AUGUSTA, GA (WFXG) - John Clarke was sworn in as a Richmond County Commissioner Tuesday afternoon. The late Grady Smith’s daughters stood alongside Clarke as he took his oath.
It has been a difficult few weeks for the Commission, with the loss of Grady Smith back in October and the death of Andrew Jefferson just this week. Mayor Hardie Davis, Jr. spoke at the Commission meeting, saying that the most important thing anyone can have is the gift of family. “When we all leave this place, no one will replace us,” said Mayor Davis.
Only one commissioner objected to Clarke’s appointment: Bill Fennoy. He refused to stand and welcome Clarke to the Commission, citing a racist Facebook post allegedly made by the newly-appointed Commissioner back in 2014, years before he started a career in public service.
The post referenced the protests in Ferguson, Missouri and reportedly referred to African Americans with a racial slur. Commissioner Fennoy quoted some of that post in the meeting.
“People will look at me and say that I’m wrong because of what I said but accept and forgive him because of what he said.”
Commissioner Fennoy said that post doesn’t look good for the city and believes it says a lot about the people he works with. Fennoy also said he voted 'no’ because he didn’t have input on the late commissioner Grady Smith’s replacement.
Commissioner Clarke declined to talk to me on camera about the exchange - but he did say he’s looking forward to serving.
“I really wanna work on south Richmond County Center, downtown, riverfront, transit. There’s so many things that we can work on together...but it’s also gonna take citizens working with us to make this happen," Clarke told FOX 54.
Commissioner Clarke has spoken about the Facebook post in the past, saying in May 2018, “I can honestly say I don’t remember writing those insensitive and hurtful words but I take full responsibility for them, they were on my page... That dark time in my life I turned to alcohol to deal with the pain that was caused seeing the love in my life literally dying in my arms.”
At his appointment Tuesday, Clarke again spoke about the post, saying he will work hard for his critics. “I will never go there again.”
Both commissioners said they won’t let their feelings towards each other affect the progress in Richmond County. That’s a good thing because Commissioner Clarke’s appointment to replace Grady Smith goes until the end of the year. His official term will last four years.