History, progress factors in Jonesboro race

By Ed Brock

This is part of a week-long series on municipal elections in Clayton County leading up to next week's election on Nov. 4.

In the front yard of Elease Whaley's house on Lee Street stands a sign endorsing the re-election of Jonesboro Mayor Joy Day.

Right next to it is a sign for Day's opponent, Luther Maddox.

Indeed, Whaley said that whenever a candidate asks for permission to put a sign in her yard she tells them to go ahead.

"So nobody's going to know what I'm doing," Whaley said. "I've seen a lot of people with both signs in their yards."

On Nov. 4 the citizens of Jonesboro will have a chance to choose between Day and Maddox as well as to select three council members.

Preserving Jonesboro's history in the face of progress is a platform shared by many of the candidates for the city's council and mayor. Many cited the importance of the Livable Centers Initiative project, funded by the Atlanta Regional Commission, to revitalize downtown Jonesboro.

Having lived in the city since 1971, Day, is the principal at Suder Elementary School.

Day said she is dedicated to maintaining the same level of service in the city.

"Our first commitment is to the citizens and their desires for the future of the city," Day said. "We've made a lot of progress since I've been mayor in upgrading all services."

Those upgrades include computerizing city services, creating a Web site for the city and building the new fire station and new parks.

"Jonesboro is the best place in the world to live," Day said. "People who move into Jonesboro generally don't move back out."

Maddox, 62, also said he wants to continue the progress the city has made in the four years that he has been on the council.

"I want to maintain the small-town flavor of life in Jonesboro," Maddox said.

Being retired from Ford Moter Company is and advantage, Maddox said, because it will give him more time to devote to the city.

"It takes more than one hour a day to be mayor," Maddox said.

Revitalizing downtown is important, but the city must be careful not to run up a debt while doing so.

"We need to pay as we go," Maddox said.

Maddox has given up his council seat to run for mayor and council member Ed Adair will not seek reelection.

Running in the open race for three council seats are four candidates. The three top vote-getters will be elected.

Incumbent Councilman Cliff "Rip" Sewell is seeking re-election along with newcomers 60-year-old Carl Ayers, 59-year-old Donna Meadows and 55-year-old Linda Wenz.

Former council candidate Tammy Cole was disqualified from the race because she was not registered to vote in the city at the time of qualification and Claude "Buddy" Sealey withdrew from the race due to a conflict with his job, Jonesboro City Clerk Joanie Jones said.

However, Jones said Cole and Sealey's names will still appear on the ballot because there was not time to reprint the ballots.

Sewell, 69, has lived in Clayton County since 1962 and inside the city since 1982. In December he will finish his 15th year on the council and while he is retired from his position with Clayton County Parks and Recreation Department he still works door security at the Harold R. Banke Justice Center. He is married with two sons and six stepchildren.

"I want to see the redevelopment of downtown Jonesboro completed. I want to see the LCI completed," Sewell said. "I want to keep hearing from people about what a pleasant place Jonesboro is to live and how safe it is."

Sewell also wants to maintain the city's free garbage collection and lack of ad valorem (property) tax. He has no personal agenda, Sewell said, and he feels that he is elected to serve the people of Jonesboro.

A former city council member and mayor, Meadows said the free garbage collection and the end of ad valorem taxes came about during her time as mayor and she wants to keep those changes in place. A mother of two with two grandchildren, Meadows is retired from the tax service business she owned.

"Since I intend to stay here I want to take part in the continued success of the city," Meadows said, adding that she's missed the role she had in the past.

Meadows has lived in Jonesboro for about 19 years and she also wants to preserve the city's residential areas and historical heritage through controlled growth.

Ayers, a resident of the city for five years and a former worker in the communications industry, also said he wants to see growth in the city handled in a "prudent and judicial" way.

"My greatest intent is to preserve the historic significance of the city, to not allow commercial growth to cause us to lose our identity," Ayers said. "That's probably the most difficult task facing all small communities."

Wenz's participation in the last council election inspired her to run again, even though she was not successful that time.

"I just lost by a few votes, which surprised me, being new," Wenz said.

While she lived in the Jonesboro zip code for 33 years Wenz, an art teacher with two daughters and a grandchild, has lived inside the city for four years.

"I'd like the small town charm to be kept, but I'd like our merchants to have more advantages in attracting people to come here and shop," Wenz said.

The city's feeling of safety should also be preserved, Wenz said.

"I moved here because I knew it would be safe," Wenz said.

Jones said her poll workers are trained and ready for next week's city election.

"We're excited. Hopefully we'll have a good turn out," Jones said.

This may well be the last Jonesboro municipal election to be held at city hall. The city hopes to move the polls to the Jonesboro Volunteer Fire Department headquarters on N. Main Street by next year, Jones said.