Retreating to a better place
by The Anniston Star Editorial Board
Nov 05, 2012 | 1618 views |  0 comments | 9 9 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Retreat for the new Anniston City Council Thursday at the Anniston Aquatic  center. Left to right: City Manager Don Hoyt, Seyram Selase, David Reddick, Vaughn Stewart, Millie Harris and Jay Jenkins. Photo: Bill Wilson/The Anniston Star
Retreat for the new Anniston City Council Thursday at the Anniston Aquatic center. Left to right: City Manager Don Hoyt, Seyram Selase, David Reddick, Vaughn Stewart, Millie Harris and Jay Jenkins. Photo: Bill Wilson/The Anniston Star
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Anniston’s incoming City Council is already off to a rollicking start. It’s gathered for a few teamwork-building retreat sessions — and there were no fistfights, screaming matches or filed lawsuits.

That’s humor, Gurnee Avenue-style.

It’s also fair, given what’s happened in Anniston since the inglorious election of 2008. We expected Mayor-elect Vaughn Stewart, returning Councilman Jay Jenkins and new council members David Reddick, Millie Harris and Seyram Selase to instantly improve city government’s decorum and respectability. Of course, the bar they’re aiming for is pretty low; behavior-wise, anything is an upgrade.

That said, Anniston’s incoming leadership team would be wise to heed a few of the well-placed words from Jim Byard, director of the Alabama Department of Economic and Community Affairs, who spoke to the mayor and council at one of their retreat sessions last week.

Byard, the former mayor of Prattville, told them many things. The most prescient comment: When you act like fools, that foolishness carries far and wide.

The former mayor pointed out that even though he doesn’t live in Anniston, he was aware of the physical altercation between Mayor Gene Robinson and former Councilman John Spain that led to Spain’s arrest. Hallway assaults between mayors and council members make the news; in Byard’s case, he read about the Robinson-Spain match online.

Granted, this isn’t to suggest that Anniston’s new leaders are the tusslin’ types. From what we can see, and from what we know about these people, that’s neither their style nor reputation.

Instead, Byard’s point is that Anniston’s reputation is affected — mightily — not only by the decisions the council makes, but by its comportment while in office. In a sense, Annistonians are the parents telling these five individuals what they would tell their children: Don’t embarrass us in public, or else!

Our expectations are for these fledgling politicians to make earnest efforts and a few mistakes as they learn their way through the trappings and responsibilities of local government. It’s commendable that they agreed to last week’s retreat sessions so that basics such as open-meetings laws and city procedures could be addressed before they are sworn in.

Greater still is our expectation that the incoming council members will highly value the city’s reputation and their role in protecting it. Sound leadership and smart decisions should be their best approach.
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