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Jonesboro voters choose two new council members

By Linda Looney-Bond

lbond@news-daily.com

Jonesboro voters chose two political newcomers, and one incumbent, to fill three City Council seats Tuesday.

Second-time candidate, Pat Sebo, newcomer, Joe Compton, and incumbent, Clarence Mann, were the biggest vote-getters in a seven-person field with three at-large seats up for grabs.

Sebo, a human resources specialist with Clayton County Public Schools, and a member of the Jonesboro Housing Authority, received the most votes with 160, followed by Mann with 133, and Compton with 131, according to Janice Truhan, city clerk and Jonesboro elections superintendent.

In the hotly contested race, incumbents Billy Powell and Rick Yonce were not returned to office. They received 124 and 119 votes respectively. Former Jonesboro Police Chief Brad Johnson received 123 votes, and fist-time candidate, Shawn Wooten, got 38 votes, Truhan said.

Differences of opinion among some of the candidates concerning the firing of former Chief Johnson -- as well as the firing of an administrative assistant Johnson hired -- had resulted in two distinct factions of candidates, and two candidates running independently in the race.

Incumbents Mann and Yonce ran as a team, while incumbent Councilman Powell, former Police Chief Johnson, and newcomer, Compton, were aligned as an opposing slate. Pat Sebo and Shawn Wooten said they were aligned with neither camp.

The top three vote-getters won the election, and will make up half of the six-member council. The three remaining council positions were not up for election this year.

"I am just excited. I'm blown away. It just speaks volumes for the people in Jonesboro," said Sebo Tuesday night. "They're looking for a change to take place. I ran two years ago, and I lost by 6 votes, and this time, I'm just reveling in the fact that I'm the top vote-getter. I owe a lot to the people that supported me, and I'm looking forward to serving the people of Jonesboro," she said.

The sole incumbent to be re-elected Tuesday, Clarence Mann, said he was overwhelmed by the election results. "I feel very fortunate that the citizens of Jonesboro have chosen me to represent them again. I want to congratulate everybody that won, and I'm looking forward to working with them," he said.

"A lot of the people turned against me because I upheld the firing of the police chief, so I feel so fortunate, because I was told 'Wait until November, and you're out of here,'" Mann said.

Newcomer, Joe Compton, could not be reached for comment Tuesday night.

But former Police Chief Johnson said he was "pleased," even though he did not win a seat on the council. "I think the people have spoken," he said. "I'm just tickled that they got what they got, and I hope it will [city council] do better."

Johnson filed a petition in July, in Clayton County Superior Court alleging that Jonesboro Mayor Luther Maddox improperly suspended him in April, and subsequently fired him without due process on May 21.

In a matter that sparked public debate, Maddox suspended Johnson for wearing blue jeans on the job, and for what Maddox called disrespect of the office of mayor.

He later fired Johnson, saying that Johnson had not successfully completed his "working test," or probationary period. The Jonesboro City Council voted to uphold both Maddox's decisions to suspend, and to fire, Johnson.

Johnson said Tuesday that he is still waiting for a judge's decision regarding the petition, and said he plans to sue the city for damages in the case.

Incumbent Billy Powell, who failed to gain re-election Tuesday, said he plans to run again for a council seat in two years, when the three remaining council seats will be up for election.

"I've got to live with it," he said. "I'm very much surprised. It's good that my friend, Joe Compton, won, and congratulations to Pat Sebo and Clarence Mann. I guess I'll have to wait two years. I'll be back," he said.

"I'm a little surprised after being on the council 10 years," said incumbent, Rick Yonce, who also was not re-elected Tuesday. "I feel like I've done a good job over ten years. If I let the residents down in some way, I'm sorry for that.

"I'll still be around. I feel pretty certain that I will [run again]. I'm not sure if it'll be for the council or the mayor's spot," he said.

First-time candidate, Shawn Wooten, could not be reached for comment Tuesday night.

-- Staff writer Joel Hall contributed to this report.