JONESBORO Lovejoy residents wanted their city’s name on the new recreation center about to open in their community, but the Clayton County Board of Commissioners had other ideas.
Commissioners unanimously voted to override recommendations from citizens for the new center and name it after Commission Vice-Chairman Wole Ralph Tuesday. Commissioner Michael Edmondson was the only member of the commission who was not present for the vote.
The majority of citizen recommendations were for variations on Lovejoy, but Commissioner Sonna Singleton said Ralph, who represents the Lovejoy area, would be a better choice.
“Since this is a county facility I think calling it Lovejoy would cause some confusion, so I offer a motion that this recreation center be named the Wole Ralph Recreation Center,” said Singleton as she nominated Ralph’s name for the facility to the applause of a dozen supporters.
Clayton County Parks and Recreation Director Detrick Stanford told commissioners variations on Ralph’s name and the Lovejoy name were the most common recommendations from citizens, but county records show it wasn’t even close.
A list of recommendations from citizens — which was provided to commissioners before their vote — show there were 21 recommendations that were solely plays on Lovejoy’s name. By comparison, there were seven recommendations to name it only after Ralph.
There were another four recommendations to combine Ralph’s name with Lovejoy.
Ralph thanked his supporters who attended the meeting to see the building named in his honor.
“You know, I tend to be a pretty private person, so it means a lot to see the faces of you all out here in the audience and I just want to thank the board as well for submitting my name as a nomination,” the vice-chairman said.
Although the approved name falls in line with previous practices of naming recreation center’s after county commissioners, this was the first time the county had offered residents a chance to be involved in the naming process.
And, it was Ralph’s idea to have residents submit ideas for the recreation center’s name, according to Stanford.
However, while Ralph has sat on the commission for eight years, his name has stirred strong feelings among residents who either love him, or hate him. He has hosted several community events in recent years, but his reputation was tarnished when he was arrested in Atlanta on a driving under the influence charge last year. The charge is still pending in Fulton County State Court.
Voters rejected his bid for a third term on the commission in August and he will be replaced by attorney Shana Rooks next month.
Although Ralph had some supporters cheering for him Tuesday, local government watchdog leader Carl Swensson criticized the commission during public comment for its decision.
Swensson said he’d rather see the facility named after Singleton, among others, than see Ralph’s name on the facility. Singleton derisively called Swensson and members of his watchdog organization “the modern-day klan” in e-mails to Clayton News Daily earlier this year.
“Let’s make sure we honor people who do the right thing,” Swensson said. “I would just as soon see Gail’s [Commissioner Gail Hambrick] or Sonna’s, or nobody deserves more than Chairman [Eldrin] Bell to have their name on that building.”