Atkinson supporters speak to city council

Published 8:24 pm Tuesday, November 20, 2012

OFFERING SUPPORT: Kristy Harrison was one of several citizens who spoke in favor of Diane Atkinson, at Tuesday’s city council meeting. |Brennan Leathers

About 30 people attended Tuesday’s Bainbridge City Council meeting to show their support for Diane Atkinson, a City of Bainbridge employee who was transferred from a position with Leisure Services to another department last week.

Atkinson, who was well-known in her role as program director for the city’s Leisure Services Department, was assigned a new position as the city’s special events coordinator on Monday.
Although City Manager Chris Hobby described Atkinson’s move as one that would benefit both her and the city, a number of people who have had contact with her in the past alleged the move was unfair.

Unable to speak at a special called meeting last Wednesday, the protesters returned Tuesday, with five of them choosing to speak.

Email newsletter signup

Kristy Harrison, who has coached city recreation teams and is the mother of children who have participated in them, spoke first.

Harrison outlined several personnel moves related to Leisure Services that she believed were detrimental and, in her view, caused frustration.

First, she discussed the transfer of Al Kelley, who had been with Leisure Services since 1981, to oversee the city’s shop and solid waste departments in 2011. Kelley said at the time he was ready for a new challenge.

But for some, the pairing of Kelley as Leisure Services Director and Atkinson as program director made for smoothly-run youth sports programs, an opinion Harrison and other speakers voiced.

Atkinson’s supporters were also upset that she was not asked to succeed Kelley as Leisure Services director and also upset that a third position — athletic director — was created, according to Dennis Cato, a softball coach and parent.

“Diane was the perfect person in a perfect job,” Cato said. “That third position — I don’t understand why it was created. I believe the conflicts [in that department] came from a lack of definition of what each of the three jobs did.”

Kevin Crowder said he is a certified baseball umpire and the parent of a daughter who plays sports and has worked part-time summer jobs for Leisure Services.

“The kids love her … the decision to transfer her needs to be reversed,” Crowder said.
Larry McConnell, a coach who said his sons had also worked part-time jobs at Leisure Services, said he believed that participation in the department’s programs would drop noticeably with Atkinson no longer present.

Former Bainbridge High School softball standout Haley Rathel read a letter from a current BHS student, who chose to remain anonymous.

Mayor Edward Reynolds said the council appreciated the speakers’ comments and would take them into consideration.