Tucker reverses course: city council votes to close city hall for Juneteenth

Tommy Boyd Jr. and City of Tucker Council Member Anne Lerner joined around two dozen other people in a peaceful protest in the City of Tucker June 2. Photo by Dean Hesse.

Tucker, GA — The city of Tucker has finally agreed to close city hall in observance of Juneteenth.

At the May 9 Tucker City Council meeting, councilmembers unanimously voted to approve a resolution “to designate and observe the Juneteenth holiday on the designated day recognize by the state of Georgia, or as date specified in City Code if the date falls on a weekend.”

Two city council members, Virginia Rece and Cara Schroeder, proposed to close city hall, saying “it’s important.” Rece and Schroeder had previously supported keeping city hall open on June 20, the day Juneteenth will be observed on the 2022 federal calendar.

Asked why they initiated the amendment, a statement signed by both Rece and Schroeder focused on the event planned for June 18.

“The city of Tucker will host a historic event for our community for Juneteenth. We decided to redirect on the city’s calendar to observe this as a holiday following the state designation.  As well as in listening to our community, we believe it is a compelling step,” the statement reads.

The statement goes on to describe a parade, picnic, speakers and a festival on June 18. The Citizens for Family Activities organization in Tucker is the driving force behind the event.

City hall will now be closed on June 20, the same day state and federal offices are closed to observe Juneteenth.

At the Tucker City Council meeting, Rece said she’s been in conversation with the community for months.

“Back in February, I, personally, wanted to ensure we kept our city business on track. I wanted the opportunity to have continued conversations about whether to close for Juneteenth. We have a wonderful celebration that we’re very excited about,” said Rece. “I’m really, really excited about [the event on June 18] and I believe passionately in that celebration.”

Schroeder said Juneteenth is “an important holiday throughout now the federal government and state government. We just had to weigh this for the community and realize as we plan our event coming up, it was important to observe it.”

Even after the state signed into law the observance of Juneteenth, Mayor Frank Auman stood firm on his decision not to close city hall for Juneteenth. Auman previously said Dec. 6 is a more appropriate date because the 13th Amendment — which abolished slavery in the United States —  became effective when Georgia became the 27th state to ratify it, Dec. 6, 1865.

At the city council meeting, Auman said he was fine with adding the observance, but it was “a bad process.”

“There’s going to be a cost in the future of having done it in pieces and reacting instead of responding,” said Auman.

He said at the time of discussion in February, the city was planning to support a Juneteenth event.

“When we left this subject back in February, we made a couple of things really clear. One was we were going to have a celebration. It’s volunteer-driven, the way a lot of our festivals and events are, but the city was fully supportive and fully participating,” said Auman.

Auman said the city’s calendar “shouldn’t line ever line up with someone else’s calendar.”

“It’s an important thing to note and mark and celebrate or remember, whatever it might be. I just want to make sure that we’re clear that even if it’s painful to wait the four or five or six months to get to that, I thought we had a good strategy to recognize the day … without making the decision to make it a paid holiday,” Auman said.

Councilmember Alexis Weaver thanked Rece and Schroeder for proposing the resolution. Weaver, along with Councilmembers Noelle Monferdini, were the only councilmembers who initially supported closing city hall on Juneteenth.

“I think don’t think it’s too late to do the right thing,” said Weaver. “[Juneteenth] has been celebrated for 157 years. We can figure out the process to support it because it’s the right thing to do.”

When summer camp was called into question as part of the city’s closure, councilmember Anne Lerner said, “Why don’t we just say we’re marking on the calendar as an official city holiday, and we follow whatever we do with other city holidays? Let’s not micromanage staff and let them figure that out how they’d best like to proceed with camp.”

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