Smyrna City Council unanimously approves Juneteenth, Veterans Day as paid city holidays

The exterior of Smyrna City Hall, a red brick building with four large columns

By Arielle Robinson

Smyrna City Council members approved a motion to make Juneteenth and Veterans Day paid city holidays for eligible staff during its regular meeting at City Hall Monday evening.

The vote was 4-0, as Councilman Travis Lindley chaired the meeting. Lindley chaired because Councilman Tim Gould, who is mayor pro tem, and Mayor Derek Norton were absent.

Monday’s vote brings the total number of observed holidays in the city up to 12 with one floating holiday for 2022’s calendar year.

Before the vote, Councilman Lewis Wheaton read off the mayor’s proclamation in honor of Juneteenth. The proclamation touched on the history of the holiday and encourages city residents to commit to anti-racism.

“Growing up at the time in central Virginia, this was something that I was exposed to at a pretty young age,” Wheaton said. “I learned a lot about it with my parents and learned a lot about it in the community and I’m very happy to see it turning into a national holiday and a state holiday.”

Wheaton mentioned that city staff was off Monday and hinted that there are plans to present someone with the proclamation during a ceremony at a later date.

Juneteenth commemorates June 19, 1865, the day that enslaved people in Galveston, Texas, learned that they were free. In the following decades, the holiday was unofficially expanded in Black communities across the country to mark a day where Black people celebrate the official end of chattel slavery.

President Joe Biden declared Juneteenth a federal holiday last year and Governor Brian Kemp made it a holiday for state employees. The Cobb County government followed suit.

Marietta is another Cobb city that designated Juneteenth as a paid city holiday, but only after some controversy.

Mayor Steve Tumlin vetoed a motion to make Juneteenth a holiday in April. He argued that Juneteenth should not be a holiday without adding Veterans Day to it.

Marietta city councilors approved Juneteenth and Veterans Day as paid holidays during a meeting about two weeks later.

Arielle Robinson is a student at Kennesaw State University. She also freelances for the Atlanta-Journal Constitution and is the former president of KSU’s chapter of the Society of Professional Journalists as well as a former CNN intern. She enjoys music, reading, and live shows.