The Ludowici City Council did not re-hire seven employees, four from the police department and three from city hall, during its first meeting of the new year Tuesday.
Mayor James Fuller, who took office the first of the month, said employees serve year-to-year so voting on the jobs was not unexpected. The measure that terminated the six full-time and one part-time worker passed 3-2.
At Fuller’s recommendation, the council voted not to rehire Richard Robertson, Tara Manning, J.D. Campbell, Rita Dubberly, Becky Rouse, Brenda Truman and Whitney McGowan. Council members who voted for the measure were Frank McClelland Jr., Gwen Davis and Mary Hamilton. The “no” votes came from Johnny Manning and Mark Chesser.
Fuller said, “At the first of each year, all of the city’s employees are hired for a one-year term. With a change in administration, there is always a change in personnel. I take no pleasure in seeing people lose their job, but what we did, we had to do for the betterment of the city.
“At city hall, we have a mess. No one can dispute that. The office is in such disarray that we had to get some new people in there who could make the corrections necessary to straighten things out. In short, I had to get some people onboard that I could trust and work with so that the city could move forward.”
Hamilton said she voted to not rehire for various reasons.
“Some of (the workers) were in positions where they had no business getting into the local politics of the last election, but they did,” she said. “Regarding city hall, there have been several complaints made about different things going on up there. And I just felt that some of these employees didn’t need to come back so that these problems could be addressed.”
Chesser said he didn’t agree with the mayor’s recommendations.
“I would have liked to have seen every employee get their job back,” he said. “And I feel we could have worked with each of them to make that happen, but they didn’t want to do that, and that is regrettable, especially when you remember just what some of them did for this city.
“Take Brenda (Truman). She’s been with the city for 20-something years. And Richard (Robertson), he’s been there a while too. Look at what all he did for this city to make it a better place. They just threw all of what they did out the window by getting rid of them.”
Tara Manning, who was previously the city clerk and ran for mayor in the last election, said she felt the terminations were politically motivated.
“I believe that all of us not being rehired was for political reasons,” she said. “Earlier today I was told that (Mayor) James (Fuller) said that he couldn’t have anyone working for him, as an employee, who didn’t support him during the election. That’s just wrong.”
Robertson, who had been police chief, was thankful for his time with the city.
“I appreciate the 11 great years I had with the city and the opportunity to serve the citizens of Ludowici. I also can appreciate the new mayor and new city council wanting to have a fresh start with new department heads,” he said.
Truman, who had been both a police dispatcher and city hall receptionist, was visibly upset with the decision.
“I served my community for 28 years, and this is the thanks that I get?” she said. “All I can say now is that it is in God’s hands.”