Athens County Commissioner Chris Chmiel apologized on Tuesday for referring to the City of Nelsonville as ‘Nelsontucky’, and promised to attend the next City Council meeting to offer a formal apology to the town.
“I have no excuse and can only offer an apology and use this as an opportunity to deepen my commitment to working for the City of Nelsonville,” Chmiel said in an email to Nelsonville Council, obtained by The Athens Messenger.
Chmiel told The Athens Messenger he had said the expression ‘Nelsontucky,’ a mash-up of the words Nelsonville and Kentucky, at the Athens Farmers Market on Saturday, where he was selling his produce.
According to Urban Dictionary, the ‘tucky’ suffix “can be added to various place names in order to indicate the people in that place typically have a hillbilly, or Kentucky-like, lifestyle.”
On Monday, Nelsonville Council Member Elizabeth Jones sent an email to Chmiel, asking him to apologize for his hurtful language.
“It has been brought to my attention that you made a disparaging remark about our city over the weekend while at your farmer’s market stand,” Jones said in an email obtained by The Messenger. “Referring to Nelsonville as Nelsontucky perpetuates a negative stereotype of our city and implies that its residents are inferior, uneducated, backwoods folks. I know you know better than this.”
Jones, who was busy and had not seen Chmiel’s apology before The Athens Messenger informed her, accepted it.
“I appreciate Commissioner Chmiel’s apology and will welcome him to make that public apology at our next council meeting,” Jones said to The Messenger.
In her email, she said Nelsonville is taking steps to move in a truly positive direction.
“Our city may have seen its share of struggles, but I know that most people in this community, even if poor, have good hearts and strong convictions,” Jones said in an email. “As a member of city council, I can tell you that we have a collective view of how to improve our city and make it the shining star it should be in the region.”
In his email, Chmiel said he would work to earn the city’s respect back.
“I see a lot of positive things happening in Nelsonville right now and would like to contribute if I can,” Chmiel said. “I will do everything in my power to earn back your respect. Again, I am truly embarrassed and offer my sincere apologies for my hurtful words.”
Chmiel added he believed this was an opportunity to grow and help all communities in Athens County.
“I’m trying to turn a problem into an opportunity,” Chmiel said to The Messenger. “I’m not perfect and words matter.”
He said he looked forward not only to apologizing, but also “to hear what (Nelsonville has) to say.”
Jones also expressed a desire for cooperation.
“I believe only good things can happen with cooperation between Nelsonville and the Athens County Commissioners,” Jones said to The Messenger.