By Curt Yeomans
Voters in Forest Park City Council runoff elections decided to send an incumbent back into office for a second term in one ward, and elected a Clayton County Democratic Party official in an open race in another ward.
Incumbent Ward 1 City Councilperson Sparkle Adams defeated TNT Automotive Performance Owner Thomas Smith with 56.46 percent of the 232 votes cast, capturing re-election to office on Tuesday. Meanwhile, Clayton County Democratic Party Director of Special Needs Karen-Brandee Williams won the Ward 2 runoff by defeating retiree Donald Wright with 57 percent of the 214 votes cast in that race.
After the votes were counted, Adams called on everyone who sought elected office in the city this year to be active in city affairs, and to work with city officials to improve Forest Park. Between the two City Council races, and a mayoral contest, nine people sought elected office in Forest Park this year.
"Those that identified themselves as leaders need to step up and be leaders in the community," Adams said. "They need to work with the city to address the city's issues."
Forest Park Election Superintendent David Painter said the election results are preliminary, pending the counting of six provisional ballots, and that he hopes to certify the election by Friday at 12 p.m. Adams and Williams would be sworn in to start their respective terms during the first Forest Park City Council meeting in January, said Forest Park City Manager John Parker.
In the Ward 1 runoff, Adams secured 131 votes to defeat Smith, who garnered 102 votes, according to Painter. Adams thanked her supporters who "donated their time and talent to come out and help me win re-election." She said it was their victory as much as hers.
She said she plans to spend the next four years focusing on reducing crime in the city and advocating for neighborhood watches, her teen council group, and beautification efforts across Forest Park.
"It's time for everyone to get to work," Adams said.
In the Ward 2 runoff, Williams earned 122 votes to defeat Wright, who garnered 92 votes, according to Painter. Williams replaces outgoing City Councilperson Debbie Youmans, who did not seek re-election.
"Not only am I honored to have been chosen, I am grateful to the people to entrust me to serve them and to be their voice," Williams said in an e-mail to the Clayton News Daily Tuesday evening. "I do not take this for granted.
"With all of the results from the election, I believe the citizens have worked to vote for the people whom they believe will best represent them," she added.
She said she is anxious to begin working with the mayor and City Council of Forest Park.
Overall, there was a 16.63 percent voter turnout (out of 1,395 registered voters) in Ward 1, and an 11.94 percent voter turnout (out of 1,792 registered voters) in Ward 2, Painter said. He added that the overall turnout figures were mainly fueled by voters casting absentee ballots, or taking advantage of early voting.
The Forest Park election superintendent said, prior to Tuesday, the number of early and absentee votes cast in Ward 1 represented an 8.5 percent turnout, while the same types of ballots cast in Ward 2 represented a 7 percent voter turnout.
"We had more absentee ballots (173 total absentee ballots for both races) in the runoff than we had in the general election (168 ballots)," Painter said. "It's the ease [of voting by absentee ballot]. You don't have to go out. It's like shopping online. You can do it at home in your PJs."
Election day at the city's voting precinct at the Forest Park Recreation Center was "slow," Painter said. By 2 p.m., on Tuesday, a total of 115 had cast election-day ballots, he said.
"It's been one or two people at a time," Painter said. "We had a big rush at lunchtime. It was 5 people. There's been times when we had breaks that lasted between 3 to 5 minutes between voters. We've had several of those, actually."
Ward 2 voter, Heather Walls, said she came to the polls because she felt it was her responsibility to vote in every election. She said she was disappointed by the low number of people at the polls on Tuesday.
"It's kind of sad when there's so few people showing up," Walls said. "It's a City Council race, so it's kind of important on a local level."