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New Jonesboro, Morrow mayors eager to begin terms

As 2011 comes to a close, people are looking to the looming new year with a sense of excitement, as it could be a chance for a new start.

But, the excitement is just a little bit bigger for two county residents, who literally represent new starts for the cities they live in. The new year will bring the installations of Joy Day, and Joseph “J.B.” Burke, as the new mayors in Jonesboro, and Morrow, respectively.

They are taking their respective offices after winning municipal elections last month.“I’m looking forward to it,” Day said. “I’m very hopeful that we can do some great things for the city.”

Burke, who is still recovering from an automobile accident he was involved in, in October, added: “I am very excited that it’s almost time to take office. Obviously, my recovery has handicapped me from being able to be as visible in the city as I would like, but I am looking forward to beginning my term.”

Day is scheduled to be sworn in as Jonesboro’s mayor, during a ceremony designed to also invest new and returning City Councilmen Randy Segner, and Wallace Norrington, on Dec. 30, at 2 p.m., in the City Council Chambers at the Jonesboro Police Department, located at 170 South Main Street.

Burke is expected to be sworn in as Morrow’s mayor, during a Morrow City Council Meeting on Jan. 10.

Technically, Day is not a “new” mayor for Jonesboro, but this will mark a return to office for her, after a four-year absence. The retired educator was previously the city’s mayor from 1995, to 2007. She is returning after a Nov. 8 election victory over outgoing Mayor Luther Maddox — who, himself, took the city’s top office by defeating Day in the 2007 municipal election.

Day said, despite her previous experience as mayor, she will still have to go through an adjustment period, as she gets reacquainted with the office.

“I’ll still have a lot to learn, because things change,” she said. “There will be a learning curve that I’ll have to go through. I have to get caught up on things going on in the city, and there are new people [city employees] who I will need to become acquainted with.”

Jonesboro’s mayor-elect said she plans to spend a lot of time in City Hall, as soon as she takes office, so she can “speed up the process” of getting reacquainted with her mayoral duties and responsibilities. At the same time, however, she said she plans to tackle several issues as soon as 2012 begins.

“I want to make getting our status as a Qualified Local Government back; I want to get the city newsletter restarted, and I want to take a look at the city’s budget for 2012, and discuss that with our city council,” she said.

The city is expected to begin working on the second phase of its Streetscape project next year, and she also wants the city to look at improving sidewalk access for residents. Later in the year, Day said she wants to sit down with the city council, and map out some short-term and long-term goals.

Burke, meanwhile, is a political newcomer, who will be Morrow’s first new mayor in 16 years. The hotel manager replaces outgoing Mayor Jim Millirons, who decided not to seek re-election. Burke is taking office after defeating avionics technician, Jeff DeTar, by a single vote in the recent election.

Burke said several members of his family are traveling down from North Carolina to see him sworn in, and his mother, Lou Tuttle, is expected to hold the family Bible upon which he will take his oath of office.

The mayor-elect also said that, as the days slip off the calendar and the beginning of his administration draws near, he has been studying how to be a mayor. He explained that he has been reading training manuals, and participating in training sessions with Morrow City Manager Jeff Eady, to prepare himself to lead.

“There are manuals, upon manuals to read, and I have all of these classes to take,” Burke said. “I feel like a student in college again.” He added that he plans to work to implement projects that Eady and Morrow Planning and Economic Development Director Michael McLaughlin are already working on for the city. The city, he said, is looking to work with the Porsche company, Southern Regional Medical Center, and Clayton State University in the new year. “We’re preparing to accomplish some big things in the City of Morrow,” he said.

One of the first issues Day and Burke will have face is the ongoing Service Delivery Strategy fight between Clayton’s county government, and the government’s of its seven cities. The previous strategy agreement expired at the end of October, and negotiations for a new agreement have become bogged down in a battle over the division of Local Option Sales Tax (LOST) funds.

Without a service delivery strategy agreement, the county and the cities have become ineligible for grants offered through the Georgia Department of Community Affairs, and state-issued permits cannot be renewed. Burke said the sitting mayors from each city have already brought in he and Day to participate in discussions about their negotiations with the county.

“One mayor’s signature is not going to change much on this issue,” Day said. “I would hope this is an ongoing process ... I don’t want to see the county and the cities suffering because of this, so I’m really hoping we can come to an amicable agreement.”

The incoming mayor of Morrow said he expects the cities to continue their “all-for-one” negotiating approach in 2012. “We are working together on this, and we’re all going to be a team,” he said.