By Joel Hall
Voters in Forest Park will have many options on Nov. 3.
Three candidates are seeking the job as mayor, and six others are seeking to fill two City Council seats during the municipal election.
Incumbent Mayor Corine Deyton, and incumbent Ward 1 Councilwoman Sparkle Adams, have two challengers each. Three political newcomers seek to fill the Ward 2 council seat.
The Mayoral Race
Deyton is seeking a second term as mayor. Her challengers are Darnell Moorer and Christine Ellington. Moorer was unsuccessful in two tries for mayor, in 2001 and 2005. Ellington, now seeking voter consideration for mayor, lost a bid to become the Ward 4 council member in 2007.
Deyton, 72, a 49-year resident of Forest Park, served on the City Council for nine years prior to winning the office of mayor in 2005. A retired paralegal specializing in matters of real estate, Deyton said she believes she can take advantage of Fort Gillem's closing and bring the city into a new era of development.
"We have the opportunity to develop 1,200 acres at Fort Gillem," Deyton said. "We can turn this economy around if we do this right. If I am here as mayor, we will do this right."
Deyton said during her time as mayor, the city has had no layoffs and has remained fiscally sound. She said the city has also completed many playground improvements and added a new 911 facility.
"I'm proud of what we've been able to accomplish while I've been here," Deyton said. "I want to make sure the development of Fort Gillem is done right, so it can benefit not only the citizens of Forest Park, but the entire county."
Moorer, 56, a retired emergency services supervisor for Fulton County, has lived in the city for 19 years and served on the Forest Park Planning and Zoning Board for the past nine years. Serving as the vice chairman of the board of the Forest Park Street School, Moorer said he is focused on improving safety for children and seniors, as well as improving the communication between citizens and police.
"The position of the mayor should be a communicator," Moorer said. "Our children and our seniors are our most at-risk population in our community. Those who live alone ... I want to have our public safety officers just check on them once or twice a month to see if they are OK. I would also like to see the reinstatement of our Citizen Review Board. We had one about 12 years ago. That would be a voice for the citizens."
If elected, Moorer said he would explore the option of hiring a full-time economic development director to oversee Forest Park's redevelopment, and install "Officer Friendlies" in the city's schools to improve relationships between police and students.
Ellington, 49, a 12-year resident of the city, has served as an executive assistant for the Georgia Department of Emergency Medical Services and Trauma for five years. A member of the Clayton County Public Schools' citizens budget committee, she said she believes she can ensure the city's funds are spent wisely.
"Because I've worked as an administrative assistant at the executive level, I am comfortable working with all types of personalities," Ellington said. "I feel like we can do a lot more to brighten up our city, attract jobs, and bring people to the area. With an increase of businesses here, it will attract homeowners who have pride in the community."
In the past few years, Ellington has been a vocal critic of the proximity of Waste Management's transfer station to Forest Park neighborhoods. "We have people who live literally within five feet of this big dump site," Ellington said. "I think the city should at least look at ways to make the citizens more comfortable." She said she has been an active post member of the Clayton County Democratic Party for three years.
Councilwoman Adams face challenges from Kimberly James and Thomas Smith, Jr. Adams is finishing her first term on the council, and her opponents are launching first-time political bids.
Adams, 54, has lived in the city for more than two decades. For 29 years, Adams has served as an analyst for the U.S. Postal Inspection Service, monitoring mail fraud and other illegal activities.
Having initiated several youth, anti-crime, and senior initiatives while on the council, Adams said she believes she is the "proven leader" for the position.
"Being able to focus on what matters to the residents, I will be able to help the city with creating new solutions that meet the needs of residents," Adams said. "I have always stated that if you have identified yourself [as] a community leader, be ready to come with some effective solutions to the problems you have identified."
During Adams' term in office, she said she has implemented a graffiti-removal program, a citywide Neighborhood Watch Program, and the "Make It Happen" gang-awareness program for secondary school students in Forest Park. She said she has also coordinated several programs to give educational and scam-protection information to seniors.
James, 39, is a home-school mom, business owner, and 16-year resident of Forest Park. Working from home as a regional sales manager for Fortune Hi-Tech Marketing, James serves as secretary of the Clayton County Democratic Party.
Although new to Forest Park politics, James said she wants to "take a lead" role in addressing the city's abandoned properties.
"When there are abandoned properties, there [are] grounds for a lot of activities that are not safe for the community, so we need to make sure that they are actually filled [with people]," James said. "I'm able to gain intelligence very quickly. I am a fast learner. The personality that I have is a personality of service, so I believe that I will fit well on the council. I am hoping that I can bring open and honest communication to our citizens about what is going to impact them directly."
Smith, 52, is a life-long resident of the city. A 20-year truck driver for Southeastern Freight Lines, he has owned TNT Automotive Performance for nine years.
Smith has been critical of the city's use of money, particularly in the city's legal battles with the Pink Pony South and Crazy Horse Saloon adult-entertainment establishments. He said he believes he can bring "common sense government to the city"
"They [the City Council] spend money needlessly," Smith said. "They hired a University of California professor to do a study on the secondary effects of adult entertainment on cities. To me, I feel like they could have done that right in the city. We have no city taxes in Forest Park and if they keep doing what they are doing, we are going to have city taxes."
With Councilwoman Debbie Youmans opting not to seek re-election, three candidates want to replace her.
Deverick Williams, 40, a maintenance planner for Atlantic Southeast Airlines, was born and raised in Forest Park. An appointed member of the city's Architectural Design Board, Williams helps monitor the design of new buildings in Forest Park as they are built. He prides himself on his knowledge of the city, and on being accessible.
"I have the ability to connect with the community, collaborate with city officials, and come up with solutions," Williams said. "I'm the best candidate for this position because I am a life-long resident, and I have a keen understanding of the city's strengths and where improvements are needed. I will monitor the operations and efficiency of all the departments of the city and make sure that we are not wasting any money."
Donald Wright, 72, is a 56-year resident of the city, and retired as a distribution manager at Kraft General Foods in 1993, after 34 years. Wright said he has attended City Council meetings for years and believes his knowledge will be useful to the council.
"I have knowledge of the city and what's going on in the businesses of the city," Wright said. "We have a lot of rental property that is run down. I would like to see a lot of that corrected. There is no reason for your house to be run down if you have pride in your city. I would like to see those ordinances strengthened."
Wright said he is interested in promoting the development of the Fort Gillem area, as well as the beautification of the city.
Karen-Brandee Williams, 42, a homemaker and a former customer-service representative with Georgia Power, also serves as disability director of the Clayton County Democratic Party. Williams [no relation to Deverick Williams], described herself as "an ordinary citizen who wants to serve."
She summed up her platform in the acronym "L.I.G.H.T."- Listen to the residents of Ward 2; to Increase security for our neighborhoods; Gain important opportunities for residents; Help revenue growth and business opportunities for residents; and Tear down the lack of communication between city residents and human-service organizations.
"So much has happened and people have lost their hope in the system," she said. "I am basically a resource for the community. With me being a resident, like them, it will allow them to have someone in office who can execute the things they need."