Interview #134: Berea, KY Councilwoman Emily LaDouceur (with podcast)

This podcast interview is available on iTunesStitcherPlayer FM, and right here:

Emily LaDouceur has had a front row seat to several heated skirmishes during her mere four months on the Berea council. From responding to criticism of her attire to pushing an overhaul of the anemic ethics code, she discusses the forces in the community that are making her life difficult.

Q: What happened prior to the April 16, 2019 council meeting that led to your comments about leggings?

A: A man who ran for city council made derogatory comments about me being a big girl and why do I think I can wear yoga leggings? It was posted in a public but membership-only Facebook group. [Another member] posted a picture of me giving a tour of children in city hall. She had put a black smudge over my face and asked “what is this black cloud over Berea?” He made his comments below and it went from there.

Q: Okay, a school group. How many of the parents contacted you after the tour and said, “my child saw female legs today and I had to check him into therapy?”

A: That would be a big, fat zero. None. Nil.

Q: I don’t understand, though, how your tour went from school kids to “I’m getting hate mail for my trousers.” Was it just this one individual who has so much sway over perceptions of you?

A: I wouldn’t say they have huge sway. But hate always has some measure of following. It had nothing to do with my leggings, let’s be real. It’s about politics, where I am left-leaning and they are a very conservative group. And then some good old-fashioned misogyny.

Q: You turned the criticism right back around on your antagonists by posting on Facebook, “the outfit was appropriate….I’ll let you put on the outfit I wore that day…then you can put on the holy, stained T-shirt and oversized jeans worn by some of my colleagues to city council meetings. Report back to us which outfit is more ‘lazy and inappropriate.'” Why bring your fellow councilmen’s choices into this? You could have easily defended yourself without putting them down, yes?

A: Sure. I don’t see it as putting them down as just pointing out the double standard. Women are held to completely different and more stringent standards. I don’t care what they wear as long as they’re getting the work done.

Q: In what way did your council colleagues and the mayor disappoint you here?

A: By not directly calling out the hatefulness. It really is a hate group, and I don’t use that term lightly. There are five council members and the mayor who are members of that group. Progressives in town made a call for them to denounce the behavior of this group and to also exit it. Instead it was a whole lot of false equivalence.

Berea, KY Councilwoman Emily LaDouceur

Q: You proposed a new council committee to review your city’s code of ethics. What prompted you to think that Berea could be more ethical?

A: We did have a huge blow-up that made statewide news of one particular councilman. He posted an inappropriate and misogynistic meme on Facebook and it was during the Kavanaugh [confirmation] hearing, speaking about the victim. At the following council meeting, there were I think 16 women and men who spoke and many people really laying their hearts on the table about their trauma. They weren’t asking for him to resign. They wanted reconciliation. They wanted an authentic apology. The problem was that in his apology, instead of really saying sorry, said his wife posted it.

Q: Mmmhmm.

A: All of the council members used their opportunity to respond by saying, “well, we have an outdated ethics code. We should probably revisit that.” When I started digging into the code, it is the bare minimum. It is probably, in the whole state of Kentucky, the most bare, basic, minimum code that is in existence.

Q: Where has the meeting footage of the ethics committee come from?

A: It came from my phone. My Facebook live.

Q: Do I understand that the only reason we know about a massive overhaul of the municipal ethics code is because one council member thought to press record on her phone?

A: Yes. I presented a laundry list of open meetings violations that our current council has been partaking in. There won’t be any discussion in council meetings. Most of the discussion happens in these committee meetings that are very poorly attended. They’re not recorded. Minutes are rarely taken. No one really knows what’s going on. I took it upon myself to bring up those things and some of them have changed. I’ve committed to recording as many of them that I can. I’m trying to record them so the public can see how these things are operating.

Follow Councilwoman Emily LaDouceur on Twitter: @EmilyForBerea


Interview #18: Hot Springs, SD City Administrator Nolan Schroeder (with podcast)

This podcast interview is available on iTunesStitcherPlayer FM and right here:

Nolan Schroeder is demographically a bit different from other city managers. We talked about college, ethics, and council meeting start times–among other things.

Q: I reviewed a Hot Springs city council meeting last month. How accurately did I capture the aura of that meeting?

A: I would say the accuracy was spot-on.

Q: Yeah, it was!

A: It brought a smile to my face to say the least.

Q: Can you describe what the city council meeting room looks like?

A: We used to meet in this kind of hallway environment. It was about a year ago we switched over to a theater. It seats 400 and thankfully we have not reached capacity yet.

Q: Have you ever had a drama teacher walk in and be like, “we’ve got a rehearsal for ‘The Music Man’ in ten minutes! Everybody out!”

A: We just consider those “communications from the public.”

Q: I’m assuming you became city administrator of Hot Springs after working a couple of desk jobs…you took a year off of college to backpack through Europe…you worked retail for a bit. Then five or six years later you got this job, right?

A: [Laughs] I finished grad school in 2014 and started literally weeks after I finished school.

Q: What?! This was your first job out of college?

A: I’m 26 years old. This is my first job out of school.

Q: Oh, my god.

Hot Springs, SD City Administrator Nolan Schroeder

Q: What have you done as city administrator?

A: We–don’t laugh when I tell these accomplishments–but we completed some audits. We were behind on those. We passed a new personnel policy. New safety policy. Our sales tax revenue has gone up since I’ve been here. I can’t say if that’s because of the work we’ve done–

Q: I’m not a journalist, so I can say it’s because of the work you’ve done.

A: [Laughs]

Q: One thing I heard from another city manager is that when the public had a problem with the city and were criticizing staff at council meetings for not doing anything about it, he wished the city council would defend the staff.

A: We were able to pass a new code of ethics that states if you have direct criticism of an employee, you don’t just lash out or nod your head along in agreement if someone is lambasting a city employee.

Q: Is there anything the council members can do or have done that makes your life difficult?

A: Yes. They can not read their packets! We prepare council packets for them. I’ll do notes on each agenda item and give–at the very most–a four line summary of what the item is.

Q: You’re kind of a professor here. You have a lesson plan. You assign the reading….So can you tell when some people have done the reading, and some people are BS-ing their way through?

A: Yes! Part of my job is to read people. You can certainly tell who is prepared for the game and who is hoping somebody else answers for them.

Q: If you could change one thing about the Hot Springs city council meetings, what would it be?

A: The start time. It’s in our ordinance that we start at 7 p.m. People that work a full eight hours and have to go to the meeting…there’s some fatigue that sets in.

#31: Seattle, WA 6/20/16

Seattle’s city council met at two o’clock in the afternoon–yet some council members in this java addicted burg were clearly in need of caffeination. Others, however, came out of the shoot ready to kick ass and read names.

In the latter category, Councilmember Sally Bagshaw hit a one-two punch on a tongue-twister proclamation: “I want to announce that June 20, 2016 is Facioscapulohumeral Muscular Dystrophy Awareness Day,” she said, not even slowing for the monster nine-syllable word.

“The core problem stems from genetic disturbance in the DUX4. DUX4 is a coding protein gene located in the D4/Z4 repeat array in the subtelomeric region of the chromosome 4q.” The brainy councilwoman peered smugly over her notes.

“I know all of you know what that means,” she winked. The room chuckled in bewilderment.

Council President Bruce Harrell had a less mind-numbing award to bestow. “We’re gonna honor the women’s golf team that has brought pride to this state and made national history–” he looked up and saw the University of Washington’s golf coach cradling a massive trophy.

“Wow. Look at that hardware.” The president remained as emotionless as an Easter Island statue, but he couldn’t stop staring at the golden prize…or calling it “hardware.” (“The hardware speaks for itself,” he murmured.)

Nice hardware! And the trophy ain’t bad either–zing!

The council heard public comment from Tyrone, dressed head to toe in silver and looking like a backup dancer in an ABBA music video. “We have did so many damaging thing to foreigner peoples in other lands. We have took land and stole land,” he read haltingly, perhaps unaware that the city council has tragically little jurisdiction over foreigner peoples.

“You’re not sharing the REAL wealth–” he shouted before something unusual happened: his mic was cut. Not because he said the wrong thing, but because he said too many things and his time was up. Some places talk a mean game about sticking to your time, but the Emerald City actually lays down the law. Kudos!

And the council needed all the time they could get, for some hefty ethics legislation was ready–yes, Councilmember Debora Juarez?

“Correct me if I’m wrong here…I didn’t vote in favor of this,” she confusedly announced.

“Well,” the president mused, “I think you’re wrong. Just kidding!” he teased as the other councilmembers snickered. “Did you attend committee?”

Councilmember Juarez thought for a second. “Yes, but I didn’t vote yes!”

“It’s sort of a moot issue,” President Harrell tried to soothe her. But it backfired.

“Why are you smiling like that, Bruce?!” she cried out.

Councilmember Lorena González jumped in to mediate this weird spat. “Luckily, this is all videotaped, so you can go back and look. My recollection, Councilmember Juarez, is that in the committee, all three voted in favor”–including you, was the subtext.

Bruce, why are you smiling? Bruce, why are you holding a knife? BRUCE?!


I dug through vaults of microfiche to find out what actually happened. Here is the committee transcript:

Harrell: I’m ready to vote unless any of you have heartburn about it.


Harrell: All those in favor say aye.

Juarez: Aye.

Busted! Take a walk, Sister Mary Forgetful! YOU’VE BEEN CHRONICLED!

Councilmember Juarez voted aye, and to the left; aye, and to the left; aye, and to

Final thoughts: Be ye warned: lapses of memory shall not stand!