Bruce Bailey Leads the First City Council Meeting as Mayor of Washington; Makes a Commitment to Transparency, Collaboration and Importance of Citizen Involvement

Published on 9 January 2024 at 18:44

Bruce Bailey and his wife Tina Bailey as he is sworn in by judge Charpin on January 8, 2024.

Bruce Bailey, Newt Gunter, and David Fisher are now official members of the governing body of Washington, Georgia.


Former mayor Bill deGolian handed over the gavel to Bailey and shared his confidence in the new mayor as well as the new council members. DeGolian said it was the greatest honor of his life to serve as the mayor. Councilman Andy Anderson presented deGolian with a U.S. flag that had been flown over the memorial at Pearl Harbor. DeGolian was very touched by this honor and explained that a familial connection to the attack at Pearl Harbor made the gift especially meaningful.


The Washington Wilkes Middle school girls’ and boys’ basketball teams were in attendance and were honored for being undefeated this season. It was also mentioned this is the second season in a row, the girls’ team has been undefeated. The teams received a round of applause and a standing ovation before taking their leave.


The first order of business was the approval of December meeting minutes and the January meeting agenda. Councilman Cullars pointed out the minutes from December did not contain a record of the discussion and vote to implement term limits so the minutes will be amended to include that information.


Public comments were made by Adrienne Anderson, Archie Acree and Alicia Finnell. Anderson personally invited the mayor and each member of council to the Martin Luther King Jr. Day events including the parade and breakfast. Acree made comments about the proposed board appointment stipulations and his intentions to spend the next four years working on engaging voters and a run for mayor in 2027. Finnell expressed the need for a process to improve communication between citizens and city council members who represent them.


Bailey began his discussion topics making clear he has never said that he would never break a tie as mayor. He clarified by saying he believes it is the job of the council to come together and work out differences to reach a consensus on matters motions are made on. He said only in situations where it is imperative a decision be made or it could result in negative consequences for the city, would he break a tie. He talked about the importance of transparency and said that he requested many documents during his campaign and that it sometimes took weeks to get the documents. He said the administrator needs to check with the city attorney to find out if documents are to be made available to the public or if information needs to be redacted. He reiterated a commitment to transparency and to listening to concerns of the citizens. He said anyone who has requested records and hasn’t received them can contact him directly. He also said he is planning to work to make the council meeting agendas available earlier than they have been made available in the past. The open records and open meetings law requires the meeting agenda be made available to the public no later than 24 hours prior to the meeting. Typically, the agenda isn’t available until just before the meeting.


Bailey also talked about being prudent with spending and that included the importance of the cost of the city attorney. He said some have tried to utilize the city attorney for personal issues and that it will no longer happen. He also wanted to clarify that he pays for the cell phone the city provides for him as mayor. Overall, his message was one of encouraging respectful dialogue, listening to one another and to the people who he and the council represent.


He shared that he would not be making board appointments at this meeting because he thinks more consideration, time and discussion with the city council members is needed. He had seen the survey created by the Washington Wilkes Informer and that the citizens have thoughts on the process. He said that items for discussion will not be voted on in the meeting unless they have been discussed among the council and ideally, with weigh in from constituents. He talked about the importance of city council members communicating with constituents before voting on motions. Councilman Cullars Sr. pointed out that the vote taken at the December meeting regarding term limits, was not discussed with him, councilman Hill or councilman Mahoney and suggested recalling that vote. Bailey said again, it’s important to know what the citizens want. He mentioned the Informer’s poll regarding term limits and that in that poll, more were for term limits than against and that it was an example of getting feedback from the citizens. Councilman Mahoney pointed out that the poll did not indicate the certainty that the people taking it were citizens of Washington. Important to note is that poll was simply a poll feature offered by Facebook and was very informal. It was not anonymous so the responders could be seen but there weren’t many responses because it wasn’t promoted as was the actual survey that was  created regarding board appointments. I shared this with the mayor after the meeting. I also shared that we can do surveys (not Facebook polls) that require the name and address of the responders so their residency can be verified.


Mahoney said the term limits should be voted on by the citizens. Councilman Anderson said he was not in support of that and that the issue had been voted on and decided. Cullars Sr. said to Anderson “you didn’t talk to us about it.” Anderson didn’t deny what Cullars Sr. said. He said it has already been sent to the state legislature to review and it had to be voted on in December to get it to the legislature in 2023. Anderson did not say why the issue had not been discussed with councilman Cullars Sr., Hill, or Mahoney prior to putting it to a vote at the December meeting. Councilman Gunter asked if it is possible to withdraw the term limit policy. The attorney, Adam Nelson said a request could be made but it isn’t a guarantee the legislature would withdraw it. Cullars Sr.’s motion was seconded by Hill and put to a vote with Cullars, Hill and Mahoney voting to withdraw and Anderson, Fisher and Gunter voting against the withdrawal so the motion did not pass with a majority. A courteous discussion was had with all councilmen who wished to share their opinions, the opportunity to do so.


Councilman Mahoney made a motion to recognize Washington natives Todd DJ ML King and Martell Davis who have had success in the music industry. Bailey acknowledged the accomplishments and said he too was planning to bring such a motion recognizing Hillary Lyndsey and Chris Rogers both musicians from Washington, at a later council meeting. Anderson said he wanted to make sure the artists suggested by Mahoney, produce music that “all of the citizens of Washington would be proud of.” Mahoney said, “it’s on the radio.” Bailey replied that “like any music, you’re likely to hear some words that you don’t like” and said the Washington natives are representing the city in moving forward. The motion was voted on and passed unanimously.


Motions were made to appoint judge Douglas Kidd as municipal court judge and Adam Nelson as city attorney. Both motions passed unanimously. The meeting was adjourned.


I spoke to mayor Bailey after the meeting about his statements on the importance of transparency as they relate to open records and open meetings law. I suggested Washington could be an example of compliance to these laws if some education was done such as the education the First Amendment Foundation has offered. He said he agrees and asked me to let him know what records I have requested and not received. He said he believes adherence to these laws are important to build trust in transparency and that he would like to work together on this.

You can watch a video recording of the full council meeting on our YouTube Channel.


Michelle Chaffee

Editor Washington Wilkes Informer

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