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New local officials ready for business

By Ed Brock

Phaedra Graham is ready to get to work as mayor of Riverdale, and other newly elected municipal officials have been sworn in and are ready to start serving their communities, too.

Graham, Clayton County's first black mayor, was sworn in Monday and she's been talking to department heads in preparation for her first meeting next week as mayor.

"They have been informing me of their roles and duties and how their roles and duties impact the affairs of the city," Graham said. "We're all working together to make sure we're working on behalf of the citizens, all of the citizens, of Riverdale."

Graham said she has a three-point plan she wants to implement now that she's in office. It includes improving relations between the city's police department and the community, developing an economic development plan and getting more youth activities in the city.

As for the possibility of changes being made in the city's personnel, Graham said that was a decision she would make along with the city council.

Graham is succeeding long-time Riverdale Mayor Mary Lee.

New city council member Michelle Bruce share's Graham's desire to provide more youth activities.

"We need a recreation center in Riverdale really badly," Bruce said.

Bruce also wants to get more family-oriented restaurants in the city, initiate a police bicycle patrol and increase police salaries, fix some potholes and hire a grant writer who would bring in more grants for the city.

Councilman Kenny Ruffin had a simple reason for running for office.

"I live here and I want the quality of life to be maintained," Ruffin said.

He has been talking with other council members and the mayor about what he wants to see accomplished. Among those goals are starting a youth baseball league and he recently met with the Clayton County Chamber of Commerce about bringing more businesses to Riverdale.

Ruffin also said he's looking forward to working with the new council and with Graham, especially regarding Graham's plan to improve community relations at the police department.

Ruffin replaced incumbent Robby Strain and Bruce ran unopposed. Both were sworn in on Tuesday.

In Forest Park, David Halcome, who is replacing former Ward 3 Councilwoman Corine Deyton, was sworn in Friday. He had his first council meeting Monday night.

"Right now it seems like we're moving forward. There's a lot for me to learn," Halcome said.

One thing he wants to address soon is the city's budget. The city council has not yet approved a new budget and is still operating on the 2002-2003 budget.

"Right now that's been pending for a good length of time," Halcome said.

Jonesboro has two new council members, Donna Meadows, who is a former mayor of the town, and political newcomer Linda Wenz. They were sworn in Monday and will have their first council meeting next Monday.

"I'm excited," Wenz said.

Wenz said she is looking forward to taking the training course required for all new city officials and the biggest issue on her personal agenda is the city's Livable Centers Initiative program. That program, sponsored by the Atlanta Regional Commission, would revitalize the city's downtown with green spaces and commercial development.

"I think it will be a good thing for the citizens," Wenz said.

Meadows said her life hasn't changed much, yet, but after next week's meeting she'll have more to talk about.

Jonesboro Councilman Luther Maddox stepped down to run for mayor but was defeated by incumbent Mayor Joy Day. Former Councilman Ed Adair chose not to run.