’City is not ready for this’: small Georgia town’s leadership reportedly rejects black candidate’s resume

May 2019

By Theresa Braine | New York Daily News


A 2,000-population, mostly white Georgia town “is not ready” for a black official and has reportedly rejected an African-American’s resume because of his skin color.

Documents show that Hoschton Mayor Theresa Kenerly told a City Council member that she had taken the resume of Keith Henry out of contention from a four-candidate shortlist for city administrator “because he is black, and the city isn’t ready for this,” The Atlanta Journal-Constitution reported Monday.

Hoschton, whose population is 3.6% black, according to The Root, is poised for growth with the advent of new housing that’s being built that could increase the population by a few thousand, the newspaper noted.

The investigation “revealed not only a deeply flawed hiring process, but also hard racial attitudes inside Hoschton’s government,” The Atlanta Journal-Constitution said.

Kenerly at first told the newspaper she was forbidden to publicly speak about executive-session matters, but later released a statement saying, “I can’t say I said it or not said it.”
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Racially based hiring discrimination has been illegal since the 1964 Civil Rights Act was passed, as the AJC noted, adding that the mayor’s remarks and city’s actions run directly counter to Hoschton’s own city code.

City Councilwoman Hope Weeks told the Journal-Constitution that Kenerly had not only revealed her actions during the executive committee meeting but also repeated them in the parking lot outside.

“She proceeded to tell me that the candidate was real good, but he was black and we don’t have a big black population and she just didn’t think Hoschton was ready for that,” Weeks wrote in a March 4 account, quoted by the AJC.

After Weeks told fellow Councilwoman Susan Powers, they took it to the city attorney.

“Both of us were just appalled,” Powers told the AJC.

Contacted by the newspaper, Henry said Kenerly did not give off bias vibes during their phone interview but that it “comes with the territory” of job-hunting while black. “If you live in America as a minority you can’t be naïve that it is the reality that you face.”

Henry told the Journal-Constitution he had taken his own name out of the running because the town hadn’t been willing to front him travel expenses from Texas for an in-person interview. Two of the other shortlisted candidates did not have to travel far, and the fourth drove from coastal Georgia on his own dime.

As Hoschton officials tried to extract feet from mouth, Councilman Jim Cleveland attempted damage control but inexplicably dragged mixed-race unions into the fray.

“I’m a Christian, and my Christian beliefs are you don’t do interracial marriage,” Cleveland told the AJC, adding that he’d been brought up that way. “When you see blacks and whites together, it makes my blood boil because that’s just not the way a Christian is supposed to live.”