Roswell’s new mayor apologizes for angry email

Mayor Kurt Wilson took the oath of office in City Hall chambers earlier this week and will lead his first City Council meeting on Monday. Courtesy Claire Bartlett

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Mayor Kurt Wilson took the oath of office in City Hall chambers earlier this week and will lead his first City Council meeting on Monday. Courtesy Claire Bartlett

Roswell’s new mayor says he was wrong for sending an angry email to the city administrator just weeks after election day in November.

Mayor Kurt Wilson took the oath of office in City Hall chambers earlier this week and will lead his first City Council meeting on Monday.

After beating former Mayor Lori Henry and resident Jason Yowell in the November election, he has vowed to take ownership of derailed city projects such as the realignment of Oxbo Road, and to also put residents’ interests first.

But he’s off to a rocky start.

Emails obtained by the AJC show Randy Knighton contacted Wilson Nov. 23 about a detailed orientation program he was arranging for newly elected officials, and wanted to coordinate with him. In his reply, Wilson took issue with Knighton waiting three weeks after the Nov. 2 election to contact him, calling it “unacceptable,” and questioned the city administrator’s ability to do his job.

“I would like to know if this is a job you are really going to be able to execute at a high level for the city of Roswell and this incoming city council and mayor?” Wilson wrote.

The AJC held a video conference call together with Wilson and Knighton Thursday in which the mayor said he was wrong and wants to reset.

Wilson said he wrote the email out of frustration and not receiving a call or note from Henry following the election.

“I was frustrated knowing a transition needed to take place,” he said. “I was wrong. It was a bad email on my part. It was poorly written. It was a poor response ... When I’m wrong, I’m wrong.”

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Randy Knighton told the AJC that while city administrators are hired in a political environment, he was brought to the city for his experience, knowledge and ability to lead. STEVE SCHAEFER / SPECIAL TO THE AJC

Randy Knighton told the AJC that while city administrators are hired in a political environment, he was brought to the city for his experience, knowledge and ability to lead. STEVE SCHAEFER / SPECIAL TO THE AJC

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Randy Knighton told the AJC that while city administrators are hired in a political environment, he was brought to the city for his experience, knowledge and ability to lead. STEVE SCHAEFER / SPECIAL TO THE AJC

Social media reaction to Wilson’s email, along with messages to the AJC from residents, range from “concerned” to “appalled,” and describe the content of the mayor’s note as “bullying.”

After posting the emails on its Facebook page Tuesday, Roswell Truth received nearly 60 comments. Wilson said he, too, has received text messages about his email.

“What concerned me the most is that he is treating this man as his inferior,” Resident Bo Turchin said via email to the AJC. “He isn’t even in office, and telling another human being that he is incompetent for not congratulating him quick enough.”

During the Thursday video conference with the AJC, Wilson sat with Knighton in a City Hall boardroom and apologized to the city administrator, adding that he hadn’t done so before that time.

Similar to Wilson, Knighton is also new to his Roswell position. He was hired after a split City Council vote approving his employment in September. Opposing council members said they wanted the hire delayed until after the election.

Wilson said he has told Knighton that he wished the city manager had waited until after the election to accept the position, but he supports him.

“There is no predisposed thoughts about the firing of Mr. Knighton,” Wilson said. “There never was on my part. There never will be. It will simply be based upon Mr. Knighton’s ability to get things done ... to execute at a high level.”

Knighton told the AJC that while city administrators are hired in a political environment, he was brought to the city for his experience, knowledge and ability to lead.

“I see so much potential here,” Knighton said. “I’m looking forward to an opportunity to serve the mayor and city council and ultimately the citizens of Roswell, to write that next chapter in Roswell’s history. Hopefully in about a year ... we will be able to talk about all the things that have been accomplished.”