By Kathy Jefcoats
FOREST PARK — Teen Council will host a political forum Wednesday night to spotlight candidates running for mayor and Ward 1.
The 6:30 p.m. event will be held at the Forest Park Recreation gym on Forest Parkway. The forum is free and open to the public. All candidates have been invited to participate. The questions are expected to come from members of Teen Council.
The offices of mayor and Ward 1 representative are open. Sparkle Adams, Dabouze Antoine, John Finch and David Lockhart are vying for the office of mayor. Adams resigned her Ward 1 seat to run for mayor so that seat is also open. Candidates in that race are Kimberly James and Tommy Smith. The terms for both seats end Dec. 31 so winners will have to run for re-election before the end of the year.
Antoine was living in Jonesboro in July 2010, when he ran unsuccessfully against Clayton County Commissioner Michael Edmondson. He also made a failed bid for commission chairman in 2008. Antoine said he holds a degree in community and international economic development from Beulah Heights University.
Lockhart is an attorney with an office in Forest Park. He attended John Marshall Law School in Atlanta and passed the bar in November 2010.
Finch is a fleet technician and mechanic with Army Air Force Exchange Service. He’s lived in Forest Park his whole life. Divorced, Finch has three children and three granddaughters. He coached neighborhood baseball and softball teams in Forest Park for more than 20 years.
Finch said there are several reasons why he wants to be mayor.
“I understand where residents are with our government, we need a stronger voice and I am that voice,” said Finch. “I won’t disenfranchise citizens, they need to be heard and included. I know people complain about services and treatment of city workers and officials. I will work hard to make Forest Park a customer service city at every level.”
Finch said he is perfect for the job.
“I know people are out of work and need help,” he said. “I will work extra hard to help get people back to work and restore pride in the family. I am perfect for the job.”
Adams first ran in 2001 so she’s been participating in the local political process for about 13 years. She lost that first bid by seven votes. Adams has also been on the board overseeing the transfer of property ownership of Fort Gillem from the U.S. Army to City of Forest Park before being elected to Council in 2005.
Adams said she sees ascension to mayor a logical step in her political career.
“It’s a natural progression,” she said. “My years on Council have set the stage for me to move to the next level of leadership.”
James filed an ethics complaint against former Mayor Corine Deyton last fall. Deyton, who was battling health issues that led to her retirement from office, was accused of being derelict in her duties.
The complaint went nowhere when Deyton retired Oct. 15.
Smith and James lost to Adams in Ward 1 in 2009.
Smith, a lifelong resident, said he is again seeking office because he believes in Forest Park.
“You can only fix things from the inside out from a government standpoint,” said Smith. “ I would like the opportunity to get in there, roll up my sleeves and figure out where our stalemates and hold-ups are and move forward in a time frame that makes sense. All of the decisions we make today affect tomorrow.”
If elected, Smith said he wants to help develop the city’s potential.
“I will work for an agenda that recognizes Forest Park’s strong potential to become a sustainable, diverse and vibrant community,” said Smith. “’Sustainable’ means positioning ourselves so that we can provide effective economic development and support for our neighborhoods while living within our means.”
For the city to be diverse, Smith said officials have to value the contributions of all residents.
“We should be helping our neighbors and ensuring that we have a diverse business community that provides long-term economic stability for the city,” he said.
Smith said a “vibrant” community is one where people live in safe and walkable neighborhoods.
“A vibrant community embraces our history and the arts, and provides recreational and educational opportunities for all,” he said. “There is a wealth of information, knowledge and brilliance in our community, and we need to take advantage of it.”