For more than two decades, those who have served as the mayor of Augusta have been ineffective.
While that may sound harsh, it’s true.
The mayor hasn’t been anything more than the face and mouthpiece of Augusta-Richmond County.
Whether you are talking about the past leadership of Larry Sconyers, Bob Young, Deke Copenhaver or the current mayor, Hardie Davis, they have all started out with great promise and enthusiasm, just to leave office filled with frustration and disappointment.
Many of the past mayors insist the position needs more power or authority over the Augusta Commission to get anything done.
They have demanded the mayor should be given either veto power or a vote on the commission in order to have a bargaining tool with Augusta commissioners.
But here’s the catch: In order to get any of that accomplished, the mayor must wield great political influence to convince either the local legislative delegation, voters or the Augusta Commission to change the city’s charter.
In more than 20 years, no one has ever come close to showing that kind of political power.
So Augusta has been stuck with mayors whining that their hands are tied.
And what good is that for a city our size?
As of right now, Augusta voters will head to the polls on May 22 and find only one name, incumbent Hardie Davis, on the ballot running for mayor.
Only one person, in this entire city, wants to serve as mayor of Augusta.
That speaks volumes.
So, here are the questions Augustans should be asking themselves: How did we get here? And what can we do to change our future?
It’s time to learn from our past and step into the future.
The need to consolidate
For those who weren’t around 20 years ago, here’s a quick lesson about the consolidation of Augusta-Richmond County.
In the early 1990s, the former government of the city of Augusta was in complete financial turmoil.
In fact, at one point, the city was said to only have approximately $100,000 in cash to cover more than $1 million in bills.
By the summer of 1995, the Augusta City Council faced a budget deficit of $7 million and was forced to lay off a total of 87 employees.
The city was in complete shock.
Augusta’s city comptroller at the time, Aurelia Epperson, abruptly resigned after revealing that then-Augusta Mayor Charles DeVaney had been aware of the city’s financial woes for almost a year.
DeVaney, the popular, longtime mayor of Augusta, suddenly found himself slapped with a “no confidence” vote from the City Council.
The city of Augusta desperately needed stability in order to avoid bankruptcy.
“By the time consolidation came about, everyone knew that the city was writing bad checks,” former state Sen. Don Cheeks once told the Metro Spirit. “It was no secret. You had to be somewhere in Alaska or Hawaii not to have known. Checks were bouncing all over the place.”
Once the truth about the city’s finances came to light, state leaders had to move quickly to convince voters across the county to consolidate the two governments to save the city.
In order to get Richmond County voters to support the merger, local leaders told those living in south Augusta that consolidation would allow the county an opportunity to tie into the city’s 24-inch water line and basically tap into the city’s infrastructure.
While the city’s future looked dismal without consolidation, not everyone in the city was convinced it was the right thing to do.
Many of Augusta’s black leaders were against merging the two governments because they feared it would dilute their political strength within the community.
After much debate, then-state Sen. Charles Walker insisted that the consolidation bill was “race-neutral” and that it would promote economic development throughout the county.
Finally, on June 20, 1995, approximately 67 percent of voters approved the merger of Augusta-Richmond County.
By the end of the year, the new government was in place with Larry Sconyers, owner of Sconyers Bar-B-Que, as the consolidated government’s first mayor.
And so it began.
Sconyers as mayor
It didn’t take long for Sconyers to realize that consolidation was going to be an uphill battle and merging the city and county wasn’t as easy as one simple vote.
From day one, Sconyers said he was concerned about the manner in which the new government was being formed.
“The things that were important to the voters that we promised them, like a smaller government, kind of got pushed to the back burner, and it shouldn’t have,” Sconyers once told the Metro Spirit. “Consolidation turned out not to be about the people, but the politicians.”
While Sconyers had past political experience — he first ran for county office in 1991 after his commissioner, Jesse Carroll, passed away — he quickly learned it was tough being the consolidated government’s first mayor.
Twice a month, he would sit quietly at the head of the Augusta Commission’s regular meetings and listen to 10 commissioners debate a motion until people’s ears began to bleed.
Critics of Sconyers were quick to point out that the mayor was even occasionally caught sleeping during these marathon meetings.
Commission meetings would literally go on for hours and hours because, under this new government, there were no longer the political coalitions of the past.
It took much longer to get anything accomplished.
“For a period of time, Augusta was controlled by one or the other groups in town,” Sconyers told the Metro Spirit in 1998. “They used to call themselves the silk stocking crowd (who lived on the Hill) or the Southside Mafia. At one time, they even had the independents and the Cracker Party.”
Sconyers explained that when he was a young boy, people expected the government to be run by such political groups, but as the years went by, government changed.
By the time consolidation came about, Sconyers said there weren’t consistent coalitions between commissioners anymore.
Almost every meeting was a battle, and a lot of times it was still seen as a city versus county issue.
“When I first got to be a commissioner, the county commission hated the City Council, and the city hated the county,” Sconyers said in 1998. “Why? I don’t know. But they made me feel like I needed a passport to get into the city of Augusta. I said, ‘Something is wrong here. I work with these folks. They are just like us. We aren’t that different.’”
But Sconyers said there was some of the same negative attitudes against those living in south Augusta.
“I heard a guy say one day, ‘When you cross Gordon Highway, you have to turn your hat around backwards because you are in redneck territory,’” Sconyers said. “You know, I live in the southside of the county, and I don’t consider myself a redneck. Maybe some people do, but I don’t know.”
By the summer of 1998, Augusta suffered a major drought and Sconyers’ leadership came under fire.
That summer, a couple of the city’s turbines malfunctioned at the pumping station, a water line broke, and parts of the county suffered from serious sewage problems.
The public was furious.
After the water crisis was over, the utilities department, along with planning and zoning, developed a plan for the city’s future water and sewage system, but Sconyers’ administration was never able to fully recover.
County voters agreed to consolidation to help with their infrastructure and the new government had failed them.
By November 1998, Sconyers was facing opposition from three mayoral candidates: former Augusta Mayor Ed McIntyre, then-Augusta Commissioner Moses Todd and former WJBF news anchor Bob Young.
On election night, Sconyers began the evening in a jubilant mood, full of confidence and hope.
But those hopes were soon dashed when voters gave him the biggest no-confidence vote in recent memory.
With just over 16 percent of the vote, Sconyers was shown the door.
It was Young and McIntyre who were headed to the runoff.
Sconyers’ poor showing at the polls was especially painful for him considering McIntyre, who served two years as mayor of Augusta, was convicted in 1984 of extortion and was forced to serve several months in federal prison.
But the voters had spoken.
The first mayor of the consolidated government was voted out of office.
Young takes over as mayor
After a tough election cycle, Bob Young, the former Channel 6 evening news anchor, defeated McIntyre in the runoff and became Augusta’s next mayor.
Having worked as a local journalist for more than 25 years, Young insisted he was ready for the job and estimated that he had attended more commission and council meetings in Augusta than any of elected commissioners at the time.
One thing Young did bring to the table was a commitment to be full-time mayor.
That’s a promise he kept.
While Sconyers was rarely in the mayor’s office on a day that there wasn’t a commission meeting scheduled, Young took over that chair and made his presence known.
And in the beginning, Young told voters that he didn’t believe the city charter needed to be changed to give the mayor any additional authority.
“I think there is plenty of power in the mayor’s office right now,” Young said in 1998. “We just need someone in there that will use it. Many of the the things that I want to get done can be accomplished without a vote. Anybody who says the mayor is powerless, and all that has happened over the last three years is the result of the mayor not having any power, is fooling himself.”
But Young was a little naive going into office. He pointed out that the consolidation bill stated that the mayor “will sign all written contracts entered into by the commission-council on behalf of Richmond County and the city of Augusta.”
“What if he doesn’t sign one?” Young asked, claiming that would equate to veto power.
“Nothing is passed until the mayor signs it. That sounds like tremendous leverage right there.”
Well, Young was wrong.
Then-County Attorney Jim Wall said if the mayor ever refused to sign a contract, the Augusta Commission and the individual or body involved in the contract could seek a writ of mandamus from the court, which would force the mayor to sign the document.
Early into his term, Young also made the mistake of frequently trying to separate himself from the public’s increasingly negative view of the Augusta Commission.
That didn’t sit well with commissioners, many of whom supported either McIntyre or Sconyers for mayor over Young.
The new mayor wasn’t making many friends on the commission and then, all of a sudden, the city of Augusta was hit by a major political bombshell.
A Richmond County Grand Jury released a report in 1999 blasting many of the city’s policies and procedures, calling for a “citizens alert” regarding the government.
The report accused commissioners of being at the center of many of the county’s problems.
“The special grand jury is concerned that our government is on a path to destruction, and that action must be taken to avoid certain disaster,” the report stated.
While many commissioners initially hesitated to comment on the series of reports from the grand jury, Young didn’t bite his tongue.
“The special grand jury is in a unique position because it can compel testimony and subpoena evidence to examine issues very closely,” Young told the Metro Spirit after the report was released. “They have at their fingertips information maybe even those of us in government don’t have. So, to me, these people are speaking with a lot of credibility, and we ought to pay attention to what they say. For anyone to say that what the grand jury is doing is not relevant and that they ought to be disbanded, it shows that they just don’t know what they are talking about.”
However, some Augusta commissioners felt the the grand jury and its reports were doing more harm than good.
Specifically, the grand jury report accused commissioners of trying to micromanage the government.
The report stated there was a “pattern of abuse of power each time a commissioner has stepped over what should have been an obvious boundary.”
Young also found himself commenting on the racial implications of the report.
The report stated, “The grand jury has discovered many instances where race was the tool used, not to entitle the disenfranchised, but to empower a faction … Race is even used to further personal agendas.”
The report went on to illustrate some examples of “the race card” being used in county government.
“I don’t have a problem with what the grand jury said and the way that they said it,” Young told the Metro Spirit in 2000. “What concerns me is that this group of citizens has been maliciously maligned and attacked by people, who for whatever reason don’t support public inquiry into the affairs of this government.”
“And what’s even more disturbing to me is that they would accuse the nine African-Americans on the grand jury of engaging in prejudicial conduct and characterize them in a way that is not respectful of the service they are rendering,” he added. “To call those African-Americans who are serving on the grand jury racists is beyond my comprehension.”
The controversy surrounding the grand jury and its findings put the entire government in a tailspin for several years. And the craziest aspect of the entire report was that nothing really came out of all of it.
Mud was slung, eyebrows were raised, but nothing was really accomplished.
Despite the grand jury fallout and receiving major criticism from some of his colleagues, Young managed to get re-elected to a second term in 2002.
However, by 2005, Young decided to leave his role as mayor behind in order to serve as a Housing and Urban Development regional director in the George W. Bush administration.
Young had worked hard for Bush during his campaign and was heavily rewarded with the $125,000-a-year position.
So, in 2005, Young quickly took that gig and never looked back at the mayor’s seat.
Say hey, Willie
When Young announced he was leaving office, it was up to the Augusta Commission to appoint an interim mayor to serve until an election could be held later that year.
In June 2005, the commission with a divided vote of 6-2-2, selected longtime Augusta Commissioner Willie Mays to serve as interim mayor.
Mays was visibly moved by his appointment to the interim mayor’s position and reflected back on the night he was first elected to the Augusta City Council in 1979.
“I found the picture the other day, big afro and all, when I got my start,” Mays said in 2005. “It’s been a long road. I’ve seen this city grow in so many ways for the positive. I realize we have the potential to do anything in this community that we set our minds to do.”
Mays said he felt the presence of his late mother and former city councilwoman Carrie Mays in the chambers that night.
“Both of us got our start in this chamber,” Mays said. “I think she would be real proud that I would accept the challenge to move forward at this time as interim mayor and just kind of see what happens from here.”
The thing about Mays was he served the city with his entire heart, but he frequently irritated the hell out of colleagues.
Fellow commissioners were forced to become accustomed to Mays’ casual pace and meandering speeches during the commission meetings.
It was not uncommon for Mays to deliver a 40-minute monologue after the commission had already been in session for more than five hours.
It was just the Mays’ way.
When Mays first took city office at 28 years old, he developed a bad reputation among his fellow councilmen, many of whom described him as militant.
It wasn’t until former Augusta Mayor Lewis “Pop” Newman explained to him that politics aren’t always what they seem that Mays began to understand the art of compromise.
“He told me, ‘Ya know Willie, sometimes folks don’t fight you for what they say they are mad at you about. Sometimes you have to look deeper,’” Mays told the Metro Spirit in 2005. “You learn a lot from watching people in office. There have been five mayors that I have worked under, and they all have handled things very differently.”
Newman was a master at putting the necessary votes together to support his wishes, Mays said, adding, “I think his real power was the power of persuasion.”
Former Mayor Ed McIntyre, who passed away in 2004, was a natural leader that knew the importance of public perception, Mays said.
“He used to tell me, never make an important announcement in a large venue,” Mays said, laughing. “He’d say, ‘You always want a small place because the media will report that it’s a packed house.’ He insisted that a small room with 100 people is a lot better than a large room, that seats 1,000, with 250 people.”
Former Mayor Charles DeVaney was a charmer, while Larry Sconyers relied on truth and honesty, Mays said.
“You always knew where Larry stood. Now, Bob Young’s style was somewhat different,” Mays said, abruptly ending that comment with a smile.
“Each mayor taught me a valuable lesson,” Mays said. “Basically, as mayor, you need to be able to define and sell the city’s good points and be tough enough to absorb criticism.”
But in the case of Mays, voters didn’t give him a chance to serve a full term as mayor of Augusta.
While Mays managed to beat mayoral candidates Helen Blocker-Adams and former Augusta Commissioner Tommy Boyles in the November race, he faced newcomer Deke Copenhaver in a December runoff and lost.
A newcomer to office had beaten a veteran politician. It was shocking.
And, yet, throughout the entire election, Copenhaver seemed totally at ease.
“Surprisingly, I feel very calm,” Copenhaver told the Metro Spirit on election night in 2005. “I know there are a lot of people here watching the returns come in, but I’d rather be sitting out on the porch and looking up at the stars, kind of at peace because in my mind the votes have been cast and the outcome is already set.”
Copenhaver said one of the main reasons he decided to run for mayor was to encourage more newcomers to enter into the political ring.
“I really believe we need people of my generation to step up to the plate,” he said. “You’ve seen a couple of young candidates in this year’s commission race. And I think in the next round of elections, you’ll see a lot more young folks. That was truly one of my main priorities coming into this race — to inspire more people to run for office.”
Longtime Augusta politicians were impressed with Copenhaver.
“He’s the sleeper of the season, all right,” Augusta Commissioner Barbara Sims told the Metro Spirit at Copenhaver’s victory party. “He’s the sleeper that woke up Augusta.”
Copenhaver’s turn at bat
From the very beginning, Copenhaver pledged to reach out to all citizens, including Willie Mays and his supporters, in order to move Augusta forward and unite a deeply divided community.
“Augusta did not get into the situation that it is in overnight,” Copenhaver said. “It’s taken a while, and we will not change it overnight, but we will start tomorrow. And to all of the people that did not support me, you’ve still got a friend in the mayor’s office.”
Unfortunately for Copenhaver, he didn’t seem to have any idea of the level of contempt a handful of Augusta commissioners already had for him before he even moved into his office.
He was walking into very tense racial relations on the Augusta Commission.
At the time, Mayor Pro Tem Marion Williams was trying to build a coalition with some of the newly elected black commissioners such as J.R. Hatney and Calvin Holland Sr., as well as existing Augusta commissioners such as Richard Colclough and Betty Beard.
Williams was working to have at least a solid team of five commissioners in his corner.
But as all local politicos know, it takes six votes to make things happen down at the Marble Palace, and that’s where Williams’ power was wavering.
In fact, the once dynamic duo of Marion Williams and Augusta Commissioner Andy Cheek was quickly dying.
Cheek had realized that his past support of Williams brought him nothing but misery. When Cheek needed Williams’ political support, Williams frequently left his one white political ally on the commission high and dry.
With the election of Copenhaver to the mayor’s seat, Williams could no longer rely on interim Mayor Willie Mays to break a 5-5 tie on the commission.
So, Williams was already quite upset with Copenhaver and his role as mayor before he even took office.
Augusta had two coalitions, each consisting of five commissioners, divided by race.
Copenhaver’s ability to get anything done was almost dead from the very beginning.
But the situation got much worse when Cheek announced plans to change the structure of the local government just in time for Copenhaver to take office.
“They are going to cause me to start cussing,” Williams told the Metro Spirit in 2005. “They’re dogs. No better than dogs.”
In Cheek’s proposal, he wanted to give the mayor veto power, provide the city administrator with the ability to hire and fire department heads, and change the current six-vote rule for passing motions to a simple-majority system.
Cheek said that these changes were long overdue and would make the local government run more efficiently.
In a sense, this was Cheek throwing down the gauntlet.
Williams said it appeared as if his colleagues were attempting a “coup” in the final days of 2005, prior to Copenhaver being sworn into office.
Even though Copenhaver insisted he knew nothing about Cheek’s proposal, Williams still went on the attack.
“(Copenhaver) said he was not a part of it,” Williams said in 2005. “I asked him, ‘Mr. Mayor, if you were sincere about bringing this community together, then you ought to be the front leader in changing this. You ought to be the front leader in telling people this is not right or not fair.”
Copenhaver told the Metro Spirit that he wasn’t behind Cheek’s proposal, but that he did support reforming the government.
“I campaigned on reforming the government,” Copenhaver said in 2005. “However, this proposal began before I was ever elected from what I understand. But I’m supporting reform, particularly if you put it on a referendum to ask the people.”
Copenhaver said that was the key to making this government work.
“I think the people in this community ought to be asked what they think those changes ought to be,” he said.
While Copenhaver said he was committed to bringing the community together, his own commissioners were ready to slit each others’ throats.
During the final meeting in December, things got even worse.
It became reckoning day for Teresa Smith, the then-director of the city’s engineering division.
The first black, female director of the public works department was fired in a controversial 6-3 vote.
Critics of Smith said she had turned the public works’ engineering division into an “unprofessional and unmanageable department.”
But Williams insisted that his colleagues were driving the city straight toward a lawsuit.
“And I’ll testify for Mrs. Smith, too. In a Cincinnati second,” Williams said in 2005. “Because it’s wrong. I think it is low down and dirty for us to sit here and act like we don’t know what is going on. We just want to go back to the good ol’ boy system that we had 40 years ago.”
After the vote, several members of the audience who supported the director of engineering were outraged that Augusta Commissioner Bobby Hankerson, a black commissioner, voted for the firing along with the five white commissioners.
“You’re a thorn in our side,” one man yelled.
Another man called Hankerson, “a black Judas.”
Hankerson sat calmly in his chair as several of the citizens stood by one of the exits, blatantly staring down the commissioner.
Within minutes, city marshals raced out to the municipal building’s parking lot to keep an eye on Hankerson’s car and offered to escort the commissioner out of the building.
It was a terrible meeting that set the stage for Copenhaver’s being sworn into office at the end of the year.
And none of it had anything to do with Copenhaver, but he was walking into a pit of vipers.
Following the firing of Smith, the black commissioners made sure that Cheek’s proposal to reform the government went down in flames
“I will bring it back next year,” Cheek said in 2005. “And I’m sure the race-mongers will be out spreading their fear and panic among the population again. And, by the same token, as long as they win, other cities will continue to pass us by.”
It was a no-win situation for the new mayor.
And within minutes of Copenhaver’s first commission meeting in 2006, indecision was abundant.
Six commissioners could not even agree on who should become Augusta’s next mayor pro tem.
The votes were split along racial lines with the majority of black commissioners supporting Williams and the white commissioners voting for Cheek.
Both votes would have resulted in a 5-5 tie had Williams not elected to abstain on the two nominations, effectively blocking Copenhaver from breaking a tie.
It was a nightmare for Copenhaver because he was sitting in a racial powder keg waiting to explode.
Unfortunately, those were the battles that Copenhaver faced on a regular basis throughout his administration that kept him from completely moving the city forward.
And because Copenhaver was always trying to work with everyone and not ruffle too many feathers, people saw “The Boy King” as more of a Boy Scout while in office.
“I’ve never been a typical politician,” Copenhaver said following the end of his second term as mayor. “To be able to constantly interact with the citizens I serve has been a huge blessing. If I had to be around the politics all the time, I couldn’t take it.”
However, after nine years as mayor, Copenhaver insisted he had a “good working relationship” with all of the commissioners.
“For the most part, it has not been adversarial,” Copenhaver said, adding that, however, it wasn’t always an easy relationship. “Part of my frustration is that after nine years of trying to lead by example, the politics within the commission remains very similar to when I took office.”
Hardie Davis at the helm
In May 2014, former state Sen. Hardie Davis was elected as mayor of Augusta with a whopping 75 percent of the votes.
On paper, Davis seemed like the complete package.
He had served as both a state representative and state senator prior to running for Augusta’s top seat.
He received a bachelor’s degree in electrical engineering at Georgia Tech and served as senior pastor of Abundant Life Worship Center on Brown Road in south Augusta.
Davis appeared to be just the person to get this city and the government rolling at full steam.
But before Davis even took his seat in the mayor’s office in 2015, he was already making waves.
While attending his first Augusta Commission’s retreat in 2014, the mayor-elect surprised both staff and commissioners with some extremely pointed questions regarding the budget.
Basically, when Finance Director Donna Williams presented the 2015 budget proposal that included a suggested 2-mill property tax increase, it got everyone’s attention.
But when Commissioner Wayne Guilfoyle suggested that commissioners needed to consider possibly charging nonprofit organizations fees for the basic city services, Davis immediately took issues with him.
He turned directly to Guilfoyle and asked, “What church do you go to?”
Guilfoyle seemed slightly confused by the question, but he didn’t hesitate to answer.
Then, Davis continued to press him.
“Have you talked to your pastor about this?” Davis asked.
Again, Guilfoyle didn’t back down from his position.
“No, but I will,” Guilfoyle said. “I wouldn’t have a problem with that.”
It was odd for the mayor-elect, who hadn’t even been sworn in yet, to stir up some tension over a mere suggestion by commissioner.
It should have been a warning sign to everyone, but it wasn’t until the mayor took office and held a surprise news conference in February 2015 that Augustans began to wake up.
Davis decided to hold a news conference calling for state legislators to change the city’s 1995 consolidation bill to give the mayor significantly more authority.
“In our current structure of government, there is no system of checks and balances,” Davis said in 2015, adding that the role of mayor has been reduced to managing meetings where 10 commissioners make all the decisions. “There is no ability to hold anyone accountable for the decisions that are made on a day-to-day basis because our government was not designed that way.”
Davis insisted there was no long-term vision to guide the city.
“Department heads and entry-level employees report to 10 different individuals, yet most citizens believe that the mayor is responsible for providing direction, providing vision and providing leadership for the entire city,” Davis said. “Our government has failed to function effectively for 20 years because we have been set up this way.”
The mayor, who had been in office less than two months, proclaimed it was time for a change.
“When decisions are made, whether good or bad, the mayor cannot veto or change those decisions,” Davis said in 2015. “In fact, the mayor doesn’t even contribute significantly to the process of making decisions that impact our city and our citizens. That’s not the type of government the U.S. Constitution provides.”
In order to correct Augusta’s problems, Davis suggested citizens turn to the state legislature.
“I call on citizens from across this city to join in this conversation to urge the General Assembly to amend the city of Augusta’s charter so that it works for all of our citizens, and provides a system of checks and balances,” Davis said. “To provide a government where the role of mayor is not ceremonial… where the mayor provides direction and leadership.”
As soon as the press conference was over, commissioners could hardly believe what had just happened.
Mainly because not one commissioner was invited to the press conference.
It just so happened that Augusta Commissioner Marion Williams had heard through media outlets that the mayor was making an announcement and he decided to attend.
“I went down there, but I didn’t stand with him,” Williams said. “I stayed way back with the cameras because he’s a nut.”
Augustans might not always agree with Williams, but he hit the nail on the head with that remark.
If Davis was serious about requesting so much power, he should have informed all 10 commissioners that he was going to make such a brazen announcement.
“If he is that crazy without power, what would he do if he had all that power?” Williams asked. “He hadn’t been in office 60 days yet. I mean, he hadn’t made his 60-day mark, and this man is already doing the same thing that Bob Young tried and Deke (Copenhaver) tried for a while. I guess some people are thinking that they can get him that support just because he is a black mayor, but that ain’t going to work with me.”
People throughout Augusta were truly stunned by the mayor’s actions.
“This man is off the chain,” Williams said. “And I’m through with him now. Whatever he would have gotten out of me, he can’t get nothing out of me now. He just made some enemies.”
Augusta Commissioner Ben Hasan said he was thoroughly “disappointed” by the manner in which the mayor handled the entire situation.
“The truth is, he is not trying to build a relationship with us,” Hasan said of Davis. “Not at all.”
There was only one word Hasan could come up with that properly described his feelings about Davis’ actions.
“Heartbreaking,” Hasan said, shaking his head. “It’s truly heartbreaking.”
After the mayor’s first major misstep with the surprise press conference, Davis seemed to cool things down for a little while.
That was until he recently started this whole debate over the future site of the proposed $120 million arena at the former Regency Mall location.
In late August, Davis attempted to achieve the ultimate political coup by surprising both the chairman and vice chairman of the Augusta-Richmond County Coliseum Authority with a backroom deal he had secretly brokered.
The mayor managed to convince the majority of the coliseum authority members to select the abandoned former Regency Mall site on Gordon Highway as the preferred location for the new James Brown Arena.
This, despite the fact that the coliseum authority had spent more than a year reviewing locations around the city and had even announced that they were dedicated to keeping the new arena downtown.
The fact that the authority had paid seasoned consultants $142,000 to develop an arena plan regarding the proposed sites that didn’t support the Regency Mall location didn’t matter to the mayor.
But it mattered to a lot of people in this community.
Once again, Davis’ secretive actions on a major issue facing this city backfired in his face.
Then, the mayor made matters worse by claiming he was being “martyred” in his own city over his support of the Regency Mall location.
“There is a conversation going on in our community that has, in fact, become divisive,” the mayor said in November. “There is a conversation in our community that, again, is very painful. I did not know that I would be 48 years old and on the verge of being martyred in my own city.”
The mayor went on to imply that anyone who did not support the Regency Mall proposal was not being “inclusive” of all residents of Richmond County.
“It does not have to be an us versus them. It does not have to be west Augusta versus south Augusta,” Davis said. “And even if you don’t like my slogan, ‘One Augusta,’ at the end of the day, we are all Augustans.”
It’s not the slogan that bothers many Augustans.
It’s Davis’ lack of leadership and communication with the entire community that troubles a lot of people.
That’s the problem.
The truth is, the mayor of Augusta plays an extremely important role in this city.
As the rest of this community continues to grow and thrive, it is truly heartbreaking to see Augusta politics and the government stuck in same rut.
Isn’t it time for a new direction? Isn’t it time for a change?
The May 22 election isn’t that far away.
Time is ticking for a true leader to step forward.