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'We have to lead by example': Macon-Bibb Mayor Miller details his first planned executive orders

The three orders are intended to help the county get a handle on its rising COVID-19 cases.

MACON, Ga. — Lester Miller’s official term as the mayor of Macon-Bibb County as soon as we enter 2021, and he’s already planning to sign three executive orders sometime at the beginning of next week to help the county get a handle on its rising COVID-19 cases.

13WMAZ reporter Ashlyn Webb sat down with Miller on Thursday for a wide-ranging interview on his plans.

He says these orders can’t wait two weeks, which is the earliest the full commission could vote on them.

The first executive order would require all county staff to wear a mask at work unless an employee has a medical reason, or if an employee is eating or drinking.

“If they fail to do so, then they are going to face disciplinary action. That disciplinary action could be a write up, time off work, or termination,” Miller said. “We have to lead by example.”

The second executive order he is considering would stop special permits being issued for large events where people are not able to social distance or follow proper COVID-19 protocols.

“We need limits for the next 30, 60 days, because it appears we are going to reach a very dark part of this pandemic from what we’re hearing from health professionals,” Miller said.

The third executive he’s working on relates to restricting hours of operation for mainly clubs and large gatherings in violation of Gov. Brian Kemp’s COVID-19 protocols OR those who violate the amount of people allowed per square foot in the building.

Miller says his administration is considering closing those establishments an hour or two earlier if they’re found to be in violation.

“We have clubs staying open until 2 a.m. Sometimes, there’s an extremely long line out of there. Signs at some of these places say masks are not required,” he said.

Clubs could also be subject to temporary or permanent suspension of their alcohol license if they were to violate those time constraints.

“We can’t expect people to not to see mom and dad, or grandmother or grandson, or your uncle or your own children during the holidays, but then again allow people who are not social distancing and following the protocols to stay out late at night at clubs and violate the same protocols,” Miller said. “We certainly don’t want to hurt the businesses involved and we are going to do everything we can to work with them, but we do have laws and rules that have to be followed, and they have to understand those for the good of the people.”

The new mayor says there is a sense of urgency with getting these executive orders through as health professionals are predicting a spike in COVID-19 cases after the holidays.

“I can’t sit back on my time and let people continue to violate the things they’re doing to spread this virus and die unnecessarily,” Miller said.

Gov. Kemp has previously been outspoken about other local governments putting in COVID-19 restrictions, however, Miller says he has been in contact with Kemp’s office and is set to speak with the him on Monday.

Miller detailed his previous conversations with Kemp.

“One thing I stressed with him is everyone is not the same. People in Macon, Georgia, are not north Atlanta or south Valdosta area. We have different means, needs, groupings. Some may be manufacturing, some may be more retail. Our set up is a little different. We ought to have the autonomy ourselves to make those decisions that are important to our citizens just like we do on other things, and I think he’s open to that,” said Miller. “I’m certainly not scared to challenge anything I believe is wrong -- even if a governor does it -- and if I think it’s going to protect the people in Macon-Bibb County, then that is the risk I’m willing to take.”

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