Long time democratic leader’s departure met with praises and criticism

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AUGUSTA, Ga. (WJBF) – The man who championed the local Democratic Party for the past 16 years stepped down, but his departure isn’t without some criticism.

It’s farewell for now. Lowell Greenbaum announced Thursday.  He has ended his tenure as chairman of the Richmond County Democratic Party.

Georgia State Senator Harold Jones is one of the local Democrats in leadership who offered kind words to the now Chairman Emeritus.

“At a time where the state was turning more Republican, Chairman Greenbaum held Augusta together.”

Georgia State Rep. Wayne Howard was sad to see him go.

“We’re not going to let him completely go. He will be our emeritus.”

Greenbaum shared a few words too, reflecting on the overall work of the party.

“It’s been a great run because of all the victories the party has won making this city a democratic one.”

The 88-year-old now wears his Chairman Emeritus pin and he’s reflecting on the past.

“Even Dave Barbee who is the chairman of the Republican Party called me one day and said you’ve got it I quit. I can’t handle this,” Greenbaum said with a laugh.

His membership stretches back to 1992 when he recalled bringing then Governor Bill Clinton to town down the Savannah River on their pontoon boat.  The event was captured by national press and later, Clinton became United States President.  Greenbaum told NewsChannel 6 that was only the beginning.

“Five years later he told me he won Georgia because of that trip.”

He was elected chairman in 2000, opening the party’s headquarters on Greene Street nine years later and touting the party’s role in helping deliver a 65 percent vote for Hillary Clinton in the past election.

Mtesa Wright, who works as Senior Council for Savannah River Nuclear Solutions, takes over as chair.

“Some of what I envision is what can we do in Richmond County to increase outreach,” she said giving a peek into her leadership.

Despite changes, committee member Joseph Traina, who did not attend Greenbaum’s announcement Thursday, later told NewChannel 6 the party is violating its by laws.

He shared this video with NewsChannel 6 claiming Greenbaum led the charge in closing public meetings and denying new members a chance to join.  He said  a few of his guests attended a meeting with him on November 19 at the Democratic Headquarters.  NewsChannel 6 learned from Greenbaum that the meeting was for the selection of the nominating committee, one that then chair Greenbaum stated was not open to the public.  Traina, however, stated the meeting was open and that all meetings are open according the bylaws.  He shared the State Democratic Party’s bylaws as the document that gave him and his guests permission to attend the selection of the nominating committee.  The county’s bylaws can be found here.

“Aside from the programmatic issues, there were a lot of personality issues too. People were taking out ugliness and attacks on the guests, ” Traina said adding that the guests also had membership applications to submit to join the county Democratic Party.  He added those members should have been added to the roster during the December meeting, but were not. He also added that Greenbaum threatened to call the police and have them removed from the meeting.

That incident and previous ones is why Traina said the party has not welcomed millennials either.  Wright has pledged to turn around that group’s message by sitting down and talking with the youth. He’s hoping that works and the party grows.

“It’s important for everyday citizens if they have complaints, whether it be potholes in the road or slashes in social security they need to get involved because this is where it starts. This is where you can get information. This is also where you can hold folks accountable,” he said.

Although a member of the Young Democrats of Augusta-Richmond County, Traina’s thoughts do not represent those youth.  He told NewsChannel 6 he was not welcomed there either by certain members even though he’s a leader there.  YDA, which has conducted several educational meetings that brought out local leaders, works separately from the county Democratic Party, but the members attend county party meetings.

Traina said his next step is to file a complaint with the state democratic party.

When asked at his announcement about the allegations from Traina and his group, Greenbaum declined to comment and instead chose to focus on his moment.Photojournalist: Troy Robinson

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