After years of planning and months of campaigns, voters in the new cities of South Fulton and Stonecrest will finally learn on Tuesday who their leaders will be.
Stonecrest residents have already elected a mayor and two council members, but three council races will be decided in a runoff. In South Fulton, the mayor and seven council members will be elected Tuesday.
The South Fulton mayor’s race pits Bill Edwards, a former Fulton County commissioner, against Benny Crane, an entrepreneur who helped lead the cityhood movement. Both rose to the top in a nine-way race to lead the city of nearly 100,000 people.
Edwards and Crane both emphasized the need for economic development and a reduction in crime. They said they want South Fulton to be a destination.
Edwards, 67, said he wants to “lay aside the pettiness for the good of the new city.” Whether residents voted yes or no, or didn’t vote at all, he wants to lead an administration that will bring them all together.
“If you voted no, I don’t care,” Edwards said. “I want to be the one to bring us all together as one.”
His experience on the Fulton board of commissioners would be valuable in a city where none of the candidates have held elected office, Edwards said. If elected, he said, his background would help keep the city from stumbling. He also cited relationships he has with mayors in neighboring cities.
Edwards said he wants South Fulton to have good schools and low crime. He wants to reduce illegal dumping and attract businesses to come. The city, he said, should have a customer service model like QuikTrip or Chick-fil-A.
“There’s so much stuff I’d like to do,” he said. “I want to make sure this city becomes all it needs to be.”
Last year, Edwards admitted that he had violated campaign finance laws when he spent $14,000 on membership dues and expenses at a local business club that were not legitimate campaign expenses and when he failed to file two campaign reports. He also could not account for nearly $80,000 in campaign cash. Edwards agreed to pay civil penalties.
Crane, 60, called himself a visionary and a listener with high ethical standards.
“I don’t think we need to stand a new city up with clouds hanging over its leader,” he said.
Crane said after years of having no seat at the table, residents in South Fulton have a “significant” opportunity to have their voices heard.
Crane wants to increase community policing, get the new city’s fire department accredited and improve entertainment options, which he said will lead to economic development. Cleaning up the streets and reducing dumping will make South Fulton more attractive to business, Crane said. He also wants to increase health care and higher education options in the city, as well as build a town center.
“A clean community gives you the best opportunity to have a safe community,” he said. “We have to go through this process of transforming our community.”
That’s best done, Crane said, by someone who doesn’t have the baggage of having been elected before. He said places like Sandy Springs and Johns Creek are “model cities” despite having leaders who were new to elected office.
“Not one of those cities had a mayor that had prior elected experience, and they’re doing quite fine, thank you,” Crane said.
In addition to the mayor’s race, the council candidates in Tuesday’s runoff election are:
- District 1: Catherine Rowell, executive director of Operation PEACE, faces Willie Davis, a senior assistant public defendant in the Clayton County Circuit.
- District 2: Damita Chatman, president of the Walden Park homeowners’ association, faces Carmalitha Gumbs, the communications director for the DeKalb County Board of Commissioners.
- District 3: Helen Willis, a financial board member at Hapeville Charter Career Academy, faces Louis Bell, a retired Delta Air Lines pilot.
- District 4: Naeema Gilyard, a retired administrator at Morehouse School of Medicine and internal operations auditor at Emory Hospital and Emory University, faces Mandisha Thomas, a healthcare business consultant.
- District 5: Rosie Jackson, the former executive director at Visions Care Adult Day Health Center, faces Corey Reeves, a project manager.
- District 6: Khalid Kamau, a labor activist with the Amalgamated Transit Union and Black Lives Matter organizer, faces Charlean Parks, national marketing director with the IT staffing firm Diversant.
- District 7: Mark Baker, a former professor at Clark Atlanta University and retired Fulton County Schools Resource Officer, faces Linda Pritchett, a paralegal.
In Stonecrest, runoffs will be held between:
- District 2: Rob Turner, a program manager for the Georgia Department of Labor, faces Plez Joyner, who runs a management consulting firm and was vice chairman of the group that advocated for Stonecrest cityhood.
- District 4: George Turner, a retired MARTA manager and president of the DeKalb County District 5 Community Council, faces Mary-Pat Hector, a civil rights advocate who at age 19 may be the youngest woman ever eligible to run for elected office in Georgia.
- District 5: Diane Adoma, an H&R Block franchise owner, faces Tammy Grimes, an instructional support specialist for the DeKalb school system.