By Joel Hall
Clayton County District 3 Commissioner Wole Ralph will face strong competition this year in his bid for re-election.
Ralph will has three challengers in the July 15 primary: Angela Redding, a management analyst for the City of Forest Park; Ronald Ringer, a skycap for Delta Global Services, and Michael Bryant, a privately-employed general contractor.
Redding, 42, originally from the south Georgia city of Cordele, moved to Clayton County in 1996, and for the last nine years, has worked for the City of Forest Park as its management analyst. Working directly with the city manger, Redding has guided the city's revitalization efforts, such as the redevelopment of the State Farmers Market, Fort Gillem, and Forest Park's Main Street.
Redding's husband, Ricky Redding, is a captain with the Clayton County Sheriff's Department. Together, they have two grown sons and an 11-year-old daughter, who is currently enrolled in Clayton County public schools.
Graduating from Morris Brown College with a bachelor of science degree in accounting, Redding also holds a master's degree in public administration from Mercer University. She is actively involved in the Clayton County Chamber of Commerce, and for the last four years, has helped prepared other county leaders, as chairwoman of the Leadership Clayton program.
"I never had an ambition to enter the political arena, but looking at what is happening in the county, I was inspired to step up to the plate," said Redding. "We need people with a vision and a passion to go into office and do the right thing. We need good people to be a part of the change in Clayton County."
Redding describes herself as a "consensus builder," who would bring "integrity, visibility, accountability, and professionalism" to the office of commissioner. She stresses marketing the county's resources and attractions more effectively around the region and "maintaining healthy intergovernmental relationships" to "obtain the maximum benefit for Clayton County."
While lacking a public administration background, Ronald Ringer, 52, is a lifelong resident of Jonesboro. Studying business administration in the 1970s at Clayton Junior College (now Clayton State University), Ringer said he has "a passion for working class people" and a genuine desire to "serve the people of Clayton County."
Ringer, who has been divorced since 2000, has three grown children -- all of whom came through the Clayton County School System. He said his biggest concerns are the quality of the school system, the attractiveness of the county, high property taxes, and low property values.
"The school system has been the biggest negative change," said Ringer. He said in the 1970s, Clayton County public schools ranked among the top five school systems in the state, and now the system risks losing its accreditation.
In the past, the county has put "people in place to make key decisions that aren't responsible and qualified," said Ringer. He said he would bring "integrity, honesty, and trustworthiness" to the title of District 3 Commissioner.
"On an individual basis, I try to help everybody I can," said Ringer. "I wasn't involved in any social groups or special activities, but I have always held up my hand to help out anybody I could."
Ringer said he would fight to make the county a more attractive place, hoping to reduce crime, bring better businesses to the county, and improve the quality of Tara Boulevard. He said he would also maintain civility between the BOC and other county departments.
Originally from the Orlando, Fla., suburb of Winter Park, Fla., Michael Bryant, 38, has lived in the county for six years, working as a general contractor. Graduating from Rollins College with a bachelor's degree in political science, Bryant said he has helped build commercial businesses in the area, such as Starbucks, Moe's Southwest Grill, gas stations, and several convenience stores.
Bryant and his wife of six years, Rose, currently have no children.
Bryant said, logistically speaking, Clayton has "the greatest opportunity for sound development and prosperity" in the metro region, and said he would work diligently to promote smart growth.
"I'm a vested home owner of six years," said Bryant. "I want all taxpayers to feel good about the tax dollars they are spending."
Bryant said he is deeply concerned about development which has taken place in the Panhandle area over the past four years. He said both the Flint Point and Victoria Meadows subdivisions "have been extremely damaging and hurtful to the Panhandle." He called their zoning approval "irresponsible."
"At this point, none of those developments have really gotten off the ground, so we just have erosion," said Bryant. "It's bringing a lot of density to the Panhandle and we want to do what we can to conserve green space."
Bryant said "entrepreneurial skills are required to bring Clayton County to the next millennium." He prides himself on having business experience and "an entrepreneurial spirit." If elected, he would like to develop Tara Field and make it an airport "to rival Charlie Brown Airport in Fulton County and Peachtree-DeKalb Airport in DeKalb County.
"The only time Tara Field is being used primarily is during the races and we are loosing millions of dollars in fuel sales because it is not equipped to handle the kind of air traffic that NASCAR brings," said Bryant. He said he would like to create an atrium at Tara Field with restaurants and other retail stores.
Originally from the Washington, D,C., suburb of Columbia, Md., and the son of Guyanese immigrants, Wole Ralph has served as District 3 Commissioner since 2004.
Ralph attended Morehouse College and graduated from Morris Brown College with a bachelor's degree in accounting and African studies. He received a master's degree in public administration from Northern Illinois University, focusing on finance and local government.
Prior to becoming a commissioner, Ralph worked as an auditor for the U.S. Department of Labor Small Business Administration, investigating waste, fraud, and corruption among small businesses around the state. Currently, Ralph serves as the executive director of ACCION-USA, the largest micro-lending firm in the state of Georgia.
Ralph, is recently divorced from Shegale Crute-Ralph, presently a candidate for the State House District 78 seat. Ralph has a 7-year-old daughter from a previous relationship, but does not have custody.
He said that prior to his term, the county had experienced 20 years of "unplanned and uncontrolled" growth. He said in his time in office, he has fought to change historically lax zoning policies.
"When I first ran for office, I committed to doing five things," said Ralph, noting the desire to improve public safety, strengthen zoning and building laws, slow residential growth, improve code enforcement, create more recreation centers, and improve the quality of the roads.
He said during his term, the BOC has hired 50 additional police officers; re-written the county's zoning codes; tripled the number of code enforcement officers and given them police backup; constructed three recreation centers and two senior centers; re-paved hundreds of streets; and laid over 40 miles of sidewalks throughout the county.
"I ran on a series of promises and I delivered on those promises," said Ralph. "I've always been an active proponent of the taxpayer."
Ralph said another thing that defines his time in office is the desire to create transparency in government by involving citizens in the decision-making process. He said he works closely with local homeowners and "can generally be found on a Saturday or Sunday in a homeowners association meeting."
He emphasized the importance of having a commissioner who has a "formalized education" in government, as well as "experience in the field." He believes he has both.
"I've got a strong education in government and finance," said Ralph. "A leader in this county needs to have an education that is consistent with the responsibilities. One of the things we can't afford to do in this county is to have people who are unqualified sitting in these positions."