OUR VIEW: Kelsey leaves big shoes to fill

Published 9:30 am Saturday, December 23, 2023

With no disrespect to the current and former mayors of LaGrange, the many-hard working city staff members and the various department heads that all play an integral role in making the city operate, there’s no position more important than that of city manager.

Understandably, many citizens probably believe that no position is more important than that of mayor. And while that position is incredibly important, it’s actually a city manager that runs the day-to-day operations of the city. The mayor typically has another full-time profession. 

Therefore, the departure of city manager Meg Kelsey is enormous for the city of LaGrange. We cannot overstate that. 

She announced last week that she is taking a job with the city of Newnan and will leave in January. 

Kelsey has been with the city for 27 years and took over as city manager in 2016. Her knowledge of the city’s inner-workings and ability to make a budget work through incredibly tough times (COVID-19 among them) are traits that cannot be replaced easily. 

We admit that timing of Kelsey’s decision is curious. Perhaps it is just as simple as her hometown of Newnan calling her home. But Newnan has been 40 minutes down the road for nearly three decades. 

Regardless of the reason, her ability to balance and oversee a large, complicated budget is integral to how efficiently the city has run during her tenure. Just last year, she helped find the funding for additional police officers without raising utility rates in the city of LaGrange. 

The best city managers are able to work major needs into the budget, finding a way to move money around, use grant funding, pull from reserves when necessary and turn a saved dime here or there into a windfall. Kelsey made that happen for LaGrange. 

During her time as city manager, LaGrange has seen major developments, including the opening of Great Wolf Lodge, Remington moving its corporate headquarters and many more. 

She helped start the Leaving Better Than We Found It anti-litter campaign and then led by example as she regularly helped pick up trash in the city.

We’re not saying things are perfect, but thanks to Kelsey’s work, things have been pretty great for LaGrange.  

We do wish Kelsey had been more vocal publicly during her time as city manager. Rather than get in front of a camera, she chose to let her work do the talking. Our city would’ve benefitted hearing from her even more often, but we certainly understand her hesitancy since ultimately she works for the city council and mayor.

But it can’t be ignored that she is the rare female voice in city of LaGrange leadership right now. We certainly don’t believe there’s any ill intent there — after all, voters elect the city council and mayor. But the entire LaGrange City Council is made up of men. 

Even the position of city manager has traditionally been a male position. 

Not to go off on a tangent here, but ladies, we need some more female voices in leadership in our community. There isn’t a female member on the Troup County Commission either.  Kelsey has dealt with a lot.

Earlier this year, she was the target of a campaign by a local instigator to get her fired earlier this year. For her part, Kelsey didn’t respond during a council meeting where that instigator publicly inquired three times why she was still employed. Many would’ve jumped out of their chair, unable to hide their rage. But Kelsey stayed professional and let the city council speak for her.

Her departure is also the latest leadership change for LaGrange.  

This is a city that for many years had a very stable leadership — a mayor in Jim Thornton who had served multiple terms, a city manager that had years and years of experience, a police chief with decades in that role and nationwide experience, a fire chief in John Brant that had been with the city overall for almost three decades — and now none of them work for the city of LaGrange any longer.  All of them went from city leaders to resigned or retired in roughly 400 days. That’s a troubling trend, and we mean no offense to the three men who have since replaced them and brought stability to back to our city. 

Sometimes change is a good thing, and we know many will argue that. However, while we believe LaGrange has certainly regained its footing, this much change within one calendar year is difficult. 

Now, the city must once again replace one of its major leaders. 

That’s going to be a very tough task. Kelsey will be greatly missed by the city of LaGrange.