By Joel Hall
With the top vote getters separated by only a few ballots, city council candidates for Forest Park's Ward 1 and Ward 2 seats will compete in a runoff election on Dec. 1.
The polls will open to registered voters in those wards on Tuesday, between the hours of 7 a.m., and 7 p.m., at the Forest Park Recreation Center, located at 803 Forest Parkway.
In the Ward 1 race, Thomas Smith, Jr., will face off against incumbent Councilwoman Sparkle Adams. In the Ward 2 race, political newcomers Karen-Brandee Williams and Donald Wright will compete for a seat Councilwoman Debbie Youmans is not seeking to hold onto.
Early voting in the Forest Park runoff election closed on Wednesday afternoon. On Wednesday morning, Forest Park Election Superintendent David Painter said early voting participation in the runoff had been "very light," with only 55 votes cast as of Tuesday.
Painter added, however, that a large number of voters had requested absentee ballots.
"There's 1,700 registered voters in Ward 2 and 1,300 registered voters in Ward 1," Painter said. "The applications for absentee ballots have been pretty heavy. Approximately 285 ballots have been requested for the runoff [as of Wednesday afternoon]. We have no idea how many of those will be returned."
Following the certification of the vote totals from the Nov. 3 election, Smith proved to be the highest vote getter in the Ward 1 race, garnering 98 votes, or 37.12 percent of the vote. Adams followed with 88 votes, or 33.3 percent of the vote. In the Ward 2 race, Williams led with 126 votes, or 44.4 percent of the vote, and Wright followed closely with 125 votes, or 44 percent of the vote.
Smith, a newcomer to politics, said he was "overwhelmed" by the votes he garnered Nov. 3, and that he feels confident about the runoff.
"I think I fared pretty good," Smith said. "I have been in this city my whole life ... I still own the house that I grew up in. They [the voters] all know me and they know that I am going to be looking out for the people of Forest Park, not one, single person."
Smith said he has "no objectives other than to help the city go forward" and that he would govern with "common sense." He said he would work toward bringing an "upscale grocery store" to Forest Park, as well as businesses that would help generate jobs.
Adams said she governs with a "personal touch" and believes her experience on the council makes her the best candidate.
"I think I'm the best because I'm the best qualified," Adams said. "I don't have a hidden agenda. I'm just out to serve the people. I think we are at a critical juncture in the city's history and we don't need anybody with training wheels on to handle the city's business.
"I think it's important to speak face to face with my constituents and I've been doing that for the last four years," she added. "I'm just a campaign politician. For the last four years, we have had an active council. The citizens know what we have in the city ... they don't want to lose what they have."
Williams responded to questions via e-mail on Tuesday. When asked about her thoughts going into the runoff, she wrote: "I'm excited and I'm happy for the citizen[s] of Forest Park and I'm confident that the voters will allow me to be their next City Council Woman."
"My primary goal is to bring all the residents together, and with every issue, we will resolve them together," she added.
Wright, a long-time resident of Forest Park, said he believes he has an inside track on the happenings of the city. He said if elected, he would work toward job creation and efforts to care for children and the elderly.
"I've been trying to go around to every door myself," Wright said. "A lot of people didn't know that there was a runoff. This is a very important election for the city and the people. I am hoping that people will get registered to vote. The only concern I have is working for the people of Forest Park."
According to Painter, having voted in the Nov. 3 election is not a requirement to vote in the Dec. 1 runoff. Those who come to the polls on Tuesday will need to bring with them an approved form of photo identification.
For more information about voting requirements, visit http://sos.georgia.gov.