By Ed Brock
Candidates in Forest Park's municipal election have plans to heal the divisions between council members and the city's mayor that have wracked the city for almost a year.
Incumbent council members Corine Deyton, Donald Judson and Wesley Lord will face their respective challengers, David Halcome Sr., John Buckholts and David Lockhart in Tuesday's vote. Deyton and Judson, along with Council member Debbie Youmans, have often acted in opposition to Mayor Chuck Hall, Lord and Councilman Henry Estes on several issues.
Deyton, 66, is the widow of former Forest Park Councilman Jack Deyton. She's lived in the city since 1993, has represented Ward 3 on the council for over eight years, is retired from the Georgia Department of Education and has two sons.
She wants unity, Deyton said, but she thinks Hall is "not on the same page" as the rest of the council on issues regarding whether or not to keep City Manager Bill Werner and city Attorney Jack Hancock. Deyton, Youmans and Judson have tried several times to replace Hancock and the council also voted not to renew Werner's contract next month, only to have Hall veto the motions.
"The mayor has overstepped his bound so many times," Deyton said, adding that that's "a conflict that needs to be remedied."
On other issues, Deyton said the city faces a great challenge.
"We need courageous leaders, ones able to stand up against the status quo," Deyton said, adding that she is one such leader.
She wants to continue the current level of city services without increasing taxes.
Halcome is 59 years old, has lived in Forest Park for 39 years and is the head of youth sports for Clayton County's Park and Recreations Department. He is married with two sons and says he wants to see the city move forward.
"I feel like Ward 3 has been neglected and the people deserve better representation," Halcome said.
The neglect shows in rundown neighborhoods and he wants to change that. On the topic of the council's division, Halcome said he wants to know why the city council can't pass this year's budget and why they aren't accepting grants.
"I'm going in with no personal agenda," Halcome said. "I'm going in with an open mind and a business mind."
Judson is completing his first four-year term as the representative for Ward 4. The owner of Judson Transmission on the corner of Main and Ash streets (with another shop in Riverdale), 72-year-old Judson is married with four children and seven grandchildren. He has lived in Forest Park for 45 years.
He didn't want to discuss the council's conflicts, Judson said, and he had one primary objective for the next four years if he is reelected.
"Revitalizing Main Street is one of my main projects," Judson said. "I think that should be one of our top priorities."
In fact, Judson is so dedicated to that cause that he has been pursuing it for 15 years and recently donated a part of his own property to the city for the expansion of the intersection of Main Street and Ash Street.
Buckholts is 69 and married with three children, five grandchildren and two great-grandchildren. He works as an agent for McDuffie Realty and previously served on the council.
Bringing unity to the council is the reason he decided to run, Buckholts said.
"I'd like to see things move ahead rather than a stalemate," Buckholts said. "You can't get anything done while pulling apart like that."
The conflict has been brought about by personal vendettas by certain people against Hall and Werner, Buckholts said, and he added that he is sticking by the decision to hire Werner that was made when Buckholts was on the council.
"I feel like we have a good city manager," Buckholts said.
The city needs to continue pursuing federal grants, Buckholts said, and he also wants to see the revitalization of Main Street and of the Atlanta State Farmer's Market.
Lord was elected just two years ago to finish deceased Ward 5 Councilman Charles Maddox's term, but it is also the 56-year-old's second time on the council. He has lived in Forest Park for 35 years, is married and has two sons and is a retired transportation executive.
"Our city has many needs. I would like to see a $150,000 homestead exemption for our residents," Lord said.
That would encourage more home ownership in the city, Lord said. He also strongly supports programs for the city's senior citizens such as the senior center and the TRIAD organization that promotes activities between seniors and law enforcement personnel.
As for the division on the council, Lord said he wants to foster closer ties and more communication between members of the council with everybody moving toward the good of the city. Everybody has different views and they need to sit down and discuss those views, Lord said.
At 37, Lockhart is the youngest of the candidates. He has lived in the city for six years and is married with three children. Lockhart works as a paralegal for Simpson Law Offices in Atlanta.
Revitalizing Main Street is also something Lockhart wants to see done, but he doesn't want to limit the work to just Main Street.
"There's plenty of room for physical improvements in Forest Park," Lockhart said.
He also wants to oversee the condemnation of property that occurs in parts of the city that are moving from residential to industrial use. Lockhart said he wants to make sure the families undergoing the condemnation procedures are receiving fair compensation and he wants to make sure the condemnations are a good idea.
Lockhart said there is already some cohesion on the council that is reflected by some unanimous votes that were later vetoed by Hall. It takes four council votes to overturn a veto, but Estes and Lord generally will not vote to reverse such a veto, Lockhart said.
"With a fourth vote to override the veto we can actually move forward with some of those unanimous votes," Lockhart said.
Lockhart added that he thinks he could work with Estes.
There have been few problems with the campaign itself although Deyton said she has had some of her signs taken. She said she had been told that city employees took the signs but added that it could just as easily have been children.
Lockhart, who is a member of the Libertarian Party, said he's encountered a lot of rumors about what he would do once elected.
"People seem to think I want to bring marijuana and prostitution to Forest Park," Lockhart said. "What I want is limited and responsible government."
He has posted some of the rumors on his Web site, at www.vote4david.com.