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‘Slap in the face:’ Marietta mayor vetoes motion to make Juneteenth paid staff holiday

Mayor Steve Tumlin argued Veterans Day has been a federal holiday longer and it’s not a paid staff holiday
Published: Apr. 14, 2022 at 5:41 PM EDT
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MARIETTA, Ga. (CBS46) - Cheers turned to groans in Marietta after a shocking last-minute move during a city council meeting Wednesday night.

Councilwoman Cheryl Richardson motioned for a vote to recognize Juneteenth as a paid holiday for city employees. During the discussion, Mayor Steve Tumlin pushed back, arguing Armistice or Veterans Day has been a federal holiday longer and it’s not a paid staff holiday

“I would hate to do one and not the other for Armistice,” Tumlin said during the meeting.

“I think to put them on together is to say that the only way one will be supported is if one happens,” Richardson rebutted.

The motion passed 4-3 with Councilmembers Richardson, Carlyle Kent, Andre Sims and Joseph Goldstein voting in favor. Councilmen Griffin Chalfant, Johnny Walker and G.A. (Andy) Morris opposed. Mayor Tumlin then vetoed the vote. The majority tried overriding the mayor’s veto but were unable to garner the necessary five votes to do so.

“It’s such a slap in the face,” said Jeriene Bonner-Grimes, the president of the Cobb County chapter of the NAACP. “Where is the sensitivity? Where is the reconciliation? It sends a very unsettling message, very unsettling.”

Grimes attended last night’s meeting and was one of a handful of people who spoke out against the mayor’s decision. Her organization has celebrated Juneteenth, which commemorates the end of slavery, on the Marietta Square going on 19 years.

“The mayor has shared in the celebration with us and for him to take that posture and not to really be able to justify it let us know what we’re dealing with, who we’re dealing with in the City of Marietta,” Grimes told CBS46.

Juneteenth officially became a federal holiday last year. It’s also an observed paid holiday for state and county employees.

“We will get passed this, but it was just a sad day,” said Councilmen Kent, who voted in favor of the motion. “To think this is going to add to the diverge of doing good that the city has accomplished.”

Kent said didn’t think it was fair the mayor wanted to use Veterans Day as a reason not to vote to make Juneteenth a holiday. He told CBS46 emailed the mayor on Thursday asking him to retract his veto or consider bringing the measure up at a future council meeting.

“This area has a rich history,” he added. “Slaves used to be sold on this Square. So, I’ve always been taught that if you don’t know your history, you’ll repeat it. So, I think that it’s important to celebrate Juneteenth.”

“It’s not over,” Grimes added. “I will say that. It’s not over.”

CBS46 reached out to Mayor Tumlin, via email and call, several times on Thursday but he did not return our inquiries.