Some audio in this story courtesy of CATS
Monroe County Council members have spent countless hours discussing, re-hashing and preparing the county budget for next week’s 3-day hearings. But during those months, one council member has often served as both a participant in the discussions and a distraction to them.
“I’ve had my frustrations with this council,” said Charles Newmann, who’s represented the county’s second district since his election in 2006. “There’s six Democrats on there, including myself, and the minority, one Republican. Specifically there’s Jill Lesh and Warren Henager and they’ll vote with Vic Kelson the president each time. I protested him being the president for the second year because he ran rough shod over the council the last year and those two people, they’ve got their own personal problems, Warren’s old, and they just aren’t willing to stand up and speak their own mind.”
In fact, Newmann nominated nearly everyone but Kelson when he stood for election. The second-term council member is clearly frustrated, but some past and present council members say it’s Newmann whose behavior is frustrating. Former County Council President Sophia Travis – who’s quick to call Newmann a friend – also calls his behavior inappropriate.
“He has gone through some real personal stress with his wife serving as the auditor and that really turned things upside down for a lot of people it destroyed a lot of relationships, it’s a tragic situation,” Travis said. “I can’t agree that how he is comporting himself is…it’s disappointing.”
Newmann has even walked out of multiple council meetings, including a recent budget discussion.
“I’d just committed enough time to it and it was time for me to get up and get out of there,” he said. “I don’t care that the other people didn’t leave. The other Republican, or the one other republican Marty Hawk, she stayed there, and I guess the other people stayed there.”
Newmann points to his own life experiences, including a 26-year stint in the Army, to explain what he calls his “straightforward” approach.
“You have to communicate much more succinctly. You’re given a mission and you identify the best way to accomplish that mission,” Newmann said. “The saying in the military is ‘mission first people always,’ so obviously people come secondary and a lot of civilians have a hard time accepting or understanding that.”
But Newman admits sometimes that approach doesn’t actually get the mission accomplished for his constituents, saying he’s tried communicating “until he’s burned out.”
“I was elected by the people of district two to just be a representative citizen — that’s all I ask the other people to do,” he said. “And if they truly believe in voting in a block with Vic Kelson is the right thing to do then all well and good to them but its just obvious that there’s agenda that some people on the council have. They just aren’t willing to stand up for what they even know is right. They just don’t wanna shake the boat.”
Despite being one of the six Democrats on the seven-member council, Newmann has cast the only “no” tally in almost twice as many council votes this year as anyone else, including Marty Hawk, the body’s lone Republican. This, Newmann’s second term, runs until 2010. He says he’s looking for an apprentice whom he can groom to take his seat, but says he’ll run for a third term if he can’t find a suitable replacement.