By Ed Brock
Darnell Moorer is very eager to become the next mayor of Forest Park.
With about four months to go before the election, Moorer has already declared his candidacy. If he wins he would be the city's first black mayor.
Meanwhile, the incumbent Mayor Chuck Hall, who has held the office for nearly 12 years, said he's ready to meet Moorer's challenge.
Hall said his re-election is important to the ongoing work on the city's revitalization plans including revamping the State Farmer's Market and the downtown area.
A 52-year-old widower with five sons and two daughters, Moorer has lived in Forest Park since 1991. He ran against Hall in 2001 and lost, coming in second in a field of three candidates.
This time things will be different, Moorer said.
"More people know me now," he said.
He said he's been seen in the schools a lot since that last election since he had a child in elementary school, another in middle school and a third in high school, the latter having now graduated.
"And we have done a lot of educating people about voting," Moorer said.
He added that he hopes this year's election will be held in a larger venue than city hall where the city's approximately 7,000 voters have to wait in lines that extend outside.
The fact that he would be the city's first black mayor is not as important as the fact that the people want the city to move forward, Moorer said. His slogan is "Returning the city to the citizens."
Hall also said the election should not come down to a race vote.
"You've got to reach out to every citizen out there," he said.
More than 3,100 black voters are registered in the city while more than 2,700 white voters are registered. Less than 100 Hispanic voters are registered in the city. More than 200 Asian voters are registered there.
But at the same time, Hall may have to overcome the political tension stemming from a controversial decision to privatize sanitation services in the city.
"We do have a number of citizens who feel disenfranchised," Moorer said. They don't feel like they have a voice any more."
Some people also think the city's court system is not "community friendly."
Hall said the change was necessary to be more cost effective and has gotten positive feedback from the community.
"You're going to get criticism for changes any time you have it," he said.
But Moorer said people want their voice back and they want to feel pride in their city again.
Another major issue that the mayor of Forest Park will have to face in the next few years is the possibility that Army Garrison Fort Gillem may be closed. Gillem and its parent facility Fort McPherson in Atlanta have been included on the Department of Defense's Base Realignment and Closure List, the final version of which will be released to President Bush by September.
If Bush approves the list it will go to Congress and could be passed by November.
Hall said his familiarity with the issue and the major players would be an important attribute to keep.
Even if Gillem closes, Moorer said, that could work to the city's advantage.
"That possibly will be the shot Forest Park needs in the arm to revitalize our community," Moorer said. "If that happens we would have to revitalize Fort Gillem to become a functional part of Forest Park."
News Daily staff writer Justin Boron contributed to this article.