Power shift now official

By Justin Boron

Sheriff Victor Hill, District Attorney Jewel Scott, and Solicitor General Leslie Miller-Terry stood as a triumvirate of law enforcement for the first time Wednesday night as they took their oath, officially pulling them into the fold of Clayton County government.

Georgia Supreme Court Justice Leah Sears swore them in individually. Each drew a standing ovation before and after Sears read the words that bind them to legitimacy and public service.

Government officials, family members and admirers filed into a former chapel in the Clayton County Board of Education Administrative Complex for the momentous occasion, which is part of a massive power shift in the county.

The political transformation is one that reflects the majority black population in the county, said Juvenile Court Judge Steve Teske as he addressed a crowd of more than 200 people bunched into church pews.

"Progress is impossible without change and those that cannot change their minds cannot change anything," he said. "Tonight, you will bear witness to the beginning of change."

Other high-profile speakers at the meeting did not back off the message of diversity.

"Our population has proclaimed a new day for government and education," Clayton County Public Schools Superintendent Barbara Pulliam said.

Jewel Scott

The first African-American woman to hold the district attorney position in Clayton County was the first to come before Sears.

Scott toppled District Attorney Bob Keller in a landslide primary after he held the position for 27 years. He was the state's longest-serving district attorney.

After taking the oath, she gave a personal history of her father, a minister who she called her "hero."

"My father fostered my passion for public service," she said.

A native of Jamaica, Scott now lives in Jonesboro and said she has been practicing law since 1984 in Jamaica and New York. She has practiced criminal and civil law and worked for Atlanta's legal aid program.

Scott also said she wants to seek alternatives to incarceration through pre-trial intervention programs, especially for nonviolent offenders.

"I am both honored and humbled to hold this position," she said.

Leslie Miller-Terry

Miller-Terry followed Scott and told of how she left her job at the Fulton County District Attorney's office to pursue justice in Clayton County

"I need(ed) to move on and seek my greater destiny," she said. "I had burning desire to make sure justice was done."

Victor Hill

Wearing full dress uniform, Hill reiterated his campaign platform after he deconstructed the meaning of sheriff.

Pointing out that the word derives from language meaning "keeper of the county," he promised to make good on what he said he would do for the electorate.

"I'll never forget the man who said I will vote for you if you get that crack house off my street," he said. "I promise you that every waking moment I will be the keeper of the county."

Hill defeated incumbent Sheriff Stanley Tuggle, who had held the office since 1996.

Hill's transition into power has been defined by a series of vitriolic bouts with the current county leadership, including the recent transfer of the crime scene investigations unit from the control of the sheriff to police supervision.

Hill has threatened lawsuits on numerous occasions since he won the primary in July. Hill faced no opposition in the Nov. 2 general election.

Daphne Walker

Walker was sworn in as magistrate judge of Clayton County Friday.

She is the first African-American to sit as an elected judge in Clayton County.

Walker practices law for her own firm in the area of criminal defense and domestic and civil litigation.

- Ed Brock contributed to this article.