Chairman race under way

By Billy Corriher

With the qualifying dates for candidates fast approaching, former Atlanta Police Chief Eldrin Bell has formally announced his candidacy for chairman of the Clayton County Board of Commissioners.

Bell has already raised more than $70,000 n and spent about $50,000 n for his bid to become chairman. Most of the other candidates in the race are just now starting to raise money.

Bell said that when he moved to Clayton County two and a half years ago, he had planned to get out of politics but changed his mind after talking to citizens.

"I could not sit on the sidelines and watch the political situation in Clayton County continue to deteriorate," Bell said.

Bell said his campaign platform will include assisting the board of education n including help with reducing truancy n and trying to attract more businesses to the county.

"I think the major issues that are going to impact this race are going to be economic development and growth, crime and violence, and education, which is probably highest on (residents') lists," Bell said.

Bell said that with the county's growth and changing demographics, it's important that the community work together to address the county's problems.

"I believe Clayton County is at a crossroads, and the decision the citizens have to make is who can best manage us through this transition," he said.

And though he doesn't have experience with county government, Bell said his job running the Atlanta Police Department makes him qualified to be chairman.

In addition to managing the department's budget, Bell said he set policies as chief of police and was held accountable for enforcing those policies.

"I ran (the department) and finished all my projects within budget and on time," he said. "When you equate that department with the county government, we're comparable in size, and we're comparable in problems."

Wade Starr, assistant to current chairman Crandle Bray, is also planning to enter the race for chairman, campaigning on his experience working with the county's government.

Starr said he is planning to kick off his campaign in about a month but has already begun talking to residents about their concerns. He said many residents are concerned with ensuring the county is experiencing quality growth.

"We need to look at how we can attract higher-end housing," he said.

Starr said that with all the growth the county is seeing, the next chairman will play a crucial role.

"We have had tremendous change in the county and the management of that change is critical to the economic wellbeing and quality of life for our citizens," he said. "And as a citizen, I would want somebody who has the knowledge and experience to do the job."

Starr said he has lived in Clayton County all his life, and his experience with county government would ensure a smooth transition if he's elected.

Former County Commissioner Richard Reagan has also expressed interest in running for chairman. Reagan could not be reached for comment on Wednesday.

Libertarian Mark Mosley is in the process of collecting the thousands of signatures needed to get his name on the ballot for chairman.

Mosley said his campaign would center around reigning in government spending and keeping taxes down.

"The central philosophical position I have is your family budget is more important than any government budget," he said. "The county government has more money than it needs."

Mosley pointed to The Beach at Clayton County International Park as one thing the county could get rid of to save money.

"I don't think anybody can argue that (The Beach) is some kind of critical need," he said. "A facility like that really needs to be funded by private resources."