County leaders coordinating again

By Ed Brock

The Clayton County Coordination Team was reborn last week, bringing together politicians, law enforcement heads and leaders of organizations dedicated to helping the county's citizens.

In years past the team had met monthly, but attendance had become very weak in recent years, said Kim Seibert with the Clayton County Extension Service. So Seibert began asking around to see if the team was still needed.

"The consensus was yes, we definitely need it, we need it more than ever," Seibert said.

So she sent out invitations around the county to the breakfast meeting that was held at 8 a.m. Friday at My Sister's Place on Stockbridge Road in Jonesboro. The meeting was well attended and began with a history of the team that was first organized in the early 1980s, said Clayton County Department of Family and Children Services Director Cathy Ratti.

They met at Butch's restaurant in Jonesboro, Ratti recalled.

"It was the meeting to attend. We attended it religiously," Ratti said. "That's where we communicated with one another. We talked not only about what our agencies did but also what the trends in our county were."

Even in these days of e-mail and telecommunications, Ratti said, the face to face meetings are needed.

"We have a lot of new leaders coming up," Ratti said. "We need to be planning and this is the perfect group to be doing that."

One of those new leaders, Jonesboro's recently hired Main Street Director Kathryn Lookofsky, said the meetings would be very helpful.

"We're going to work to revitalize Main Street (in Jonesboro) and I need your help to do it," Lookofsky said.

Clayton County State Court Judge Harold Benefield said he hoped the team would help him to identify resources he can use in making his sentencing decisions.

"You're very important. I'm desperate for your help and so are the people I'm trying to help," Benefield said.

Clayton County Solicitor General Keith Martin echoed that sentiment.

"I would like to know what is out there that we can use to resolve cases," Martin said.

Though he knew almost everybody in the room, Clayton County Sheriff Stanley Tuggle said bringing back the coordination team meetings was a good way to catch up on current events.

"One great thing about getting back together is that a lot of you are doing different things," Tuggle said. "This is a great way to learn about that."

Judges don't usually have time for meetings during the day, Clayton County Superior Court Judge Deborah Benefield said, so the breakfast meeting format will make the team meetings more accessible.

"These are meetings we can get to and get input from you," Benefield said.

Clayton County District Attorney Bob Keller said everybody in the room had "an absolute duty to be back next month."

Meeting with local officials seemed to strike a positive note with the representatives of service organizations that attended the meeting, like Pat Altemus, interim director of the Clayton County Securus House shelter for battered women.

"What we're seeing is that family violence is greatly rising in the county," Altemus said.

Kaprise Winston said her group, the Kaylor Society, was dedicated to helping special needs children around the county.

"I just want to identify resources and form collaborations," Winston said.

Other groups and agencies represented at the breakfast included The Salvation Army, Clayton County WORKTEC, Clayton Behavioral Health Center, the Clayton County Latin American Association, Youth Under Construction and many more.

The group agreed to hold future meetings on the second Friday of each month at My Sister's Place.

"This group can be the group that certainly impacts the rest of the county," Siebert said.

My Sister's Place donated the first breakfast to the team.