Overall, Augusta Mayor Hardie Davis has received high marks from insiders within the Marble Palace during his first week in office.
Whenever you are the new kid on the block, especially when you are in a leadership role, that transition can be more than a little tough.
After all, as soon as you walk into the building, all eyes are on you and one little misstep can be someone’s first impression of the new mayor of Augusta.
That’s a lot of pressure for anyone.
One lesson that Davis may have already learned this week is it’s not always wise to lean too heavily on your old buddies when you are trying to develop new relationships.
Such was the case this week when Davis organized a joint meeting of the local legislative delegation and the Augusta Commission.
Davis, who served initially as a state representative in 2007 and then a state senator after being elected in 2010, knows most of the members of the local legislative delegation very well.
Since he’s worked with many of them for more than seven years, they have a close relationship. But Davis has been mayor for one week.
And while he’s known many of the Augusta commissioners for quite some time, this is the first time he has actually been their “colleague.”
So, let’s just say, it’s kind of like Davis is a former baseball player for the Atlanta Braves who just accepted a new position as the head coach of the Augusta GreenJackets.
When he runs into the dugout to guide his new minor league team to a winning season, he better not be wearing a navy blue cap with a white letter A on it.
Davis is now a GreenJacket, so to speak. Not a Brave.
And it’s time for him to completely embrace it.
Oe way to fully accept that role is to make sure that you communicate with your new team, particularly if you are arranging an important meeting with state elected officials.
Here is what went down this week: Apparently, Mayor Davis and State Rep. Wayne Howard have been discussing putting together a joint meeting between the Augusta Commission and the local legislative delegation since November.
However, the Augusta commissioners did not know about the planned meeting until this week.
“We wanted to make sure that we are on the same page,” Howard said during his opening remarks to the commission and delegation. “We may not always agree on everything, but there are some major issues when it comes to growth for this city that we care about.”
“We all put our name on the dotted line to serve. And being a servant means that all of us care about our city, our districts and our state,” Howard added. “So we wanted to make sure that we put items on the table that mean a lot to the city and this state.”
Sounds good, until you realize the “we” in that statement did not include the Augusta commissioners.
Most of the commissioners did not have any input in putting together the agenda which included a list of topics to discuss with the delegation.
“Mayor Davis and I started this conversation about having this meeting back in November,” Howard said. “We’ve been touching base since November and here we are today to bring it to fruition.”
When Howard said the word, “November,” Augusta Commissioner Marion Williams immediately sat up and took notice.
Then, it was Mayor Davis’ turn to speak.
“This is a new opportunity for us to come together collectively,” Davis said. “Over the last several years, we have not done this… This is a way for us to start those conversations. I think it is vitally important for us in the local government to understand that the state and local governments are partners in this process.”
From there the delegation and commission began discussing a number of topics impacting the area such as transportation projects, the expansion of Fort Gordon, the issues relating to the GBI Crime Lab and concerns about private probation.
But, before the delegation and commission got too far into the agenda, Marion Williams directed a comment towards the new mayor.
“This is a great gathering and I’m glad we are here,” Williams said, adding that such meetings with the local legislative delegation and the commission occurred years ago.
However, in the past, such meetings were done a little differently, Williams said.
“We always had this kind of stuff laid out to be able to come together and talk about so everybody would know what direction we are going in,” Williams said. “We, as a elected body, most times would sit down and talk and lay some things out and then prioritize those things and then meet with the legislative delegation and say, ‘Hey look, these are things that are on our radar.’”
This time around, the commission was completely unaware of the meeting and the items scheduled to be discussed on the agenda until a few days prior to the meeting, Williams said.
“I understand the mayor is coming in new, but you just stated that you and Rep. Howard had a conversation back in November talking about some things. And it is good that we are doing that,” Williams said. “But I just think that we might have had some answers if some dialogue had been shared earlier than today.”
In response, Mayor Davis said his main concern was to revive a close working relationship between the Augusta Commission and the legislative delegation.
“As it relates to our conversations in November, we did not have an agenda,” the mayor said. “We just knew that it was extremely important for us to reengage both the state delegation and our local elected officials because we have not had these conversations in a long time. And that’s really what we are hoping to accomplish today, to start those conversations.”
While Williams was the only one to publicly speak up in the meeting about his concerns, he wasn’t the only one who felt a bit slighted by not being allowed to help establish the agenda.
Augusta Commissioner Mary Davis had publicly told the media prior to the meeting that she would like to discuss with the legislative delegation the possibility of giving City Administrator Janice Allen Jackson the authority to hire and fire department heads.
Currently, the city charter states that department directors can be hired or fired by the Augusta Commission with simply six votes.
Some commissioners believe that allows for elected officials to meddle in city business and micromanage city department heads.
But, despite the fact that Commissioner Davis publicly said she wished to discuss the matter during the meeting, her request didn’t make it on the agenda.
The meeting ran long and it was abruptly adjourned before the mayor even asked if there was any further business to be discussed.
Immediately after the meeting, when WJBF Senior Reporter George Eskola asked Commissioner Davis what happened to her item about the hiring and firing power, she simply shrugged and said, “They set their own agenda.”
A little advice Mayor Davis: Talk to commissioners. They will appreciate that simple consideration more than you’ll ever know.