If you were riding on Peachtree City’s 100 miles of golf cart paths this week, you might have noticed Mayor Vanessa Fleisch and I talking about her council meetings. We discussed the one thing her council does extremely well, but also her tumultuous years of meetings as a council member alongside a controversial former mayor.
Q: I do have to compliment Peachtree City for having a surprisingly detailed set of minutes from all of your meetings. Not only are they detailed, you have the minutes going all the way back to 1959! Do you think your council has primarily focused on the minutes instead of the video?
A: Oh, without a doubt because according to the state of Georgia, the minutes are actually the legal part of it. The video and the audio are extra and something we do try to provide. Unfortunately, yes, we’ve run into glitches with some of the video and getting it right with our contractor. By law, it’s the minutes that are the important part.
Q: Hmm, I see. By the way, one of the things the city council did at its first meeting in 1959? Have the mayor call the post office and say, “hey, we exist now.”
A: [Laughs] Well that’s good because we still don’t have a postmaster and it’s been almost 60 years! So maybe you can help us with that.
Q: We might as well get to the stuff that the mainstream city council meeting podcasts are not talking about. How would you describe relations on the council under former Mayor Don Haddix?
A: I think it was a rather strange relationship, particularly during the council meetings. That is something that I think we’ve come a long way and are far more efficient with our meetings now.
Q: At the July 21 meeting in 2011, there was a resolution for the censure of Mayor Haddix. That included a vote of no confidence and a request for his resignation. The mayor’s complaint was the censure had been added the night before and he hadn’t had appropriate time to write a rebuttal. Do you recall if he was blindsided with that and if that was kind of the point?
A: I do not recall that specifically. I do know by law, when we do make changes to the agenda, it has to be done 24 hours in advance. I can’t imagine he was totally blindsided. We move far more professionally now. That was a difficult period for the city.
Q: How much of the censure was about protecting the city’s image and then how much was it about your professional discomfort with a coworker?
A: There was a concern that we were continually on the front page of the paper with some of the issues at our meetings. It’s very difficult to get things done when you have continual upheaval at your council meetings. A lot of it was to protect the city in general because there’s a lot of consequences to the public airing of discord at these meetings, when there’s a lack of professionalism. It was more about the city–34,000 people is what I think about every day.
Q: You were not really inside the “ring of fire” in those meetings. Was your experience different from those of the other council members?
A: There were a lot of fireworks at the meetings and I didn’t think it was very productive to have just one more person entering into the fray. So yes, I stayed out of a lot of it.
Follow Mayor Vanessa Fleisch on Twitter: @vanessafleisch