Suzanne Thrash thinks she knows why the mayor of Kennesaw shot down her bid to serve out the remainder of her late husband’s term on the City Council.
“I promised him I would do this,” she said of her husband. “How silly of me to think it would have worked out. I should have known better. Now everything is tainted, it’s dirty.”
Calling Wednesday’s meeting a “debacle” and a “slam” to her recently-deceased husband, the late Councilman Bill Thrash, Suzanne Thrash said what Mayor Mark Mathews would not say: he and Bill Thrash had political disagreements Mathews was not willing to let go of.
“There’s something wrong here,” she said. “There’s something really stinky in Denmark.”
She went on to say her husband was planning to challenge the mayor on a controversial issue involving the city’s ambulance service when he got too ill to continue the fight.
Mathews refutes that theory. He said the ambulance issue was settled long ago and the majority of the council picked Matthew Riedemann, chair of the Kennesaw Development Authority, to succeed Bill Thrash simply because Riedemann was the best person for the job.
“The candidate that was selected was selected based on ability and his ability to continue to execute the vision of the city,” Mathews said. “He’s up to speed on most major projects as chair of KDA and a good choice to continue moving the city forward.”
But what of Bill Thrash’s dying wish that his wife serve out the remainder of his term?
“Mr. Thrash knew how to get things accomplished in the city and he knew who he needed to talk to if he needed to get something done and he made a very concerted effort to get with everyone prior to his passing and share his ideas and his concerns,” Mathews said. “I can tell you from my personal interaction with him, I honored the wish that he asked from me. I honored the wish he had from me to continue to move the vision of the city forward and that’s what we’ll continue to do.”
The mayor said Bill Thrash did not tell him directly that he wished for his wife to succeed him on the council.
“Obviously I can only speak on what Bill said to me, not what he might or might not say to anybody else,” Mathews said.
Yet behind the scenes, Mathews seems to have a different opinion of the late Thrash.
Debra Ashley-Williams, a public relations consultant who helped with Mathews campaign when he ran for his first term, provided the MDJ with a June 12 series of text messages between herself and the mayor in which the mayor seemed to make light of Bill Thrash’s medical struggles.
In one text, Mathews called into question Thrash’s ability to make a clear recommendation on his successor.
“Bill’s wish at the point of coherent abilities or at the point of hallucinating about dogs jumping out of the car? Any clue how many times he apologized for her comments or actions? I’ve yet to attend an event or been at a function that she didn’t have a complaint. #1 complaint was always the size of her lobster or not getting ‘appropriate’ recognition. It was never what she deserved. I’m sorry but the city already has a person that abuses the position and wastes money with no remorse ... and believe it or not it’s not me.”
Ashley-Williams texted back, writing that “there are three times in the US government a spouse or daughter was appointed and nothing they did changed the course of history. In the next six months, what can happen that would be significant enough one vote could change?”
Mathews responded, “While a veto requires 4/5’s to override. The concern I have is the message being sent on 3/2 votes over purely emotional items while using ‘this is what Bill wanted...’ approach. We have quite a few major projects teed up that might get Leary (sic) without a strong consensus from the city officials.”
Ashley-Williams responded by asking if the projects were not in the works while Thrash was still alive, how could “feelings” be an argument.
“It’s not about actions regarding the projects,” Mathews wrote back. “It’s about the potential of other ‘emotionally’ based actions being taken. Unfortunately, based on recent attitudes and actions without consensus or approval, I believe that there will be action items considered that would show conflict and contradiction on the council. Our success over the past 5 years have been a result of a unified team approach which has been lost in the recent past.”
The MDJ asked Mathews why he made such comments about the late Thrash.
“There’s inside conversations, personal friend-of-friend conversations that were being had, and yes, he had hallucinations towards the end of his life,” Mathews said. “And it was joked about by him and by his close friends.”
Mathews went on to say that, “I had candid conversations with a friend, who I thought was a friend, that were the exact conversations I had with Mrs. Thrash.”
Moving forward, Suzanne Thrash, longtime coordinator of the city’s Youth Council program, said the only appropriate action is for Riedemann to decline his appointment to her husband’s vacant seat and for the council to select her.
“That’s the only fair thing that would work,” she said. “There is absolutely no reason for them not to appoint me.”
She said she does not intend to run for the seat in the November election so she would not be motivated by politics.
Suzanne Thrash said she met with Mathews a week ago at Trackside Grill in downtown Kennesaw where he told her she was “too negative” to take the seat.
But Suzanne Thrash said she believed the vote was more about electing a friend and ally who could be counted on to support the mayor in his longstanding dispute with some council members over the city’s ambulance service.
The Thrashes, longtime supporters of Georgia EMS, the city’s provider for 14 years, were at odds with Mathews, who works as a government liaison for MetroAtlanta Ambulance, the Zone III ambulance service that took over after it was determined the city was breaking the law by not using MetroAtlanta.
After the debacle and changing services, some city leaders felt they needed to take initiative to change state law to allow local municipalities to choose their own service provider. Presently, cities and counties have limited choices in who they select for ambulance service. They are governed by regional councils and are required to use the council’s selected service provider under a “home rule” arrangement.
A resolution urging the Legislature to change the home rule law was introduced by Councilman Bruce Jenkins last month, only to meet with stiff opposition by the mayor and his allies, councilmen Tim Killingsworth and Jeff Duckett.
“Bill was trying to get home rule changed so cities could make their own decisions,” Suzanne Thrash said. “That’s what Bill really wanted to do was get home rule changed and that was a battle, which of course he was fighting Mark all the time on that.”
Thrash admitted she was prejudiced toward Georgia EMS, calling owner Ron Kadner and his brother Steve Kadner, who also works for Georgia EMS, “absolute angels” for coming and sitting with her husband while he battled cancer.
“These men saved my husband’s life many times,” she said.
Suzanne Thrash said she wouldn’t call the relationship between her husband and the mayor “adversarial,” but when it came to the issue of ambulance service, things did get heated.
“I’d say they definitely had a difference of opinions,” she said. “Bill discussed everything with me. I knew all of this skullduggery that was going on was political. Our beautiful little town, it’s so sad. I don’t think we can fix it.”
Text message exchange
This is a text message exchange between Kennesaw Mayor Mark Mathews (M) and his former campaign worker, Debra Ashley-Williams (D). Ms. Williams submitted the exchange — which occurred at the June 12 council meeting, during which the timeline to name a new councilman was established — after Wednesday night’s controversial meeting.
(M) So was the meeting better or worse than expectations?
(D) Three ring circus!
(M) Ha. Pretty much.
(M) Who had the best act?
(M) Wouldn't disagree. Feedback? Guidance? Suggestions?
(D) Tough position. Other than granting Bill's (Thrash) wish and being viewed as compassionate in the public's eye, my only thought of a viable candidate is Sam Paglioni.
(M) Bill's wish at the point of coherent abilities or at the point of hallucinating about dogs jumping out of the car? Any clue how many times he apologized for her comments or actions? I've yet to attend an event or been at a function that she didn't have a complaint. #1 complaint was always the size of her lobster or not getting "appropriate" recognition. It was never what she deserved. I'm sorry but the city already has a person that abuses the position and wastes money with no remorse ... and believe it or not it's not me.
(D) I don't know about the apologies. I know he told Shannan early, he spoke to me about it going to one of his treatments. That's what I can vouch for. Now having said that, there are three times in the US government a spouse or daughter was appointed and nothing they did changed the course of history. In the next six months, what can happen that would be significant enough one vote could change?
(M) While a veto requires 4/5's to override. The concern I have is the message being sent on 3/2 votes over purely emotional items while using "this is what Bill wanted..." approach. We have quite a few major projects teed up that might get Leary without a strong consensus from the city officials.
(D) If these projects were not in the works while he was in the conversation how could "feelings" be an argument.
(M) It's not about actions regarding the projects. It's about the potential of other "emotionally" based actions being taken. Unfortunately, based on recent attitudes and actions without consensus or approval, I believe that there will be action items considered that would show conflict and contradiction on the council. Our success over the past 5 years have been a result of a unified team approach which has been lost in the recent past.
(D) Tough position. No win situation. Most of the candidates are a joke, made a three-ring circus out of the open call. So much transparency isn't always a success.