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Three seek to oust District 4 Commissioner Edmondson

By Joel Hall

jhall@news-daily.com

A great deal of effort has been made to remove Commissioner Michael Edmondson from his District 4 post.

In April, Lovejoy Mayor Joe Murphy qualified to run against Edmondson, but dropped out two weeks later, after failing to meet residency requirements.

In his bid for re-election on Tuesday, Edmondson will face Dabouze Antoine, a former candidate for Board of Commissioners (BOC) Chairman, as well as the husband-and-wife duo of Lee and Jewel Scott. Lee Scott is a past Edmondson challenger, and Jewel Scott is the county's former district attorney.

Lee Scott, who is running as a Republican, will face the winner of Tuesday's Democratic primary in November, regardless of whether it is his wife, Jewel, who is running with Edmondson and Antoine, as a Democrat.

The ultimate winner will help shape the future of parts of Riverdale, Stockbridge, and all of Jonesboro, the county's seat.

* Michael Edmondson, 39, a Jonesboro resident since 1998, is seeking a second term. A financial planner with a large banking firm, he said the key to maintaining the quality of life in the district will be to attract higher-paying jobs to the area.

"The elephant in the room is the economy, specifically property values and jobs," Edmondson said. "I'm currently working with several developers, and the county economic department, to bring several multi-story office buildings to the [Ga.] Highway 138 area. In short, we are creating an environment for higher-paying local jobs. It will attract people with a higher level of education, who can afford a higher quality of housing, who have a higher level of discretionary spending."

Edmondson said he has spearheaded several economic-development projects in the district, such as the re-branding of Ga. Highway 138 as "Lake Spivey Parkway," and the implementation of new zoning and development guidelines along the Ga. Highway 138 corridor. If re-elected, he said he would continue to support public safety funding and would work to improve the county's parks and greenspace amenities.

* Dabouze Antoine, 30, a Jonesboro resident for eight years, is an ordained minister and a client assistant at the Calvary Refuge Center in Forest Park. While unsuccessful in a 2008 run for county chairman, he said, if elected to the board, he would work to market the county, create jobs, improve transportation, and establish a Boys and Girls Club, or the "Y" in the county.

"I don't think the current commissioner has been proactive in reaching out to different counties and businesses," he said. "The degree I have in community and international economic development (from Beulah Heights University) prepares me to better market this county than the current commissioner ... It's not being marketed enough, and it's not focusing on the people that are without jobs."

Antoine said a major key to encouraging job growth is restoring some form of public transportation to the county. Dealing with economic shortfalls, Edmondson voted last October with three other commissioners to end the county's C-TRAN bus service, which Antoine said he would work to restore.

* Jewel Scott, 49, a Jonesboro resident since 1993, served as the county's District Attorney from 2004 to 2008, but lost her bid for re-election to current District Attorney Tracy Graham Lawson.

Scott said lowered property values, coupled with the school system's accreditation loss in 2008, have contributed to families leaving the county. She said she would attempt to use the board's influence to help the school system regain full-accreditation status.

"The commission board is responsible for the direction the county goes in," Scott said. "If we're trying to go in a certain direction, but we are hampered by the fact that we are still on probation, then our efforts are kind of futile. One affects the other. The biggest tax base comes from the school system, and there is a shortfall because we have so many abandoned homes. Our efforts will have to be challenged there [to the school board] to help them."

Scott described the current BOC as "dysfunctional" and said efforts are needed to unify the board. She criticized the board's decision to end C-TRAN and said she would work to restore "reliable transportation options" to the county.

* Lee Scott, 61, also a long-time Jonesboro resident, is the region manager for Fortune High Tech Marketing, a private Internet marketing company. While Scott has his own platform, he said he supports his wife's campaign and would step aside if she were to win in the primary.

"I give deference to my wife, Jewel," Scott said. "I think she is the best candidate that is running. She knows the ropes, and is honest, and has integrity. If she wins, then, yes, I would drop out of the race. If you have one decent person in the room, it affects everybody."

Scott said mismanagement on the part of the board further exacerbated the drop in property values caused by the national recession. He also accused local officials of participating in financial favors.

"If your role is to hook up your friends, or give contracts to people who are friendly to you ... then you are not really helping the county at all, you are just helping yourself," Scott said. "We have a bunch of people who aren't business people trying to run a business, and they do not know what they are doing. They're all show, and no go. We have to take a methodical approach to marketing our county to people we want to be here."

Scott said, if elected, he would work to restore public transportation, improve the county's housing stock, and create incentives to encourage people to move into the county. Over the past eight years, Scott has lost election bids to the board to Edmondson, Eldrin Bell, and Charley Griswell.

* A two-person approach

Candidates in the District 4 race have criticized the Scotts for running as husband and wife for the same commission seat. Edmondson described the move as a "shenanigan."

"I have yet to hear of anybody who has heard of such a shenanigan in the history of Georgia," he said. "It makes me wonder what the Scott's motivation is. I can only hope the voters of Clayton County continue to reject the Scotts as they have in the past," he said.

"The people I've come into contact with think it's confusing," said Antoine. "It seems like they are more concerned about being in power, than the people. It's like Bill Clinton and Hillary Clinton running for president. This is not the right time for them to run."

Jewel Scott defended her husband's decision to run, and said her record as a lawyer, and the former district attorney, shows she is passionate about helping people.

"I'm running this race to win it and to serve," Scott said. "I'm not running to win and then resign for him [Lee Scott] to take over. This has never been for power. It's just putting a candidate in that seat to serve. Anybody who looks at my record, will see that I've always served communities."

"My approach is a little bit different," said Lee Scott. "The bottom line is that all of us need to win ... the county needs to win. This county really needs Jewel."