The Public Record: Roswell’s new mayor under fire for email

Kurt Wilson

The Gist: Roswell’s newly elected mayor, Kurt Wilson, found himself in a bit of hot water after a public records request turned up an email he sent to the city administrator just after being elected but before being sworn in.

The Players: Kurt Wilson, who was elected mayor of Roswell in November and Randy Knighton, the city administrator for Roswell. Knighton is himself a newcomer to City Hall and was hired in September.

The Timeline: Wilson defeated incumbent mayor Lori Henry on Nov. 2. Knighton sent Wilson an email on Nov. 23 to congratulate him for his victory and to set up onboarding and orientation with the new mayor and council members. About an hour later, Wilson responded with an email of his own and that email has raised eyebrows throughout the city.

The emails: The emails will be presented in their entirety without any commentary so that you can read the words of your elected officials and city staff without preconceived notions.

First, we will start with Knighton’s email:

On Nov 23, 2021, at 9:36 AM, Randy Knighton <rknighton@roswellgov.com> wrote:

Mayor-Elect Kurt Wilson,

Again, congratulations on being elected Mayor of the city of Roswell. At my direction, the staff is developing a program to engage the newly elected officials formally in an Onboarding/Orientation session in mid-December, pending schedule coordination. In speaking with the staff we have begun to develop an agenda that includes the Strategic Plan, Budget, Core Vision, Mission, Values, General Duties and Responsibilities of Local Government, Conflict of Interest, Ethics, Code of Conduct, Department Structure, Projects, and Major Initiatives. The impetus for this is to position all newly elected officials with information needed as you take office in January to be successful in your respective roles. In addition, this would be an opportunity to meet the Department Heads and staff. Although I have been officially with the city for only a short period of time, I have observed a very professional, dedicated staff who are committed to the city realizing its vision and implementing policies of the elected body. As we coordinate the Onboarding/Orientation session, I would like to meet with you if possible to discuss any additional items you would like to have as a session topic(s) or further recommendations.

Also, I wanted to let you know that a citizen mailed an item to you, it appears to be a card, and I have it at my desk. What would you like for us to do with your mail until you arrive? If I can be of any assistance to you please free to contact me at any time by e-mail or phone at 678-346-6738. We look forward to working with you in service to the citizens of Roswell.

Next is the response from then Mayor-Elect Kurt Wilson.

Sent: Tuesday, November 23, 2021 10:04 AM

City Administrator

Thanks for your email. Congratulations on becoming the new City Administrator on November 1st, the day before the recent election of November 2nd.

It is concerning that the brand new City Administrator for the City of Roswell would wait three weeks to reach out to the brand new Elected Mayor Elect of Roswell. This does set a tone of working together, responsiveness, teamwork and or setting an example for the rest of the City.

In fact, receiving an email like this on the Tuesday of Thanksgiving week shows a lack of recognition of what just happened in the election from the People’s Perspective, and a complete disrespect for the people of Roswell.

My consul, Mr. Knighton is that you might want to meet with me and talk with before you start directing Staff on anything. You obviously have no idea of what myself and the new City Council have planned. That might be important for you to know if we are going to be working together.

I am glad you have had the opportunity to “observe staff and who are committed to the city realizing it’s vision”. What Vision are you referring to for the City of Roswell? I am currently unaware of a Vision – Please share of what you are referring to? Please indulge me as to what you are referring to after working there for 22 days?

Mr. Knighton, you have now twice referred to “respective roles” when speaking to newly elected City Council and Mayor Elect. What “respective roles” are you referring to? I would like to understand just what you mean?

Mr. Knighton, I am going to be frank with you – you have given me great pause for concern as to your ability to be the kind of professional I and the City Council need to run this city just by your inability to reach out to the newly elected Mayor and Council in a forthcoming and timely manner. Reaching out the Tuesday of Thanksgiving week is not acceptable; moreover, there appears to be no recognition on your part as to how this is an error on your part. That is equally troubling.

So, yes Mr. Knighton, you and I will be getting together after the Thanksgiving Holidays and I will send you some times for us to meet based upon your availability. In the meantime I would like to know if this is a job you are really going to be able to execute at a High Level for the City of Roswell and this incoming City Council and Mayor? Because my friend I will share with you I have managed and led 1000’s of people in my life and for a role of your significance I cannot imagine this kind of mistake.

Thank You,
Kurt Wilson – Resident of Roswell

The Aftermath: Wilson has since apologized. Wilson told the AJC he was frustrated with the transition process. “I was wrong. It was a bad email on my part. It was poorly written. It was a poor response … When I’m wrong, I’m wrong,” he was quoted as saying. Wilson was sworn as the city’s new mayor Jan. 10.

This article is part of an ongoing series highlighting statements by public officials called The Public Record, where we present recent quotes by public officials or candidates. You may not be able to attend every public meeting or see every occasion where your representatives speak, but you still have a right to know what your representatives and those who hope to represent you have been saying.

“Because public men and women are amenable ‘at all times’ to the people, they must conduct the public’s business out in the open.” -Charles L. Weltner Sr., former Chief Justice of the Georgia Supreme Court

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