He was a victim of circumstances that have nothing to do with him. It was par-for-the-course for some members of the council who keep feuding while they are supposedly representing the will of those who elected them to office.
This latest fiasco began at the first meeting of the new year when City Manager Scott Wood saw the writing on the proverbial wall and tendered his resignation. The mayor and some of the council members were elated. Others were angered. As usual, they had a heated discussion.
Before Mr. Wood arrived on the scene, his past history in city government had preceded him. It was not a total bed of roses and some objected to his getting the position. In other words, he arrived with baggage.
When he left the city manager of Canton’s office, Mr. Wood had acquired additional baggage.
Strange as it seemed, one member of the council was named as interim city manager at a salary of $10,000 per month.
As expected, the vacancy was advertised. Although the discord between the mayor and some of the council members is well known, there was no shortage of applicants.
One of those applicants was Canton resident Billy Peppers.
The plan was that search committee members would review applications and interview applicants. Then, a finalist(s) would be announced. Next, the finalist(s) would meet with the full city council in executive session before a final vote was taken.
Part of that happened. The search committee reviewed the applications, conducted interviews and made their recommendation. In a press conference called by Mayor Gene Hobgood, it was announced there was one finalist — Billy Peppers.
At the press conference, Mayor Hobgood spoke of Billy Peppers’ strengths — knowledge of the area, good rapport with the people of Canton and experience with city, county and state government. He also cited Peppers’ enthusiasm and successful track record working in the city of Woodstock and now as director of the Georgia Office of Downtown Development.
If you saw the picture of Billy Peppers in this newspaper when the announcement was made, you saw a clean-cut young man excited about what lay ahead. But that was not to be.
If things had gone as planned, the full council would have met with Billy Peppers and had the opportunity to learn more about him.
True to form — almost immediately — criticism and objections to Billy Peppers’ nomination came from some council members.
They had already made up their minds and were vocal about their objections. Billy Peppers was too young. His experience in city government was too limited. There were claims that the process through which he was selected the finalist was not done correctly, etc.
That was when he, an excellent candidate, withdrew his application.
It is telling that some of the members of the council who attacked his nomination had never had a conversation with him. Others had never met him.
If they had controlled themselves until the scheduled meeting for them to meet with him, they might have learned things about him that would have given them second thoughts.
He is mature beyond his years. His ability to remain calm in difficult circumstances, work well with others — even when he does not agree with them — and be respectful to everyone are attributes badly needed by a city manager.
Those who snubbed him for the position — and publicly embarrassed him and his family — probably have no idea of how involved he is in Canton and Cherokee County. From the Chamber of Commerce to the Historical Society, he is well known. His skills have been recognized and enhanced through memberships in Leadership Cherokee and Leadership Georgia.
Now, a man with energy, enthusiasm, good character and a record of success has decided he does not want to be a part of the constant infighting. With his contacts at the state level and his experience in city government, chances are he would have been an excellent leader for the city.
What happens next in Canton’s quest for a city manager? Does anyone know? One thing is for sure. The council members will never totally agree on who gets the job or much of anything else. In the meantime, the interim city manager/council member will continue to get $10,000 per month.
To quote somewhat from the movie “Star Wars,” when someone is selected to be the city manager, “May the force be with him.”
Marguerite Cline is former mayor of Waleska.