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Community    |    Articles of interest to the community.

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published on 09/13/2006

Open Letter to Mayor Leonard

By Anne Leonard

Dear Bill,

I apologize. Four years ago I urged you to run for the Town Council because I thought your considerable management experience and organization skills could benefit Signal Mountain. I was excited when the election results revealed you had received the most votes and earned a four-year term. I was pleased when you became Vice Mayor and I was very proud two years later when you were elected Mayor by a unanimous vote of the Town Council. You even joked that you were “Mayberry’s Mayor of Potholes and Barking Dogs”. Well, we’re not in Mayberry anymore.

I am dismayed that a petition was circulated to recall you. You are completely innocent of the criminal or ethical misconduct that leads to the removal of elected officials. Let’s review what you have done to deserve this humiliating treatment. You have cemented relationships with the neighboring Townships of Walden and Red Bank. Last year’s guardrail system up the mountain was installed as a direct result of your fence mending with the Tennessee Department of Transportation. You have attended two sessions of the Elected Officials Academy in Nashville to keep well informed of current state and local government policies and procedures. Signal Mountain children are safer walking to and from school with the addition of the sidewalk on Cauthen Way and the widening of the shoulders on Taft Highway, from the shopping center to the ball fields, because you thought it was important. It was your idea NOT to include apartment buildings in the new zoning ordinance for the Shackleford Ridge area, even though they are allowed in the Town of Signal Mountain under current zoning. When you determined that some interested citizens were honestly trying to “catch up” with the zoning issue, you called a special 3-hour meeting at the Town Gym to educate the community and receive input. And you have conducted high profile Town meetings with dignity and decorum.

I just don’t understand how a vote to approve a zoning ordinance submitted by the Town Planning Commission is grounds to remove you from office. And by the way, can’t this ordinance be reworked or revoked by any subsequent Town Council? The allegation that you refused to accept a moratorium petition at the July 10th Town meeting is simply untrue. I was there. You held the floor open for two hours giving citizens the chance to express their opinions. There was ample opportunity for a presentation at that time and no petition was forthcoming. Why wasn’t it brought to the Town Hall the next day or the next? In fact, to my knowledge, this alleged petition was never presented to any Town official. Ever.

Since the reason for your recall is not accurate to the facts, the recall petition authors who compiled the false and misleading charges should be held responsible for their actions. They are only attempting to embarrass you and the community. If the recall threat was meant to prevent you from running for a second term, it was unnecessary. Long before this furor, you had decided not to seek reelection to the disappointment of many supporters. You often said “the first time you run for office you’re a citizen, the next time you run you’re a politician”. You always wanted to retain your citizen status, and true to that commitment, you felt one “tour of duty” was sufficient. None of the councilmen, up for reelection, are seeking another term. Does that say anything about our community?

You have been concerned that this unpleasantness has bothered your family. Of course it has. Who would enjoy seeing their husband, father, father-in-law, grandfather or son-in-law in the middle of such controversy? This community, which we have been a part of for almost a quarter of a century, feels unfamiliar to me now. I can’t help but wonder, as I see people “did he sign the petition, is she one of the one’s trying to tarnish your reputation?” This is really hard. We have the list of petition signers, but I have yet to read it. When I work up the nerve to read the names of those who have turned against us, I’m afraid my feelings will change forever. And yes, it is personal!

I hope when you look back on your time as Mayor, you will remember the good things that were accomplished during your administration and not the last few months of turmoil. I commend you for taking the “high road” during this distressing time. Your even-tempered leadership has served the Town of Signal Mountain well. Your family loves and supports you for the man of character and integrity you are. You have always based your decisions on what you feel are in the best interests of the Town. The old adage “you can’t please everybody” is certainly true, but you can be fair to everyone, and you have been. It is the treatment you are receiving from a certain group of your fellow citizens, based on false claims, that is not fair. And you just don’t deserve it.

Anne Leonard
Signal Mountain

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