MORROW — Morrow City Council chambers were standing-room only Jan. 14 for the inauguration of Mayor John Lampl and councilmembers Khoa Vuong and Van Tran.
Along with Associate Judge Ethan Pham’s reappointment, this reflects the most elected and appointed representation ever for the city’s Vietnamese community, one of the nation’s largest in a city its size.
Outgoing Mayor Jeff DeTar, along with former council members Jeanell Bridges and Larry Ferguson, thanked their supporters before turning over the city to its new leaders.
The chambers filled quickly with regular attendees, DeTar supporters, and a large contingent of the incoming officials’ family and friends from the Vietnamese community as the newcomers took official photos and went over work session items. Lampl said he was inclined to go with existing projects like Phase III of the pedestrian path rather than change them.
At 7:30 p.m., DeTar, Bridges and Ferguson took the dais. “It has been my honor and pleasure to serve as your mayor for the last couple of years,” DeTar said. “It’s an experience I will treasure for a long time.”
Then Judge Crandle Bray swore in the new mayor and council. Vuong took the oath on a Vietnamese-language collection of Mahayana Buddhist daily meditations.
“Together, we make up the city of Morrow,” Lampl said. “We are greatly appreciative of your support.”
Some of DeTar’s supporters, including daughter Sarah DeTar Evans, made their displeasure clear, guffawing at Lampl and calling out, “Yeah, right.”
Vuong said, “Thanks to everyone who came out tonight, especially the citizens of Morrow who put trust in us. Together we will make the city stronger and accomplish your objectives.”
Tran thanked her parents, family, partner and friends for their support and residents “for letting me have the opportunity to serve the city. Thank you for letting me be the voice of the community.”
Tran and Vuong made additional remarks in Vietnamese, “because they don’t get to hear it often,” Tran said.
Dean praised the outgoing leadership. “You have served with open minds, open hearts and open arms. You listen to everyone’s concerns and you respond with compassion, and always greeted everyone either with a handshake and a smile, or a happy-to-see-you hug, or a sadness hug for family members going through hardships. You have served with honor, integrity and dedication and we are a better city because of it. I am proud and honored to have served on the council with you....To our new mayor and council members, my hope is that you will do the same.”
“Ditto,” added Knight.
Lampl, who completed probation in 2018 after paying over $12,000 in fines and restitution to the city and county and pleading no contest to five counts of falsifying fire reports related to Olde Towne Morrow, said, “I would like to thank my wife for her support. Sometimes the rock that you stand on is the one that gets you to where you are.”
Vuong nominated Tran mayor pro tem, which Tran seconded. Tran made a motion to reappoint Judge Crandle Bray, seconded by Councilwoman Renee S. Knight. Knight made a motion to reappoint Associate Judge Ethan Pham, seconded by Tran. Lampl was appointed the city’s liaison to the Clayton County Municipal Association by a vote of 3-1. Knight voted no. Lampl then called for interested citizens to submit a resume and statement of interest for various board positions, which people should bring to City Hall on or before Jan. 31.
Jerry Cepull praised the incoming administration.
“I just want to congratulate you three. I don’t know you two (Dean and Knight) but I know you’re gonna do well. I like what I see,” he said. “John, I’ve known you since ‘95 since my wife and I moved in the city of Morrow. I can’t say enough good things about you. The crap you went through, that was b.s.”
Cepull said he and everyone in his house had voted for Lampl, Tran and Vuong. “I want to see businesses come in here. I’m tired of it. Forest Park looks better than the city of Morrow, OK?”
In closing, Lampl said he’d already “met for hours” with people in the audience and staff, adding, “Slowly but surely, I think you’re starting to see some of the things that you’ve specifically requested take place.”
He added, “Four years from now, you’re welcome to sit there and say, ‘That’s not good enough,’ with all due respect. But in the meantime, you’re about to get four years the best we’ve got.”