Marietta makes Juneteenth, Veterans Day paid city holidays

City of Marietta (Courtesy of Marietta)

City of Marietta (Courtesy of Marietta)

Roughly two weeks after the topic led to a mayor’s veto and a councilmember walking out of a public meeting, Juneteenth and Veterans Day are now paid holidays in Marietta.

The city held a special called meeting at noon Friday to add the two paid holidays for city employees. The Marietta Daily Journal reported the votes were unanimous, and city leaders were quick to thank each other for moving past the issue.

Juneteenth, the celebration of the end of slavery in the U.S., was nearly added to that calendar on April 13, but the effort ended in contentious fashion.

A 4-3 vote to make Juneteenth a paid city holiday was quickly followed by a veto from longtime Mayor Steve “Thunder” Tumlin, who said he was concerned about adding Juneteenth to the city’s holiday calendar when it omits Veterans Day. A vote to override Tumlin’s veto came up one vote shy.

Councilwoman Cheryl Richardson, who lobbied for the Juneteenth item, got up and left City Hall after the vote failed. As she stood up to leave, she said, “I will just say that this day will go down in the history of Marietta.”

Juneteenth, which has been celebrated in Texas and among Black communities for more than a century, has recently gained more widespread adoption. Atlanta and some southside cities began recognizing the holiday in 2020, while the state and several other local governments got on board after it became a federal holiday last year. Gov. Brian Kemp made it a paid state holiday earlier this month after it passed almost unanimously through the state Legislature.

The Cobb County NAACP members in attendance April 13 also voiced their disappointment in the mayor’s veto, but he seemed to only wish to adopt Juneteenth if it was packaged with Veterans Day.

“I’d hate to do one and not the other,” Tumlin said during the City Council meeting, emphasizing the city’s connection to military locations including Dobbins Air Reserve Base and Lockheed Martin. “Veterans Day is awfully important.”

Richardson, who said she’s the only veteran on the City Council, added that she’s open to making both Juneteenth and Veterans’ Day city holidays, but she said that wasn’t what they were discussing at the time.

“I think that’s a separate vote,” she said April 13. “As you (Tumlin) said, (Veterans Day) has been around since 1918... and it’s not been brought up as a holiday before now. And I think to put them on together is to say that the only way one will be supported is if both happen.”

Juneteenth and Veterans Day increases the number of paid holidays in Marietta to 12. City Manager Bill Bruton said that each paid city holiday costs taxpayers about $50,000 to $55,000. Juneteenth, which is celebrated on June 19, falls on a Sunday this year, so the holiday would be observed on June 20. Veterans Day is Nov. 11, a Friday.

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