 election.
The lengthy text called her "extremely partisan" and noted that she's a member of the Democratic National Committee and a political consultant "for progressive candidates throughout the state and country." It also asked residents to join the FCGOP in voting for Mayor Jamie Doss, Commissioner Sue Lee and new candidate Randy Quick.
Doss and Quick won two of the three open seats. Davis won the third, with the second-highest number of votes cast in the six-person race, behind Doss.
During the Rome City Commission's meeting Monday, resident Nedra Manners said she was disappointed to see party politics injected into the race. She wanted to register her disapproval, she said, because silence is often interpreted as consent.
"That ad was not OK. ... Most issues aren't about politics, and something like that splits Rome, Georgia," Manners said. "We have a lot of that going on in our national politics, but Rome, Georgia, is better than that."
Doss and Lee said they were unaware the local Republican Party planned to endorse them and the ads came as a surprise. Doss also pointed out that the commission has adopted a code of conduct to make Rome a certified City of Ethics.
"I firmly believe in the true nonpartisan spirit," the mayor said. "If your political affiliation is more important than your commitment to the city of Rome, that could be a conflict of interest."
Davis was not at the commission meeting, due to illness, and could not be reached for comment Tuesday.
However, the Democratic political operative has previously said that she deliberately keeps her professional life separate from her city commission role. The issue has never been raised during her four years in office.
Garner described it differently, saying her work is "the worst-kept secret in town, and we just felt like the voters ought to know." He pointed out that Davis' campaign received significant financial support from prominent Democrats outside the county.
"The three (candidates) we endorsed — we felt like they aligned most closely with our conservative values ... We felt like we could endorse who we wanted to, like groups do all the time," Garner added.
Quick, who will start his first term in January, said Tuesday that he was not involved in the FCGOP's decision to run the ads. He did know they would run, he said, because as a co-owner of WLAQ he was aware that Garner had recorded an ad and bought time on the station's programming.
He also said the Floyd County Democratic Party had endorsed candidates in the 2012 and 2016 county commission elections, "so (the station) didn't see anything wrong with that." Unlike the city commission, the Floyd County Commission seats are partisan and candidates qualify as Republicans or Democrats.
Quick followed Doss and Lee in saying an endorsement by the local Republican Party would not affect his service on the board.
"The object of this city commission is to manage the affairs of the city and work with the city manager effectively," he said. "I didn't go into this with the idea of advancing a political position; my job is to make this town a better place."
Also on Monday, the City Commission approved a special use permit to allow Dean Plaza, at 1401 Dean St., to be remodeled to house indoor mini-warehouses.
The board also accepted the draft 2018 budgets, with plans for a public hearing on Dec. 11 and adoption on Dec. 18. The documents can be viewed at City Hall, 601 Broad St., or online at romefloyd.com.
A Little Caesars pizza, sweet tea, hot chocolate, blankets and an air mattress have been the essential ingredients for one family's setup for the Rome Christmas Parade eight years running. And none of that changed Tuesday night.
Judy Reynolds and Senika Turman have made the parade a mainstay holiday event for their 8-yearold daughter Tra'Yanna Cronon for as long as she's been alive. The air mattress keeps all the family in one place, Reynolds said, and it brings some added comfort to watching the stream of floats go by.
Family is what Christmas is all about, Reynolds said.
"Family and the baby Jesus," Cronon added.
This year's parade was the first for Shelley Hawkins, she said, as she and her family usually attend the one in Summerville due to their home being near the county line. But she couldn't miss her daughter Mattison Hawkins, who took part in the parade along with fellow members of the Armuchee High state champion competition cheer team.
There's definitely something special added to watching a parade when your daughter is in it, she said, as parents sit through just about anything, including all sorts of weather, for their kids.
To get a prime spot for parking on Broad Street, Julius Ragland said he parks his car around 4 p.m. each year, securing a location to watch the parade with his family from the back of his SUV. Watching all the different floats surrounded by his family and his community is something special, he said, and has kept him coming back for over 24 years.
In the background of the crowd were Michelle and Barry Dyer, ringing bells for The Salvation Army and standing beside their red kettle. Barry Dyer admitted his wife does it more often than he does, but it's tough to compete with someone who volunteers for just about everything come Christmastime.
At the end of the parade, Hollywood Baptist Church won Best in Parade. In the adult category winners are: Pridemore Cox Orthodontics in first, Rome Passion Play in second, Redmond Regional Medical Center in third, South Broad Baptist in fourth, Floyd County Sheriff's CHAMPS in fifth and Glitz & Glamour in sixth. In the children's category, West End Elementary won first, Dykes Creek Baptist Student Ministry won second, Cub Scout Pack 81 won third, and Rome Aerials won fourth.
The Rome-Floyd Chamber of Commerce will be temporarily relocating its offices at the Georgia Power building at 800 Broad St. this Thursday.
The Chamber is making the temporary move to facilitate the first major makeover of the Chamber building at 1 Riverside Parkway, a process which is expected to be complete by May 1, 2018.
Hodge said the renovations will offer visitors to the Chamber a much nicer first impression of the community. He said the Chamber would have much better audio-visual capabilities, in keeping with the Chamber's All Things Digital campaign.
"We do expect to have a more effective layout, greater efficiency for how we operate," Hodge said.
The Chamber has been in its present building, with only very minor modifications, since 1988. John Quinlivan, CEO at Redmond Regional Medical Center and chairman of the Chamber board, said the renovation will reflect Rome's commitment to growth.
"The physical presence of the Chamber will be new, modern, well lit with a lot of glass and high technology that is a real strength for us locally," Quinlivan said. "We want prospective employers to see that we're on the cutting edge."
Chamber President Al Hodge said visitors to the Chamber can park in the surface lot off Turner McCall Boulevard and enter the glass doors where Georgia Power customers used to go pay their bills in person.
"We appreciate Georgia Power accommodating us," Hodge said.
Mark Cochran and Audrey Burton of Cevian Design Lab are handling the design of the new building, while Pinson's Inc. will be the general contractor for the $400,000 project.
Part of the funding for the renovations comes from the Partners in Prosperity program, part comes from reserves that have been saved over the years and a portion of the money will come from special fundraising opportunities.
"It's definitely overdue," Quinlivan said.
Rome officials are working out plans to move the city's mulching operations next month to the property donated by GE near the intersection of Lavender Drive and Redmond Circle.
Public Works Director Chris Jenkins said the current site on Vaughn Road takes in about 15,000 tons of tree limbs, brush and other debris each year.
"But Rome doesn't own that property any more and we need to move by the end of the year," Jenkins told the Solid Waste Commission on Tuesday.
The site was included in the nearly 80 acres off Riverside Parkway that R.H. Ledbetter Properties paid the city $600,000 for last December.
Plans call for developing approximately eight acres near Turner McCall Boulevard with retail and put the rest in a conservation easement. Robert H. Ledbetter, Jr., said earlier this year that the market is slow and the company expects to seek Tax Allocation District financing before starting a project.
Rome Public Services Manager Kirk Milam said the mulch operation would likely be moved to the paved area in front of the GE plant, in the west parking lot.
The operation could be relocated later, Milam said, if a better spot is found.
For now, he said, the GE property is an immediately available and centrally located "stopgap measure."
The operation will be more visible than it is on Vaughn Road, and officials are working out ways to lessen the impact from the street.
"The goal is to site it in (deeper), to where it doesn't become a nuisance to the neighborhood," City Manager Sammy Rich said. "It could be there several years."
The property is zoned for industrial use but it sits off a heavily traveled commercial corridor. Additionally, the bulk of the city-owned tract is heavily wooded and is being used as a nature preserve with bike trails and hiking paths.
Jenkins said moving the mulching operation to the Walker Mountain Landfill would make it inconvenient for dropoffs by contractors clearing land and city yard waste collections.
The debris can't be dumped in the landfill, but International Paper Co. grinds it for free in exchange for biomass to burn in its boilers.
Today's artwork is by Abby Grogan, a sixth-grader at Model Middle School.