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Clayton candidates' forum Monday

By Joel Hall

jhall@news-daily.com

Candidates vying for the District 1, and District 4, county commission posts, will be hosted in a candidates' forum Monday.The Clayton County NAACP is sponsoring the event at 7 p.m., at Riverdale First United Methodist Church, located at 6390 Church St., in Riverdale.

Clayton NAACP Political Action Chairperson Ruth Ash said the forum is one of three her group has planned before the July 20 general primary. Monday's forum will "give people the opportunity to question candidates and find out what their opinions are on issues that effect them," Ash said. "We don't take sides, one way or another."

District 1 candidates are Incumbent Commissioner Sonna Singleton, Rosa Barbee, Richard Reagan, Shegale Crute, and Joyce Baul. Reagan, Crute and Singleton have indicated they will not attend. Crute said she would send a representative.

* Singleton, 47, a parent-community liaison for Clayton County Public Schools, is seeking a second-term. "I believe having experience makes a difference," Singleton said. "We saw a couple of years ago what inexperience did to the school board of Clayton County ... we can't afford that kind of inexperience again. We just don't have the time for on-the-job-training. Citizens know they can depend on me for good, sound decisions in their interest."

Singleton said she would like see economic development projects, such as the Villages of Ellenwood, accomplished.

* Barbee, 33, a community activist, is a first-timer. "The reason I am running is because I see no vision from the so-called leaders that we have now," Barbee said. "I'm just tired of the nonsense, the foolishness, the lack of communication among the leaders, with each other, with employees, and the citizens of Clayton County. It's important, for me, to have a vision."

Barbee said she served as president of the Brookwood Village Home Owners Association from 2003 to 2009, and leads a women's civic club as well as local public safety support groups.

* Reagan, 66, a retired Delta Air Lines employee, is a former commissioner who served the district from 1995 to 1999. He believes he can restore a sense of fiscal, and personal, responsibility to the board. "It seems you have three [commissioners] who have banded together," Reagan said. "Wole [Ralph], [Gail] Hambrick, and Singleton ... they have, more or less, attempted to take the chairman's power away from him that was granted to him by the charter. I have confronted Singleton and former commissioner Virginia Gray about hiring full-time aides ... it's the first time in county history where a part-time employee has hired a full-time employee to do their work."

Reagan said as a retiree, he has time to deal with the concerns of citizens, and if elected, would continue his tradition of making personal house calls to constituents with concerns."

* Crute, 42, a consultant, has lived in the county for 10 years, where she has served on the boards of the Department of Family and Children Services, and Clayton County Family Care. A former Clayton County Rotary Club member, and former Clayton County Court Appointed Special Advocates volunteer, Crute believes she has the experience and attitude to effectively manage the affairs of the county. "I see a phenomenal citizenry that just feels like the current board does not reflect their values," she said. "I have a lot of experience with different regional bodies. I think it will help the county, but it will also get Clayton County back to the table in terms of what is happening in the region. I think I bring a certain level of diplomacy, and civility, that doesn't currently exist on the commission.

If elected, Crute would sit alongside District 3 Commissioner Wole Ralph, who is her ex-husband. However, she said it would be of no consequence. "I've always been a diplomatic person, and I'm there to serve the citizens of District 1 and the county at large," Crute said. "I have absolutely no issue of sitting with Commissioner Ralph, or any other commissioner ... I look forward to the challenges and taking the county in a new direction."

* Baul, 56, a business office administrator from Rex, is making her first bid for elective office. Serving as treasurer of the Leadership Clayton Alumni Association, and secretary of the Clayton County Aging Program Advisory Board, Baul believes she can bring compassion that she feels the board is currently lacking."I, like many other citizens in the county, have seen the Sheriff's issues, the police chief being removed, C-TRAN, and the accreditation issue," Baul said. "I believe that Clayton County can do better. I believe any candidate that is elected owes their election to the people they serve. I intend to be their voice. I am not a politician. I am a citizen who cares about them."

Baul said she would be highly accessible, and work on improving the county's public relations.

Also at the forum will be candidates vying to represent District 4. Incumbent Michael Edmondson faces Lee Scott, Jewel Scott, and Dabouze Antoine. All have said they will attend the forum.

* Lee Scott, who is running as a Republican, will not be on the ballot until the Nov. 2 election.

* Edmondson, 39, is trying for a second term. He said he has "a vision for a better Clayton County." He said he would work toward improving the local economy and infrastructure.

"I have a good reputation of asking difficult questions, speaking my conscience, and understanding the political environment," Edmondson said. "I hope to put a stop to the downward spiral in Clayton County, due to irresponsible development. The theme for my re-election is 'Keep Clayton County Moving Forward.'"

Edmondson said he has been instrumental in reorganizing the county's Code Enforcement Department, rewriting the county's zoning ordinances, and creating new overlay districts for Ga. Highway 138, Ga. Highway 54, and Tara Boulevard. A financial planner for a large bank, Edmondson's has been chairman of the Leadership Clayton Advisory Board and founding treasurer of Lake Spivey Community, Inc. He is president of the Lake Spivey Rotary Club.

* Antoine, 30, a client assistant at Calvary Refuge Center, said the county's poor have been underserved by commissioners. Antoine said he would work to restore the bus service, and implement new programs, such as a YMCA and Boys and Girls Club.

"The majority of crime that is being done in our county is from these young kids [aged] 17-21, and it is being done during the day. Instead of locking them up, we need to give them a place to go," he said.

Antoine has served on the board of the Martha K. Glaze Regional Youth Detention Center, was the former Parent Teacher Association president of Lovejoy High School, and is the state chairman for Haitian-American Voters Entrepreneurs National (HAVEN), he said.

* Jewel Scott, 49, a licensed attorney for 26 years, has served as Clayton's district attorney. She said most of her years in law have been as a public-interest lawyer. "I've always represented people who are underserved," Jewel Scott said. "I would like to turn things around in Clayton County. Some very bad decisions have been made that have impacted the county negatively. I would like to restore Clayton County's image."

Scott said as the county's top prosecutor, she was able to manage a department of 70 employees, despite a slim budget. She believes she can "restore fiscal integrity to the board." She said she would also like to work with Clayton County Public Schools to have the school system removed from probation with the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools.

If successful in the primary, Jewel Scott would face off against her husband, Lee Scott, in the November election.

* Lee Scott, 60, regional manager of Fortune High Tech Marketing, an Internet marking firm, ran unsuccessfully for District 4 Commissioner in 2002 and 2006, and saw a similar fate in a bid for BOC Chairman in 2008. He said he believes the county has suffered economically under the current administration, and believes he can bring sound, financial management to the board. "It should be obvious that the people running the county don't know which way is up, and what to do," Lee Scott said. "Look at how low their property values have gone down. Businesses have moved out wholesale. Our tax base is down. We are making efforts to further reduce our citizens by getting rid of our bus system. Before anybody does anything, they ought to see what the economic impact is."

Lee said he would not be led by "puppet masters" and would bring "independence and integrity" to the board.

For more information about the forum, call the NAACP at (770) 471-0669.