A lot of people are interested in Cobb County Commissioner Lisa Cupid’s job.
According to the Cobb elections board’s website, eight candidates are seeking the District 4 commission seat this year. Cupid is running for the seat held by Republican Cobb Chairman Mike Boyce, as is Larry Savage of east Cobb.
Seven of those District 4 hopefuls came out for the Cobb County Democratic Party’s monthly meeting, where they got the chance to introduce themselves to voters. April McDonald was not in attendance.
The primary is scheduled for May 19, and if a runoff is necessary, it will be July 21. The general election is scheduled for Nov. 3, though no Republicans have declared for the District 4 seat. Cobb Democratic Party Chair Jacquelyn Bettadapur said given how blue the district is, the race is expected to be decided by whoever wins the primary.
The candidates drew numbers from a hat to determine the order in which they spoke. Here’s what they had to say.
Attorney Jonathan Hunt touted his legal and public service experience.
“I’ve represented and fought some of the largest cities, counties, developers and lenders in this state, and let me tell you, the big guy’s not shy,” he said. “I fought for major issues involving Atlanta’s airport, housing and economic development. I helped address some of the region’s issues with respect to transportation, transportation expansion, as well as mobility issues and housing affordability as MARTA’s senior director of corporate law.”
Hunt was asked about his preferred approach to the former site of Magnolia Crossing on Riverside Parkway, once home to a blighted apartment complex. Tenants were controversially given cash payments to move out by the end of 2015, and the land was cleared within a year, but little else has progressed.
Hunt said whatever goes in there needs to be approved by neighbors first.
“I think the South Cobb Redevelopment Authority did the right thing in taking that property down and then acquiring the additional property for the Magnolia apartments, but I believe that we need to reach out to the community to figure out what is needed there,” he said. “We need a little bit more business and recreational investment here in the district. And I celebrate the mayors of Powder Springs and Austell for doing that and their new parks that are being opened, but we have to do that countywide.”
Shelia Edwards touted her experience as a community activist, including her role in helping to fight the expansion of Bankhead C&D Transfer Station on Veterans Memorial Highway.
“When I found out about that, I didn’t look around the room to find out who was going to deal with it, I went to work,” she said. “There was no cameras, no media, no flashing light bulbs. Using my experience in the local, state and federal level, I went to work to show that company our community was not going to roll over and play dead. … Within a short window of time, I mobilized the community and organized a grassroots coalition and sent letters, made phone calls, signed petitions and showed up at commission meetings.”
Edwards was asked how she would balance the voices of neighbors to zoning changes with the needs of the community.
“I will educate myself on what’s going on and try to make as informed decision as possible based on the information, based on talking with the community, not blindsiding the community and stopping some of these things that are coming into our community that are flooding us,” she said, “We need no more Dollar Tree stores on every corner.”
Hennington, a contractor and business owner, said his background in community service makes him the best candidate for the job.
“I did 22 years in the Air Force, I know what it’s like to be of service,” he said. “I’ve served this community since I came here in 2004, I chair the Powder Springs Community Task Force, I’m a board member of the Austell Community Task Force. … I work with United Way to bring programs here to help low-income people.”
Hennington was asked his stance on Mableton becoming a city.
Mableton is the largest unincorporated community in metro Atlanta, and had actually been a city about 100 years ago, incorporating in 1912 but dissolving only four years later.
Some cityhood supporters say incorporating into a city would allow for more local control. Residents are awaiting the results of a feasibility study by the University of Georgia.
Hennington declined to take a stand.
“I don’t oppose it or agree right now because one thing I’m concerned about is why the residents of that area are interested in becoming a city,” he said. “What that’s telling me is that they’re not happy with the services from Cobb County. … I would be very careful and ask the question why they aren’t getting the services right now.”
Community activist and affordable housing advocate Monica DeLancy said she has won numerous awards for her community work, and that she’s glad to be one of so many candidates for the seat.
“I was not doing the work because I wanted an award, I was doing the work because my kids deserve it,” she said. “And as we go to the polls on May 19, 2020, you will have different choices, you’re going to have choices. But let me tell you, it’s great to have (eight) choices because that means that people are engaged and they’re excited about the issues.”
Delancy, who is involved in an eviction case in Cobb Superior Court, was asked what she would do to increase affordable housing, and said creating a livable wage is just as important.
“Let me tell you something, if you’re making $10 an hour, 40 hours a week, that’s about $1,600 dollars you take home,” she said. “You cannot pay $1,000 rent. You cannot pay $100 for a car note, you cannot pay for basic needs such as keeping your lights on. So it’s not just about affordable housing, it’s bringing Cobb County Schools to the table, Home Depot, WellStar … we need to talk about living wages for our support workers, who are a lifeline for this community.”
Former youth minister Edwin Mendez said his District 4 roots run deep. The 24-year-old grew up in District 4 and graduated from Pebblebrook High School.
“We need to be united because we need to fight for everybody, because we can’t just invest in the wealthy homes, but we have to invest in everybody, those people who have been living here for three years or 30 years,” he said. “This is our home. And so as the next county commissioner, I want to make sure we fight for social justice, economic justice, because we, we really need there to be other options. Especially we need to fight for transportation.”
Mendez was asked what he thinks should be done with Magnolia Crossing.
“In 1981, my parents arrived here from Mexico, and their first home was actually in those apartments that were originally Magnolia Crossing,” he said. “If we can create affordable housing, there’s 50 acres of land. If you look at south Atlanta, they actually passed affordable housing with Habitat for Humanity, and they only used 30 acres. So we have 50 acres to work on. So we can use 30 acres or whatever the community truly wants, then we can actually bring affordable housing, and also plan on using the other area for mixed use development so that we can continue to grow.”
Real estate broker and Cobb Board of Zoning Appeals member Monique Sheffield said her career and involvement with the community make her the best pick.
“My involvement with the community has landed me a board appointment to the Board of Zoning Appeals, to which I was appointed by Commissioner Lisa Cupid in 2017. Now the Board of Zoning Appeals has given me a platform to connect with the constituents in the district and also decided on those matters that are important to them.”
Sheffield was asked what can be done to increase the availability of affordable housing.
“I’ve had conversations with developers, but what’s happening is, developers are purchasing the land and then also building on the land,” she said. “What’s happening also is that the land is expensive, so now their profit margins are decreasing. So what I think we need to do is just come to the table as a county, also with our stakeholders and figure out how we can entice our developers to build in our district.”
Pressley, a business owner, cited her history of community engagement as the top reason she should be voted in.
“I’ve worked probably with every organization in the area, and I’ve worked with South Cobb Redevelopment Authority, I’ve worked with the Board of Commissioners, I work with community development,” she said. “I’ve worked with tourism, and I’ve also work with the Chamber of Commerce. So having relationships with all of those allows me to bring the resources back to the community.
Pressley was asked her stance on cityhood for Mableton, but she declined to say.
“I am reserving my thoughts on the cityhood until we get the study back because that will let us know what services we need and how to approach the next steps,” she said.