By Kathy Jefcoats
FOREST PARK — Tuesday's special election runoff brings not only a new mayor to the city council table but shifts the gender balance for the first time in several years.
It also resulted in the loss of Sparkle Adams' presence in city government. Adams, who served Ward 1 for eight years, resigned her seat to run for mayor. She was defeated by political newcomer David Lockhart, an attorney.
Despite the loss, Adams said she is optimistic about the future of Forest Park.
"It's been a great eight years and I am looking forward to continuing my service to the citizens of Forest Park," she said. "I encourage everyone to get involved in the city to help move it forward. We have worked hard and you will start seeing the fruits of our labor really soon with Main Street and Fort Gillem."
She also encouraged residents to participate in the city's annual Keep Forest Park Beautiful clean-up day today.
Lockhart beat Adams by taking 57 percent of the vote, 462-347. City Manager John Parker said he was surprised that more people voted in the runoff than in the March 19 special election.
Parker said Lockhart will be sworn in to office at the May 6 regular meeting at the latest or sooner if council members request it. Because the mayor has no voting power, there's not an immediate need to have one in place officially, he said.
"The mayor has no authority, the mayor can't even vote except to break a tie," said Parker. "He can use his influence to persuade council members to see things his way but they can choose to vote whichever way they want. The mayor is important but as far as being absolutely essential, that might not be true. What is essential is the majority of council."
Lockhart and Smith are coming on to the council just as the city is preparing for the next fiscal year's budget. The future of Teen Council is also expected to be debated in the coming months. Five years ago, Adams started the program that builds leadership skills and fosters a sense of community service in middle and high school students.
Lockhart told members of Teen Council earlier this month that support for the group needs to shift away from one person to a broader base. He told them relying on one person doesn't expose Teen Council to enough resources.
"If you pull from one council member or the weight of the mayor, you have access to what they have access to," said Lockhart during the April 1 meeting. "It's limited and less expansive that it would be if you had a broad base of the community promoting and assisting you."
Adams said she would not continue working with Teen Council after the election.
Since 2008, the teens have donated thousands of volunteer hours to Forest Park, attended seminars and workshops geared toward helping them get into college and the workforce, and learned etiquette and manners.
Teen Council has also participated in state and national programs established to help them build the foundations of adulthood.
Teen Council includes four of the top 15 students graduating this year from Forest Park High School.
Linda Lord has served as mayor pro tem since January and will continue in that position until the end of the year when it rotates in terms of seniority. Mayor Corine Deyton resigned her seat in October because of health issues and Forest Park has operated without a mayor since then. Deyton had about a year left in her term.
It had also operated as the county's only all-female governing board since November 2011 when Don Judson died suddenly. Tommy Smith was elected last month to fill the unexpired term in the Ward 1 seat vacated by Adams and Lockhart's arrival brings two men to the board for the first time in several years, said Parker. The other council members are Maudie McCord and Latresa Akins.
The Ward 2 seat has been vacant since July 2011 when council members ousted Karen-Brandee Williams. She sued Forest Park in Clayton County Superior Court but lost her battle in January. She then filed in U.S. District Court.
The Ward 2 seat comes up for election in November, as does the mayor's and Ward 1's posts. That means if Smith and Lockhart want to hang on to their newly-acquired seats, they must run again in November.
It also means Adams has another shot at either regaining her Ward 1 seat or reaching for the mayor's spot.