By Linda Looney-Bond
Clayton County law enforcement and elected officials told a group gathered at a "State of Clayton County" town hall meeting Thursday that the county is rebounding from a number of challenges it has faced in the past few years.
About 40 area residents turned out Thursday night for the town hall meeting, at the Virginia Burton Gray Recreation Center, located at 1475 East Fayetteville Road, in Riverdale.
The event was hosted by the Clayton County Section of the National Council of Negro Women and the East Point/College Park Alumnae Chapter of Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, Inc.
"I think we're on the rise," said Clayton County Sheriff Kem Kimbrough, who addressed the audience during a reception, prior to the forum.
"I think that at this point all of the major issues that hovered over us this time last year have been resolved in one fashion or another. We've got all new elected officials in various posts that needed fixing," he said. "The stigma of having lost our [school] accreditation has passed us now. I think that we have righted the ship. We've stopped the leaking, and we're ready to drive on forward in a new direction."
Clayton County Police Chief Jeff Turner, who was a panelist during the forum, was asked whether crime was on the rise in Clayton County.
"The major crimes in Clayton County have seen a decrease since the first of the year ... and I attribute a lot of that to what the community is doing, opening their eyes and working with us, as opposed to against us.
"We're partnering with the homeowner's associations. We're conducting neighborhood watch programs. We have to have your involvement. We are our brother's keeper. Everyone who is a stakeholder in this community has to come together," said Turner.
Clayton County Commissioner Sonna Singleton, who also appeared on the panel, said Clayton County is progressing, in spite of economic challenges.
"We're experiencing increases in new residents. We're experiencing increases in new businesses moving into the area. One of them is the QuikTrip Kitchens that located to Clayton County. That brought about 223 jobs to the county," she said.
"I think that's significant, that even though we are in an economic downturn, we're still attracting businesses."
Other panelists included Clayton County School Board Member Jessie Goree, and Clayton County Sheriff's Deputy Desmond Coleman.
The Delta Sigma Theta East Point/College Park Alumnae Chapter holds similar forums at least once per year, according to Rene Morrow, Political Awareness Committee chairwoman for the organization.
"Clayton County is part of our service area," said Morrow. "We are a public service organization. It's an opportunity for us to be informed as well as people in the community," she said.