Fate often forces us to confront our weaknesses.

That's how John Fretti, Valdosta's mayor elect, described his first meetings after being elected. He met with the Mayor's Council for Persons with Disabilities and Easter Seals. Fretti considers his strengths to be in the areas of planning, zoning and traffic.

"I would rather deal with a technical problem than with a social one," he told members of a local civic club last week. Yet his first task was to learn more about the harder-to-solve problems of people whose daily lives are a challenge.

Isn't life often like that?

In the latest issue of Newsweek, actress Diane Keaton spoke of her personal philosophy at the age of 57. "Isn't life really a series of problem-solving events? It's how much you're engaged by the fun of solving your problems, and continuing to be curious. That's as much as you can expect."

Fretti seems willing and able to face the city's challenges when he takes office Jan. 8. That requires awareness, and he says he's ready to push for a more honest look at the city.

"I'm a proponent of measuring ourselves in every possible way," he told members of the Kiwanis Club of the Azalea City. "I want you to see if we're doing a good job or not. The community has to know our weaknesses."

Of course, Fretti is still speaking as an outsider and not as an incumbent. I just hope he'll want to be just as honest about city government and still pushing for accountability four years from now.

Just hours before City Council provided City Manager Larry Hanson with a three-year contract Thursday night, Fretti said he preferred Council would wait on any action in this area until the new council members and the mayor took office in January.

Apparently word did not get to Council because its members decided to give Hanson his first-ever contract that guarantees Hanson three years of pay and benefits regardless of any action taken by Council in the future.

Some city residents might question why it was necessary to give Hanson a contract at this point when he had gone without one for all this time, and without the input of two newly elected Council members and a new mayor.

Fretti also told Kiwanians that the litigation pursued by the current Council regarding the mayoral election last month will cost the city only $6,000, but Fretti's representation cost him $10,280, and fees for the law firm that had to defend the Lowndes County Board of Elections from the city's lawsuit are $28,200, which the city might end up having to pay.

City Hall is definitely going to be an interesting place in the months to come.

Ron Wayne is the editor of The Valdosta Daily Times. He can be reached at 244-3400, ext. 229, or e-mailed at ron.wayne@gaflnews.com.

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