In Forest Park, former Mayor Pro Tem Sparkle Adams, left, prepares paperwork to qualify for the mayor’s seat with Elections Superintendent Charity Woods. (Staff Photo: Kathy Jefcoats)
FOREST PARK — Today is the last day of qualifying for most Clayton County municipalities and, so far, there have been no surprises from candidates.
As expected in Forest Park, incumbents Mayor David Lockhart and Ward 1 Councilman Tommy Smith paid filing fees to seek re-election. Both won special elections this spring.
Smith will once again face off against Kimberly James. Smith won the Ward 1 seat in March over James by 15 votes.
Lockhart will also square off against a familiar face — or two. Former Mayor Pro Tem Sparkle Adams resigned her Ward 1 seat in February to run for mayor in March but lost to Lockhart in an April runoff. She qualified Thursday in hopes of unseating Lockhart.
Adams said she “loves the city” and has devoted much of her time since moving here in 1985 to working with the community.
“While serving as mayor pro tem and councilwoman for the last eight years, I have involved myself in many endeavors,” she said. “I have the experience and proven leadership to ensure that Forest Park becomes a city where progressive professionals prosper.”
Adams’ involvement includes the community garden, Teen Council, Senior Expo, recycling initiatives, Main Street Project, Fort Gillem redevelopment, Neighborhood Watch, Citizens Police Academy, Forest Park Business Association, Forest Park Ministers Association, Clayton County Chamber of Commerce and geospacial design planning.
“My goal is to highlight the positives of living in Forest Park,” she said. “We are a city that assessed no property taxes for those that own and live in their homes and have curbside recycling. We are located close to the airport and major expressways. Forest Park is a very diverse community where we work well with our neighbors.”
She said businesses provide the lifeblood for the city and its residents.
“When I moved here, Main Street was vibrant with stores and shops,” she said. “It has become my passion to make sure residents and business owners have a voice. I am committed to moving the city forward by attracting businesses that can improve our quality of life. It is my mission to let our business community know how valuable they are to our residents and our residents know how valuable they are to our businesses.”
Retired Public Works Director Mike Gippert paid his filing fee Monday to run for mayor, making the race a somewhat awkward contest. In some political races, animosity between candidates can be implied. However, in the mayor’s race, the bitterness between Gippert and Lockhart is not only palpable, it’s documented.
Gippert is one of three defendants in a libel suit filed by Lockhart in Clayton County State Court. Gippert has filed two ethics complaints against Lockhart, one of which also targets councilwomen Maudie McCord and Latresa Akins.
Ward 2 hasn’t had an incumbent since Karen-Brandee Williams was removed from office in July 2011 following an ethics investigation. A hearing officer confirmed 15 of 25 complaints filed against her by three residents. The terms of her removal keep her from running for Forest Park elected office for five years.
One of the three residents, Carl Evans, qualified Monday to run in Ward 2 and faces opponent Luke Gawel. Both men are longtime community volunteers and seeking office for the first time.
Deverick Williams, who has been unsuccessful in previous runs for council, qualified in Ward 2 Thursday morning.
Qualifying has also been underway in Jonesboro, Morrow, Riverdale and College Park. Lovejoy has no seats up for election this year and Lake City is working out a snafu on its qualifying period.
Jonesboro’s council race is shaping up to be a contest between mainly former and current council members. Mayor Pro Tem Pat Sebo, former council members Linda Wenz and Billy Powell, and longtime resident Jack Bruce had qualified to run as of Thursday morning, said City Hall officials. Although Bruce has never served on the council, he did run unsuccessfully for one of three seats up for election in 2011.
Wenz was defeated by councilman Wallace Norrington by six votes in her 2007 re-election bid. Powell lost his seat in his 2009 re-election. This is Sebo’s first re-election bid.
The seats held by Sebo and councilmen Clarence Mann and Joe Compton are up for election this year. Jonesboro’s council seats are elected at-large, so the top three candidates receiving votes in the election will take seats on the governing body.
Although the number of candidates qualifying in Jonesboro has been low so far, it is possible a late rush could come in today. In past council elections, nine people ran in 2011 and seven candidates each ran in 2009 and 2007.
Meanwhile, Riverdale Ward 1 Councilwoman Cynthia Stamps-Jones will run unchallenged for another four-year term. However, her Ward 2 counterpart, Councilwoman Wanda Wallace, will be challenged by software engineer Claude Tate, 45, a 20-year resident of the city.
Over in Morrow, residents will see half of their four-member council change hands. Councilmen Bob Huie and Virlyn Slaton did not qualify to seek additional terms in office. Huie had been expected to leave office when his term ended, and Slaton had said his chances of running again hinged upon how his recovery from hip replacement surgery went. Their seats are the only council seats up for election this year.
Seeking to replace Huie and Slaton are Jeff DeTar, Randy Anderson, Hang Tran and Chris Mills. DeTar lost to Joseph “J.B.” Burke by one vote in Morrow’s 2011 mayoral election. Council candidates run at-large. In addition to holding council elections, Morrow will also hold a referendum on Sunday alcohol sales in November.
In College Park, incumbent Joseph Carn qualified in Ward 2 and incumbent Charles Phillips qualified in Ward 4. Phillips is being challenged by R.L. “Coco” Bright.
Qualifying ended Wednesday in Morrow and Riverdale. It will end today in College Park, Forest Park and Jonesboro.