January 12, 2006
Augusta commissioners spent seven hours together at a retreat talking through their differences with an out of town moderator. News 12 was there and has a look at what they accomplished.
Mayor Copenhaver compared the Augusta commission to a marriage that’s gone too long without counseling. And he says since divorce is not an option, he felt a retreat was the best idea.
Communicating, trusting each other and following the rules, that’s what Augusta commissioners say will get them working together.
After dissention in their last meeting ended up with several items frozen on the table. This retreat was designed to break the ice.
“We want to treat people fairly, we want to respect each other, we want to be respected,” Marion Williams said.
“I think it’s a trust of them being honest in their opinions with you. I think that’s been a universal consensus in there, we don’t trust each other to do the right thing,” said Jerry Brigham.
Commissioners rated issues they felt were most pressing on a scale of one to five, later splitting into small groups to talk about them.
“We’ve been there and we’ve seen it, you don’t always understand our problems,” Brigham said.
During lunch they also watched a video about diversity and I was invited to join in a discussion about the commission’s image in the media, an image J.R. Hatney says is often viewed as racially divided.
“We sometimes use race as an excuse not to cooperate. What’s given is a given, that we do have black and white folks. You can’t do nothing about that, but collectively we can come together and get to know each other better,” Hatney said.
At the end of the day, commissioners say it was seven hours well spent.
“I feel great about it. It’s a step in the right direction, it’s not the last step, it’s just the first step. But we’ll get there,” Mayor Copenhaver said.
“I thought it was very meaningful and I hope this type of retreat continues for us,” said Betty Beard.