By Joel Hall
After clearing up residency discrepancies, Stanley Byars, a retired Delta Air Lines employee, has been cleared to enter the race for Riverdale's Ward 3 council seat.
Left off the city's original list of eligible candidates, Byars will join Veverly Brooks in challenging incumbent Councilwoman Wanda Wallace.
Riverdale City Clerk Stephanie Thomas confirmed Friday that Byars is "on our list of certified municipal candidates." She said Byars' residency came into question, because the Clayton County Board of Elections and Registration informed the city that Byars voted in 2008 at a precinct in Jonesboro.
"In his application, he said that he had been a resident here for two years," Thomas said. "We found the last time that he voted, in December 2008, it was at a Jonesboro address.
"Had he been a [Riverdale] resident for the term that he said he was, he would have voted in Riverdale, but he didn't, which is questionable," she said.
"The deadline to qualify was Sept. 4," she continued. "We were still getting information in as late as the following Monday."
Byars, a resident at Emerald Pointe Apartments, on Roberts Drive in Riverdale, said his previous address was on River Valley Drive in Jonesboro. He said he had failed to change his address after filing for divorce.
"I used to live in Jonesboro a few years ago," he said. "I moved from that address maybe about three years ago. What I did was that I didn't immediately put in a change of address, because my wife and I were going through a divorce. It was one of those things that I didn't think I would have to write down. I was actually living with a brother in Riverdale. Then I worked to get my own apartment in Riverdale."
Thomas said that in mid-September, Clayton County Elections Director Annie Bright informed the city that on Aug. 28 of this year, Byars changed his address from Jonesboro to Riverdale at the Georgia Department of Driver Services. She said Byars' lease from Emerald Pointe Apartments verified that he had lived at his apartment for "at least 12 months," which qualified him to run for office.
Bright could not be reached for comment on Friday.
"Our charter doesn't say that he had to be a registered voter for at least a year, it says that they have to be a resident for at least a year," Thomas said. "His apartment manager was able to verify that he had lived at the apartment complex for at least a year, so that is why he was able to qualify."
On Friday, Emerald Pointe Apartments Manager Deborah Fowler deferred inquires about Byars residency to its parent company, Jamco Properties in Atlanta. A representative from Jamco Properties did not return a request on Friday for comment on the situation.
Raised in Hilton Head Island, S.C., Byars spent 30 years, on and off, working for Delta Air Lines as a customer service representative. Although retired since 2007, he has been involved in Clayton County politics for seven years, he said. He currently serves as a post officer for the Clayton County Democratic Party, volunteers with the Clayton County Juvenile Court's "Fast Track" alternative detention program, and is a member of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, and the Georgia Association of Black Elected Officials.
Byars said that despite getting off to a late start, he feels confident about the election. "It puts me at a little bit of a disadvantage," he said. "Instead of having two months to campaign, I have one month, but I'm OK with that. I have been to the meetings, and right now, I think we have a dysfunctional city government. I will work extremely hard to bring some unity to the city government."