New elections head takes over in Forest Park

New Forest Park Elections Superintendent Charity Woods helps mayoral candidate Mike Gippert get qualified Monday morning. (Staff Photo: Kathy Jefcoats)

New Forest Park Elections Superintendent Charity Woods helps mayoral candidate Mike Gippert get qualified Monday morning. (Staff Photo: Kathy Jefcoats)

FOREST PARK — For the third time in two years, Forest Park has a new elections superintendent.

Charity L. Woods took over the job Monday as qualifying started for three municipal races to be elected Nov. 5. She didn’t seem interested in the behind the scenes intricacies of what led to her hiring.

“I’m just here to do my job,” Woods said.

Woods was appointed under a shroud of confusion among Forest Park City Council after her predecessor, Darnell Moorer, was fired. Councilwoman Latresa Akins made the motion for termination because she said Moorer was “too political” and was an outspoken opponent of Mayor David Lockhart.

Moorer also accused council of being influenced by outside groups, including Clayton County Democratic Party Chairman Kevin Thomas. Municipal elections are nonpartisan and prohibited by state law of involvement by political parties. Thomas has denied trying to influence Forest Park politics.

As stunning as Moorer’s pending termination seemed to residents and at least one council member, Mayor Pro Tem Linda Lord, the board’s next move was baffling to onlookers.

Before Moorer was officially fired, Councilwoman Maudie McCord said she’d been approached during a city council meeting by a woman interested in replacing him. McCord told the council that the woman, Woods, had no local political ties.

McCord said Woods had emailed her a resume. The Clayton News Daily obtained a copy through the Open Records Act.

City Manager Frank Brandon said the method used in hiring Woods was not unusual for Forest Park. In responding to the newspaper’s request for Woods’ resume, Brandon also supplied a copy of the council’s May 7, 2012, minutes showing how Moorer was hired.

According to the document, former City Manager John Parker asked that an elections superintendent be appointed so training could begin. Lord made the motion to hire Moorer and the motion was seconded by Akins. Moorer was hired unanimously.

“So you can see that not a lot goes into the hiring,” Brandon said. “There isn’t a lot of paperwork or job applications.”

He also praised Woods’ background, saying she was well-qualified for the position.

“She’s 10 times more qualified than the person who held the job before she did,” Brandon said.

Woods said she heard about the position “by word of mouth.” While she said she “knows of” Thomas, she has no connection to him and has never met him.

According to her resume, Woods is a partner at a public relations firm and has previous experience as a campaign manager and fundraiser. She holds a bachelor’s degree in international business and Spanish from St. Augustine’s College in Raleigh, N.C.

Woods also listed experience as national policy and advocacy coordinator and membership director of SisterSong, a women of color reproductive justice collective.

Woods said she is looking forward to training in September and getting more acquainted with the elections process.

“I’m seeing the other side,” she said. “I’ve been involved in the process in bits and pieces but for it all to come together, to get the extra training, I’m just really looking forward to it. I know it’s a super, super important job. We’re talking about the people’s right to vote.”