In the words of Edmund Burke, the Irish statesman, “The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing,” and “All tyranny needs to gain a foothold is for people of good conscience to remain silent.”
I, for one, can remain silent no longer.
After almost four decades of public service to the city of Hinesville through the administrations of six mayors (including eight years with me from 2000-2008), Lester L. “Billy” Edwards will leave the helm of the city as its chief operating officer. His leadership has taken us from a community of 4,000 in 1970 to a Metropolitan Statistical Area (MSA) of over 77,000 people and a city now approaching 40,000 people.
His dedicated service, through good times and not so good times, has been exemplary. A more balanced or calmer hand could not have guided this ship of state than his. In my eight years of service with him, I never heard him raise his voice to anyone, whether a customer of the city, an employee of the city, an elected member of the city council or even a mayor.
Make no mistake though, without reservation he has always “spoken truth to power’’ even when those in power did not want to hear the truth. Me included. It is so much easier to tell people what they want to hear. It is that integrity which our city will miss the most.
The sadness is not that he now seeks a well deserved rest from the current frustrations; but the circumstances under which he departs. In 39 years of service to the city not once has any disciplinary action been taken by any mayor or city council with respect to his performance and none is contained in his personnel file, until his recent two week suspension without pay by the majority of this city council. An action which in my judgment was taken illegally and without even the simple courtesy of an accusation or explanation of what it was that he did wrong. Needless to say, this action was taken without due process or the procedural safeguard of a hearing on the issue which is the process extended to all employees of the city prior to any such action.
I suspect that such an insult requires more than even Mr. Edwards is prepared to give in service to the city. That is understandable. We will all live with the results that come now and will suffer his loss together.
Now we must he grateful and celebrate the years of faithful service of Mr. Edwards. Please join me in giving a resounding “thank you” to Lester L. “Billy” Edwards for helping to make Hinesville the city it is today!
We wish him the very best in his retirement!