Let’s just say, it has been a long, strange week in Augusta, Ga.
It all began with a full-day commission retreat on Monday arranged by Augusta Mayor Hardie Davis at The Foundation Club on Azalea Drive right across from the Augusta National.
The facilitator for the retreat was Atlanta mediator David Anderson Hooker.
As a graduate of Emory University’s School of Law and Candler School of Theology, Hooker brought some unusual techniques to the table.
One of the more poignant moments of retreat was when Hooker read a poem called “Where I’m From” by George Ella Lyon to eight of the Augusta commissioners who attended the meeting.
“I am from clothespins, from Clorox and carbon-tetrachloride,” Hooker read. “I am from the dirt under the back porch. Black, glistening, it tasted like beets. I am from the forsythia bush, the Dutch elm, whose long-gone limbs I remember as if they were my own.”
It was a poem about Lyon’s roots, her heritage and her family tree.
When Hooker finished reading the poem, he then asked each commissioner to write their own poem about where they were from, their roots and their past.
Augusta Mayor Hardie Davis wrote about fried green tomatoes, cornbread, chickens in the coop, chopping firewood and horsing around with his cousin as a child.
Commissioner Ben Hasan talked about growing up on Augusta’s “golden blocks” in Laney Walker and watching the street change over time.
Commissioner Sammie Sias spoke of honor, family and his military history.
Each commissioner shared a part of their life with a colleague.
Augusta Commissioner Mary Davis was surprised to learn Commissioner Bill Lockett was originally from Texas.
During the retreat, Lockett was paired with his frequent adversary, Commissioner Grady Smith, to discuss their goals for the government.
The two were shocked to discover that they agreed on every single item.
Lockett joked that he had talked more to Smith in the first 10 minutes of the retreat than he had during his entire time on the commission.
For one day, it seemed like the Augusta Commission was getting along.
They were all ready to sing “Kumbaya” and work as a team.
But, as always, there was a catch.
One of the two commissioners who did not attend the retreat was “Mr. Controversial” himself, Marion Williams.
And why did Williams choose not to attend the retreat?
Apparently, the mayor had not gone through the proper channels of notifying the clerk of commission about the retreat. Instead, Davis used his own office to notify the 10 commissioners.
Why did Mayor Davis not contact the clerk’s office?
Who knows. But that misstep gave Williams all the reason he needed to avoid the team-building retreat.
So, while many of the Augusta commissioners said they felt incredible about the progress they made during the retreat, it really doesn’t mean anything.
Williams will still be that roadblock.
He will use whatever powers he has as a commissioner to get what he wants, when he wants it.
That is, unless the other nine commissioners use this unity retreat to come together as one.
It won’t be easy, but nine voices can drown out one.
Until that happens, poems and warm, fuzzy feelings are nice, but that’s all they are.
It will take action, strength, confidence and the united front of nine commissioners to make any change down at the Marble Palace.