The former head of the City of Georgetown Public Works Department, Tim Chatman, was recently unceremoniously reassigned to another position.
Although he still works for the city, this was a demotion for him as he has served as the head of that department for 12 years. His demotion comes after the arrest and firing of six city employees accused of stealing alcohol during the wooden boat show in Georgetown a couple of weeks ago. Chatman was not present when the alleged crime took place. According to a witness, six men reportedly employed with the city garbage disposal department entered a tent on Front Street, picked up an unopened case of liquor, placed it in a trash can, and rolled the trash can away. The incident occurred on the night of Oct. 19 and is still under investigation.
It is unclear is why this longtime dedicated administrator was demoted. On social media, where people come to bury you and not praise you, where they often throw rocks at you then hide their hands, Tim is getting a lot of love. Deservingly so.
“...Absolutely stunned by this announcement,” said one. “Tim not only exemplifies care, concern, and compassion, he has represented the interests of Georgetown with enthusiasm and passion. He deserves much better than this.”
Another supporter posted –“I’ve worked with Mr. Chatman when he was with the county. He’s not the type of man to get involved with any of that foolishness. Somebody did something wrong, but it wasn’t him. Shame the city doesn’t value great leadership.”
“Tim is a hardworking, honest man that has spent many hours doing whatever he could to help the city of Georgetown,” read another, “sometimes even on his day off. He needs to be rehired to his old position immediately!”
“I’ve known Mr. Tim for a while now,” this writer said. “He’s always been a hard-working and honest man. He’s a positive role model in this community...”
“It’s a total crock! Tim Chatman is a straight-up honest man,” said another. “I’ve worked with Jim for several years, and I am here to tell you he was a great guy to work with. He had more honesty and integrity that you could ask for out of any man. Unless the city is looking for a scapegoat, I don’t get it.”
Nearly all of the comments fall into the categories of honesty, integrity, hard-working, positive role model, and deserves to be treated better. However, a number fall into the category of – “I don’t get it,” “this is absurd,” “ridiculous,” and “shameful.” Indeed, these opinions suggest what the city is doing to this good man defies credulity and impugns one’s intelligence.
Since when do we hold administrators responsible for the crimes of their subordinates? Since when is the superintendent or school board member demoted for employees who break the law?
When have you heard of a chief of police demoted for police misconduct, or a county administrator demoted for having knowledge that one of his councilmen doesn’t reside in the district he represents or an administrator at Wal-Mart demoted for an employee who steals or shoots up the store? I can go on, but you get my point. It appears the city is setting a precedent.
Despite testimonials praising his integrity, hard work, and dedication to the city, the city is playing an old Janet Jackson song with Tim called “What have you done for me lately.”
Twelve years of exemplary work during outdoor concerts, festivals, parades, and yes, boat shows have suddenly gone thankless. Not that Tim needs a pat on the back—he doesn’t. For 12 years, he did his job, and shared his gregarious personality with the public. He and his wife Denise are two of the finest people you’ll meet. Perhaps I understand how a city administrator who just got here two months ago (a “cum yah” in Gullah) can unceremoniously demote a dedicated employee seemingly without due process, but for those of us who are “been yahs,” I’m having trouble wrapping my mind around it.
One post seemed to paint with a broad brush. It read in all caps – “The NAACP IS A JOKE, THE MAYOR IS A JOKE, AND THE CITY COUNCIL IS A JOKE.”
Blaming the NAACP is low hanging fruit because it’s easier to criticize than critique, easier to curse the darkness rather than light a candle. We must place the ax at the root of the tree — in this case, the city. One could make the case when it comes to advocating for social justice; there’s a deafening silence from many pastors. They seem to have a section of their Bible that is equivalent to pleading the Fifth Amendment.
The good thing about living in a small town like Georgetown is people know each other. Often they know our parents, grandparents and even great-great-grandparents. Frequently we bump into officials in the supermarkets, worship with them, and perhaps break bread with them. This is why those elected officials, those “been yah” have an advantage over the “cum yahs.” Reaching out to them need not be a formal exercise. We don’t have to throw rocks on social media, protest in the streets, or threaten them by reminding them the election is around the bend.
In Tim’s case, we can remind them that they grew up with Tim, worship with him in church, and watched him coach our children’s football teams. We know the kind of role model he is. Let’s tell our elected leaders face-to-face that we’re appalled with how they’re treating this good man. Tim, a family man, is a shining example of what men and fathers should be. Making him a scapegoat for misbehavior of employees is wrong. Let’s make feelings known by writing letters, making phone calls, or attending council meetings.
Perhaps you believe that what’s happening with Tim is none of your spiritual business. But if you are an employee of the hospital system, the school system, paper mill, or even Wal-Mart, who’s to say that you won’t be next? There is an old saying by a Holocaust survivor, Pastor Martin Niemoller, which rings in my ear – “First they came for the Communists, and I did not speak out because I was not a communist. Then they came for the Socialists, and I did not speak out because I was not a socialist. Then they came for the Jews, and I did not speak out because I was not a Jew. But then they came for me, and there was no one left to speak out for me.”
Finally, think about another quote by Dr. Martin Luther King – “In the End, we shall remember not the words of our enemies, but the silence of our friends.
Steve Williams is an award-winning journalist who lives in Georgetown.