Eileen Alberstadt, a familiar face at city meetings, said during the public comment portion of Tuesday night’s council meeting that she was speaking on behalf of a group of concerned citizens who want to see the city “unite.”
Alberstadt firmly said that the bullying has to stop, or she will personally petition to have Mathews or members of the council recalled and removed from office.
Alberstadt, who has lived in Kennesaw for 10 years after moving from Tallahassee, Fla., to Cobb, said some council members are her friends. But, Alberstadt said she shares “bad blood” with Mathews and other council members over past disagreements.
On Tuesday night, Councilwoman Cris Welsh said she had prepared a statement, but she went off the script to address the crowded room of residents.
Welsh said Mathews has been condescending toward her during their conversations.
And, for the majority of the time she has been on the council, Welsh said she has spent two and a half years “avoiding slings and arrows.”
“I’m done with that,” she said.
Welsh says ‘stop the infighting’
The infighting has caused Welsh to neglect her family and business, she said. Welsh has two young daughters, Isabelle and Shelby, and runs Eaton Chiropractic on Main Street in downtown Kennesaw.
Welsh said her antagonists have accused Welsh of owing past-due property taxes. Welsh said Tuesday night that during the slow economy she has tightened her belt and is paying the taxes in installments, just as other property owners have been forced to do.
“I am not ashamed. I am not alone,” Welsh said.
Welsh won re-election in 2011 for a second term and took office in January 2012. Her term expires at the end of 2015.
“Despite what’s gone on up here the last two and a half years, despite the tone that has been set,” Welsh said the city staff has done an excellent job and the city has moved forward, with more positive news on the horizon.
But, she said, “the infighting has got to stop. It’s the last thing we need. We are going to disagree on a lot of stuff, but we don’t have to disagree and take it personally.
“I just want to finish up my final two years in peace.”
The mayor versus the council
On Tuesday, Councilwoman Debra Williams said the council is composed of many personalities with strong convictions.
And, each council member has supporters “who are going to defend us till the end,” Williams said.
But, she asked those people not to make disagreements between Mathews and a council member personal.
“When we divide, we cannot make progress,” Williams said.
Mathews did not address the outcry by Alberstadt during the meeting, but said afterward he does not know what the real issue is.
“It has evolved into something where no one can pinpoint specifics,” Mathews said. “For months I have asked to be called out on any actions of mine that are questionable.”
Mathews accused members of the council of not talking directly to each other or with him, instead using social media or supporters in the community to address issues and come down on one side or the other.
He said council members should “take responsibility” for their actions, matching what they say.
“I feel like my actions and my words are consistent,” Mathews said.
Mathews said any change in attitude by the council will be up to each individual.
After the public meeting Tuesday night, each council member and Mathews posed and smiled to take a picture together to be hung in the foyer of city hall.
Speaking for the residents
Alberstadt was the only resident who spoke during the public comment section Tuesday night.
She said Kennesaw residents are fed up with the power struggles happening on the City Council, which swore in three new members about two weeks ago.
“I would like to know and the citizens would like to know, when are you going to work together?” Alberstadt asked.
Alberstadt said she does not expect the council members to all vote the same, but they need to join together to address the needs of Kennesaw.
The council should have “no secret projects or backroom handshake deals,” Alberstadt said, and all information about future developments in Kennesaw should be shared between all the council members and Mathews.
Alberstadt is a retired legal assistant who served on the Kennesaw Ethics Board until a year and a half ago. Now, Alberstadt said, she wants to “work in the wings,” helping businesses write grants to update their signage to beautify Kennesaw.
The high voter turnout at last year’s election has stirred Kennesaw residents into action, Alberstadt said, including some community members with extensive educational backgrounds who want to join city boards.
Alberstadt said it will be clear if the council and Mathews heard her warning by their personal encounters with her in the future.