The new city of South Fulton is crawling with would-be public servants.
With such a large number of people interested in governing, community groups have taken charge of helping residents get to know the candidates.
“When you have that number of people running, it’s very hard to make a good decision about them,” said Bruce Moody, the educational chairperson for the Cliftondale Community Club, which is a sponsoring a mayor’s forum tonight.
The club likened the crowd of candidates to last year’s Republican field in the presidential race. Not all of the candidates were able to get on the stage, he said, and some had trouble getting their voices heard. Moody wants to make sure each candidate has a voice.
“Our job is to expose those candidates who are not prepared and illuminate those that are prepared,” he said. “It’s malfeasance to invite just some and not the others.”
But, with the number of people who want to be mayor as high as it is, it may be a good thing to narrow down the field, said Kevin Grimes, a member of the South Fulton transition team.
“If you just give each mayoral candidate three minutes, that’s 27 minutes gone,” Grimes said. “You need to be able to weed out some folks.”
He urged residents to watch video interviews of the mayoral candidates. They can be viewed at http://bit.ly/2jZrnIJ.
“It pretty much tells you how prepared they are, how much they know, how capable they are to lead the city,” Grimes said.
Camilla Moore, the head of the transition team, said she’s urged her group to focus on the new city’s infrastructure and stay out of the politics. For that reason, she won’t be endorsing any candidates and hopes the rest of her team doesn’t either.
“If there’s an appearance that we prefer one candidate over another, if that candidate loses, it weakens our recommendations,” she said. “We have to stay out of it.”
Moore isn’t surprised by the number of people who want to try their hand at running the city, but she said the short amount of time between qualifying, which has ended, and the March 21 election means it will be difficult for people to properly educate themselves on the slew of candidates.
“We only get one chance to get it right,” she said. “I’m just praying at the end of the day, the cream rises to the top.”
As president of the Camp Creek Business Association, Michael Davis wants to help with that. He is hosting a mayoral forum Feb. 21 at the jazz venue St. James Live. And Davis plans to livestream the forum and record it, so residents can go back to learn about the candidates whenever they have time.
People want long, informed answers to their questions, he said, but may not be able to attend when meetings are scheduled. He plans to quiz candidates on public safety, economic development, transportation and other issues.
The large group, he said, is “challenging.”
“It really does make it difficult to quantitatively and qualitatively look at all the candidates,” Davis said. “Name recognition is always a benefit.”
The biggest name running is Bill Edwards, a former Fulton County commissioner who challenged Commissioner Emma Darnell this fall and lost.
Moore said she’s advising residents to look for candidates with experience, as well as those who have a vision for their office and who understand the roles and responsibilities of the posts they’re running for.
“The first set of elected officials are so important,” she said. “They dictate who you are as a city for the next 20 years.”
To see the full list of candidates, go to http://bit.ly/2jZlWte.