Kennesaw residents: Election results are message to mayor
by Hannah Morgan
November 07, 2013 01:53 AM | 3715 views | 1 1 comments | 10 10 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Even though his name was not on the ballot Tuesday, Kennesaw residents say the City Council elections were all about Mayor Mark Mathews.

Some love him and voted accordingly, but a larger group of voters seemed more than ready to see new faces in the seats held by Mathews’ allies on the council.

And that was reflected in the final tally Tuesday, sending three council incumbents packing and replacing them with candidates who promised changes in the way City Hall operates.

The voting bloc on the council that previously dominated Kennesaw politics was broken up, and some residents say that should send a message to the mayor, who has two years left to serve on his term.

“I believe this is a new day for Kennesaw. I believe the citizens were so angered by the mayor and this election we chose to vote all incumbents out of office, start the year fresh,” said Kennesaw resident Jeanette Lyons.

Lyons said she felt the city was ready for a change.

“All my friends believe this was a referendum on the mayor and the ‘good old boy network,’” that had a strong grip on the city council, Lyons said.

Kennesaw resident Bill Harris agreed, adding he was not surprised by the election results.

“This new majority on the council means that Mathews may still be mayor for two years, but the council is not held hostage to the whims of the mayor, (and) they can propose and enact things on their own,” he said.

Mathews did not return e-mails Wednesday from the MDJ seeking his perspective on the election.

Will the city heal from its divisions?

At different election parties across the city Tuesday night, residents said they hoped the city would be able to come together and heal after the contentious campaigns that pitted the small town’s seven candidates against each other.

“It is a new beginning for the city,” said Debra Williams, the business owner of her own public relations and marketing business who serves on the Kennesaw Planning Board.

Williams crushed incumbent Matt Riedemann at the polls by close to 400 votes, according to the county’s election results website.

“The people made a resounding statement as to what they expect out of their council members,” she said, regarding the ethics and financial decisions council members made.

Williams said residents told her while she was out knocking on doors that they felt the current council “was out of touch with the people of the city.”

Riedemann was voted in as a councilman last spring by a tie-breaking vote from the mayor after the death of former councilman Bill Thrash.

“This was their way to tell the mayor and the rest of the council, as well as the staff, that we know what has been going on, and Election Day was the only way that we could voice it enough to be heard,” Williams said, in reference to the council’s current credit card and travel expense policies.

Riedemann could not be reached on Wednesday.

Former mayor back on council

Former Kennesaw mayor Leonard Church will replace incumbent councilman Bruce Jenkins in the post 3 seat, eking out a win by 48 votes.

Church said Wednesday he was excited to become involved in the city’s leadership again, especially to work “in harmony” with his new council members and with the mayor.

He suspected that his defeat of Jenkins might have been aided by recent reports of Jenkins’ use of the city credit card, an issue he thought drew residents to the polls, not just in his race but in all three races.

Church said he hopes the new council will look at the credit card policy with the mayor. Instead of considering how the council’s new faces would work together, Church was adamant about moving the city forward.

Jenkins could not be reached for comment Wednesday but said on election night that he would support the new council and stay active in the community.

Duckett’s successor promises change

Councilman Jeff Duckett was voted out of office by just 30 votes, ushering in Jim Sebastian, the chairman of the Kennesaw Citizens Advisory Committee and owner of SAFE LLC, a consulting company.

The morning after the election, Sebastian said he was “overwhelmed, to say the least” at the amount of responsibility he felt had just been shifted onto his shoulders.

He vowed to begin to take care of the city’s issues, including establishing credit-card and travel expense policies, and to discuss implementing a policy on texting during council meetings.

“I think it is a turning point to allow us to try to get a better grip on things, and be more transparent,” he said, of the new members voted onto the council, hoping that they would work together to “be more transparent” in his coming term.

He added he had heard similar reactions from residents that Williams had.

“I think citizens were tired of things being the ‘good old boy network,’ they were just up for a change (and) want to see things done right,” he said.

Duckett could not be reached for comment Wednesday.

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Jenkins out, Church in: Kennesaw is only Cobb city that doesn’t do runoffs

The election article that ran on Wednesday incorrectly reported councilman Bruce Jenkins would be in a runoff election Dec. 3 against challenger Leonard Church, a former mayor of the city.

Kennesaw does not hold runoff elections for candidates, said City Clerk Debra Taylor, as elections are determined “by plurality, not by majority.”

Church received 40 percent of the votes in Tuesday’s election, Jenkins received 37 percent, and Briggett Washington received 23 percent.

Church will take office in January, replacing Jenkins on the council.

Kennesaw is the only city in Cobb County that determines its elections on plurality, not by majority, said Janine Eveler, the director of the Cobb County Board of Elections.

There is no state law on how cities call the votes at the city office level, she said, as Kennesaw’s charter dictates the plurality distinction.

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Eileen Alberstadt
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November 07, 2013
Hats off to you Ms. Hannah Morgan for exceptional coverage of the City of Kennesaw Elections. You are an asset to the MDJ. Thank you!
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