The city of Ringgold is within Catoosa County Commission District 3, and Vanita Hullander won the Republican Primary to represent our district. I am now seeing yard signs and Facebook boosts pushing a write in candidate. I want to take a moment to talk about my personal experience with Terry Crawford on our Ringgold City Council. It. Was. Awful.
Right after I was elected to be the next Mayor after Joe Barger retired, one of the first things our council turned our attention to was fixing some inconsistencies in our charter. These were minor changes that we all worked on collectively, voted on, and sent to Atlanta for passage through our state legislature. Behind the scenes, Terry worked on adding a significant change that shifted power from your elected officials, whom you can hold accountable, to an appointed position in our city. Changing the requirement to remove the city manager from 3 to 5 votes was a fundamental shift away from public accountability, and the intentional way in which it was hidden from the public was in direct conflict to the open government platform I had promised to govern by. I know that Senator Mullis has caught most of the heat for that decision, but it was Terry’s manipulations that got it slipped into our charter request. During my first term as Mayor, Terry persistently spread lies that I was trying to fire our city manager. Not one person will corroborate that story, and I told him personally that I had no intention of moving in that direction. Still, the lies continued. City employees began to believe that I was trying to do that. The turmoil caused by these lies and subsequent back-room dealing to change our charter are only now beginning to heal at City Hall.
There were multiple instances in which Terry made ridiculous accusations of ethics violations during our council meetings. In one of those scenarios, he accused me personally of violating our ethics code and suggested we contact the city attorney to verify that claim. I insisted we move in that direction because I wanted to clear my name. Our city attorney affirmed I had done nothing wrong. The point of the accusation was to damage me politically. He could have gotten clarification ahead of time to know if his attack was warranted, but he used the opportunity to make an ethics accusation during an open council meeting with disregard to it’s validity. It was reckless and desperate. Instead of trying to win the arguments of ideas, he makes harmful accusations when he disagrees with you on policy.
The last point I want to make is that he tried to convince the rest of our council, along with Randall Franks, that I should not be allowed to voice my opinion on agenda items during our council meetings. This argument was made multiple times during work sessions, open council meetings, and in other settings. We had to waste taxpayer money by sending this issue to our city attorney to make clear to them I was doing nothing wrong by voicing my opinion. This was a clear attempt to silence me when they were beginning to see I was gaining influence by addressing the public openly and honestly as opposed to bowing to the good ole boy system. Ultimately, that is what Terry’s run is all about. There is an independent voice running for this seat in Vanita Hullander, and challenging the status quo, in any kind of way, will not do with this bunch.
When Terry decided not to challenge me for the mayoral seat, which he was gearing up to do, I decided to not call him out publicly for his role in changing our charter. I respected his decision to listen to his doctor and not participate in politics. Now that he has entered the race for the county commission seat that encompasses Ringgold, I feel like I need to relay my personal experience so others in the district know the tactics he employs. There are many more examples of how he tried to bully, threaten, and mislead to achieve his goals. For the sake of post length, I will finish by saying, check the box for Vanita this November. We don’t need underhanded politics in our community.