Photo by Kathy Jefcoats
Forest Park Ward 1 Representative Tommy Smith takes the oath of office as his wife, Trudy, holds a Bible.
By Kathy Jefcoats
FOREST PARK — Newly-elected Ward 1 Councilman Tommy Smith officially took his seat Monday after being sworn into office.
Smith choked up as he took the oath of office and became emotional again on the dais as he thanked his supporters for making his victory possible. It is the first time since November 2011 that a male elected official sat on Council. He joins Mayor Pro Tem Linda Lord and councilwomen Maudie McCord and Latresa Akins.
Smith abstained from the first vote taken Monday, on a rezoning to allow a meat packing business on Main Street, west of Burks Road. Smith said he has concerns about the business but didn’t elaborate. The proposal was approved by McCord and Akins.
City Manager John Parker said there will be a public buffer between the business and the public.
“We’re also looking at the possibility of putting in a dog park in that area,” he said. “The folks at the University of Georgia are putting together a plan to see what that might look like.”
Resident Gregory Haynes told Council he was concerned about possible misconduct during the March 19 special election that sent Smith to office and the mayor’s race into runoff. The city’s only polling place was the gym at parks and recreation.
“There were campaign signs on the property around the recreation center, cars parked in the parking lot with signs on them and people walking up and down the sidewalks in front of the building,” said Haynes. “I know the law says that campaigning can’t be done within 150 feet of the polling place. Was this a fair election?”
Parker agreed with Haynes’ interpretation of the law.
“Security would have made sure campaigning was not within that zone,” said Parker.
Lord said steps would be taken to ensure it doesn’t happen again, if it indeed happened. Haynes was not satisfied with that answer.
“I don’t care if it happens again, I care that it happened before,” he said.
Council also announced that future work sessions, held the first and third Mondays of the month, will begin at 6 p.m. The regular business meeting starts at 7 p.m. Lord stressed that the extended time will not take the place of the public comments portion of the meeting.
“We’re doing this to give people more time to ask questions, not to cut out the comment period,” she said. “We want to be able to give fuller answers to questions from residents and that’s an easier time to ask.”
Once the work session ends, the floor will be opened to the audience to address any concerns they have in Forest Park. The regular meeting will follow at 7 p.m. and includes a public comments portion, which gives residents three minutes to speak to Council.
“We want to make sure everyone is OK with the things we do,” said Lord.
Lord reminded residents that early voting for the April 16 runoff for mayor will be held April 8-12. Former Ward 1 Representative Sparkle Adams and attorney David Lockhart face off for the seat, vacated in October by Corine Deyton because of health reasons. All registered voters in Forest Park can cast ballots whether or not they voted March 19. Polls will be open at the gym April 16 from 7 a.m. until 7 p.m.