Tom Berry addresses the Albany City Commission at a called meeting Thursday. The commission voted 7-0 to name Berry interim city manager. (Staff photo: Carlton Fletcher)
ALBANY — Long-time Albany City Commissioner Jon Howard’s words best summed up the overall feelings of the board Thursday as it prepared to vote on naming Tom Berry the city’s new interim city manager.
“I believe our city is much bigger than I am,” Howard said. “I have mixed emotions about this contract, but I’m willing to forgive and forget the past and do what’s best for the city of Albany.”
Howard’s words came moments before the commission voted 7-0 to put Berry in the position vacated by James Taylor, who had his letter of resignation approved by the commission Tuesday morning. And even though Berry had referred to four of the commissioners as “dysfunctional” during his angry resignation announcement from the city’s Water, Gas & Light Commission on June 26, the board nominated Berry for the interim position.
Thursday’s vote was to approve a professional services contract that will pay Berry $9,000 a month.
Before the vote, Mayor Dorothy Hubbard called Berry before the commission. He offered a brief apology for the comments made during his WG&L resignation.
“I want to apologize for the method I used to vent my frustration,” Berry said. “If you approve this resolution (that would make Berry interim city manager), I’ll be here to serve this community.”
Ward VI Commissioner Tommie Postell applauded Berry for making the public apology.
“I appreciate you making that statement,” Postell said. “Because I want you to know, I’m not dysfunctional. That means I can’t think, and I can think just like you.”
Postell later said he voted to approve Berry for the good of the city, despite some apprehension from constituents.
“Most of my constituents said, ‘Don’t put that man in office after he talked bad about just the black commissioners,’” Postell said. “I told them I couldn’t look at things that way, and anyway, Roger (Marietta) was one of the people he included and Roger’s not black. I told the mayor I felt that (the four commissioners singled out by Berry) were owed an apology, and I was satisfied with the apology he gave.
“For this commission to be strong, we can’t have three people voting one way and three more voting another on every issue. We have to work together. I think today’s vote shows that, it shows a unity on this board.”
Ward II Commissioner Bobby Coleman, one of the four called out by Berry in his WG&L speech, cast the deciding vote to nominate Berry for the position Tuesday. Coleman said Thursday it’s time for the rhetoric to stop.
“We’re told to judge people by what they do, not what they say,” Coleman said. “That applies to Mr. Berry, and that applies to (the commission) as well. What we’re doing as commissioners is not about grandstanding. It’s about conviction.”
After the 7-0 vote, Mayor Dorothy Hubbard said, “I’d like to thank the City Commission and Mr. Berry. This vote is about moving our city forward.”
Ward V Commissioner Bob Langstaff lauded the move to bring Berry on on an interim basis, but he lamented the departure of Taylor.
“I am thrilled that Tom Berry is willing to serve this community,” Langstaff said. “But I do regret that James Taylor is not here to serve with him. Mr. Taylor did a lot for the city of Albany, and (he and Berry) made a great team.”
Berry, who will move into the city manager’s office on July 18 after returning from the Municipal Electric Authority of Georgia’s annual meeting, said he’s ready to go to work.
“I’ll start making rounds to all the departments today and tomorrow and then officially start the job on the 18th,” he said. “I think today was important because these commissioners needed to know — and I needed to know — that we would be working together in an environment where we could feel comfortable. We would not accomplish anything working in animosity. I feel confident that we’re going to work together to do what’s best for this community.”