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Deraney vote revealed; shortage of volunteers could pose danger to Buggy Days

By Walter Geiger Just days after a series of incidents which led to the last minute-rerouting of the Buggy Days parade and anger on the parts of hundreds of parade goers who missed it, the board of directors of the chamber of commerce voted to fire president and CEO Christopher Deraney. He had held the post since April 10, 2017. The meeting commenced on Sept. 27 at noon. The last item was a 45-minute executive session to discuss personnel. After it, Deraney was told only that a motion to terminate him effective immediately had carried. The vote was taken behind closed doors. Board chairman Mark Farmer said the board would not release who made and seconded the motion to terminate Deraney. Deraney said Barnesville police chief Craig Cooper made the motion which was seconded by Cory McCook and nine board members voted for it. Only three board members voted to retain Deraney. He identified them as Blane Cauthen, Sharon Greer and Cheryl Chester. The other board members at the meeting were Farmer, who can only vote in the event of a tie, Blane Parker, Terrell Selph, Shawn Goelz, Denise Hames, Andrew Henry, Debbie Johnson and Craig Ogletree. Board member Kathryn Claxton did not attend the meeting. Deraney cleaned out his office and left immediately. His executive assistant, Harriette Greene, turned in her resignation Monday. It was also effective immediately, leaving the chamber without any paid staff. ’I have enjoyed my time at the chamber of commerce. I certainly invested a lot of time and effort in this organization. I deeply regret my tenure ended in this manner but I certainly wish the chamber and its membership well in the future. I am going to focus all my efforts on making Deraney’s Two City Tavern the most happening place in downtown Barnesville,’ Deraney said. Farmer’s statement was succinct. ‘The board of directors voted to relieve Christopher Deraney of his duties as president and CEO of the chamber,’ it read. During the public portion of the meeting, there was no blame for the aborted parade aimed at Deraney. Chief Cooper said the decision was his and he would make it again. ‘We had about 25 medical emergencies downtown due to blood pressure issues and the heat,’ Cooper said. Lack of communication was the biggest complaint regarding the festival. Buggy Days event chairman Denise Hames gave a good report, noting vendors reported excellent sales and all want to come back. The pig chase and carnival were very well-attended and many people said they want the chamber to keep the pig chase. There were no animal rights protestors at the event, she added. Cooper said the city has supported the chamber in hosting the event for 45 years and that it cost his department some $26,000 this year. ‘This event normally puts me over budget for the year,’ the chief said. Doug Stanley a parade volunteer, ripped into those who have criticized Buggy Days via social media. ‘The people on Facebook don’t know what they are talking about. Denise and I worked countless hours on the parade. I personally called 17 local high schools about getting their marching bands in the parade. None of them even bothered to call me back.’ Stanley also talked of the trouble he and others had in getting volunteers and sponsors. ‘I can’t even get people here in town to participate. Forty-four people showed up the day of the parade and wanted to be in it. We got them in. There needs to be more community involvement. I always thought this was a well-knit community but that is not what I saw this time around. As for the parade, the effort was there but the outcome wasn’t great,’ Stanley said at the meeting. Cauthen noted the fact the LCHS homecoming parade had taken place just two days before. ‘The schools already had floats done for the homecoming parade. We contacted them but they didn’t want to participate,’ Cauthen said. There was one suggestion to move the event to October when the weather would presumably be cooler. That was met with a generally positive response. After the meeting there were reports of board members planning to resign and speculation that, without more money and volunteers, Buggy Days may have run its course.

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