By Joel Hall
The cities of Jonesboro, Riverdale and Forest Park will each seat new city council members in January, during the councils' first meetings of the new year.
Riverdale's newly elected council members were sworn in in November, while Jonesboro's were sworn in this week, and Forest Park's will be sworn in on Jan. 4.
New Jonesboro City Council members, Pat Sebo and Joe Compton, as well as reelected Councilman Clarence Mann, were officially sworn into office on Monday. The new members of the City Council will conduct their first meeting with Mayor Luther Maddox, Mann, and sitting council members, Roger Grider, Wallace Norrington and Bobby Wiggins, on Jan. 11, Maddox said.
In Forest Park, newly elected Ward 2 Councilwoman Karen-Brandee Williams will take her place on the panel with Mayor Corine Deyton and council members, Sparkle Adams of Ward 1, Maudie McCord of Ward 3, and Don Judson of Ward 4, in January. On Jan. 4, Williams, Deyton and Adams will be sworn into office during the council's first meeting of the new year, according to Forest Park City Manager John Parker. Deyton and Adams won reelection to their respective seats in November.
The City of Riverdale swore in newly elected Ward 1 Councilwoman Cynthia Stamps-Jones, as well as reelected Ward 3 Councilwoman Wanda Wallace, on Nov. 9, a week after the Nov. 3 election. Stamps-Jones and Wallace are expected to take their places on the council with Wayne Hall of Ward 2 and Kenny Ruffin of Ward 4 on Jan. 11, according Riverdale City Manager Iris Jessie.
As required by state law, newly elected officials Sebo, Compton, Stamps-Jones, and Williams will be required to attend a one-and-a-half day training course at the Newly Elected Municipal Officials Institute at the University of Georgia's Carl Vinson Institute of Government.
The course, coordinated by the Georgia Municipal Association and the Carl Vinson Institute, gives newly elected officials a basic overview of the responsibilities and powers of city officials, according to GMA Spokesperson Amy Henderson. She said officials elected during this election cycle will have the choice of attending a session Feb. 20 and 21 at the Carl Vinson Institute in Athens or a session March 5 and 6 at UGA's satellite campus in Tifton.
"Georgia was the first state in the nation to mandate training for newly elected city officials," Henderson said. "In 1990, it was made mandatory by the state. They are new to office and city government can be very complicated. It [the training course] is a way to cut some corners in the learning curve. It doesn't take them four years to learn what they can learn in one weekend."
Henderson said the course will cover ethics, meeting management, how cities get their revenue, financing, how city ordinances work in conjunction with state and federal law, dealing with open-records requests, filing disclosure reports, and other topics. She added that elected officials will also have a chance to interact with elected officials throughout the state and become aquatinted with regional experts in city governance.
"The networking aspect is also really important," Henderson said. "They also get to meet their counterparts from around the state and build relationships with them and [with] experts in various aspects of city government. As things come up ... they can pick up the phone and say, 'Has this come up?,' 'How did you deal with the situation?'"
Henderson said each training session is limited to 250 people. A $325-per-official registration fee, which covers classes, materials and meals, is traditionally covered by city governments, she added.
Sebo, one of four newly elected municipal officials in the county, said she is excited about the classes and beginning to work with the Jonesboro City Council.
"I'm looking forward to the next four years," Sebo said. "I think we are really going to see a lot of changes in the city in the next year ... you are going to see some aesthetic changes in the first onset of this streetscape project. I think the new council will be more cohesive."
Compton said he is going into the course "with an open mind" and that he hopes to learn more about the "inner workings of municipalities."
"I got elected for one reason -- to be the voice of the people," he said. "Those courses are supposed to be very helpful with all the paperwork that has to be done. I'd like to be right instead of having to go back and redo them."
Stamps-Jones said she believes the training course will help her be more effective.
"Being green like I am, I am looking forward to learning a lot," Stamps-Jones said. "I'm taking on a job and a new responsibility. In order for me to do it efficiently, I need to be aware of what is going on. When somebody asks me a question, I will know instead of guess."
Williams could not be reached for comment.