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The Hinesville three and me, what is to be?
Editor's take
Jeff Whitten NEW
Jeff Whitten is somehow still allowed to be managing editor of the Coastal Courier. - photo by File photo

Old news, new news, etc. This whole Billy Edwards thing is still giving me headaches.

And not just because I think Edwards deserves better, though he does. So do residents. You don’t suspend a man who’s served this community for more than three decades and then not say why you’re doing it.

So, there’s that.

And there’s this: We haven’t dropped the Edwards story, not by a long shot. But sometimes journalism, just like everything else that matters, takes time.

That’s why I’ve always tried to see things from other points of view. Walk a mile in other folks’ shoes. Have some empathy.

That’s different than having an agenda. As my longtime friend and co-worker Pat Watkins once said, "hey, we’re not smart enough at this paper to have agendas."

But it’s easy to say that three council members, I’ll call them The Hinesville Three, are plotting some sort of coup - as one Soundoff caller did recently - without realize some Hinesville residents may think it’s time for change.

Do those residents count less than residents who believe things ought to go on forever the way they are?

How did Donald Trump get elected? He got elected as an outsider who ran against the establishment with a promise to drain a certain swamp. So far, all it looks like he’s succeeded in draining are environmental safeguards.

In my time in newspapers, I’ve seen dozens of candidates who "run against city hall," as outsiders who promise to fix things. Nearly all who got elected ended up being just like the folks they replaced.

They get co-opted into the process, and pretty soon folks are running against them.

So far, it’s pretty clear that’s not the case with The Hinesville Three.

Still, there are rules and there’s Hinesville’s pesky city code, which says some other things that may or may not end up a part of this ongoing story, because you can add to the mix at least one accusation of city charter violations against at least one of The Hinesville Three.

In short, city council members aren’t supposed to go around telling city employees how to do their jobs.

But as The Hinesville Three work to rewrite the city charter to remove the mayor from the process of hiring or firing a city manager, they could be setting future city managers up for similar treatment by different council members.

And what goes around sometimes comes around.

In the meantime, there’s the insult to residents who elect not only their council member but also vote for a mayor. He’s part of this whole representative government thing, isn’t he? Shouldn’t he be part of the process?

Finally, there are appearances. Some folks have already dealt the race card, since Edwards is white while the Hinesville Three are African American. I’ve been accused of playing that card myself, when I ran a photo of Edwards alongside one of councilmember Diana Reid when this story first broke.

Nope. Sorry. I’m not prejudiced against people because of their race, creed or color. I just don’t like mean people, whether they’re white, black or puce.

But I get the idea that some might go in that direction. What would some folks have said if the skin colors had been reversed, and three white council members abruptly suspended a blac city manager and then wouldn’t say why? Would that have mattered to those who see race as an issue?

Finally, there’s Edwards, who lawyered up early on and has since kept silent on this issue. He is rumored to be ready to retire.

Whether that’s accurate or not, I don’t know. But two members of The Hinesville Three told me recently he deserves respect, adding an ironic twist to what happened June 1.

Yes, Edwards deserves respect. So do those trying to do what they think is right for their constituents and/or the city, whatever it may be.

Like I said. This story is far from over. And it doesn’t promise to go away anytime soon.

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