For the past 30 years, the city of Austell has been under what can only be described as one-man rule in the person of Mayor Joe Jerkins. Shortly after assuming office, he abolished the city manager’s position so he could double up on his power and authority, followed by having a street named after him and a quarter of a million dollar park built in his honor, replete with 24/7 gas light lamps to illuminate his likeness in the form of a bronze statue. Normally such honors are bestowed on public servants after they depart this Earth, but Jerkins had them done while he was still in office!
But perhaps a more telling part of his legacy, as reported in this paper, were the several deficiencies discovered by certified auditor and public accountant, James Whitaker, in the city’s accounting, which specifically mentioned errors, broken state laws and even fraud from the years 2015-18. This is to be expected when the mayor doubles up as city manager with no professional training in public finance.
Now that he is out of office due to health reasons, he wishes to continue this legacy with his hand-picked successor, Acting Mayor Ollie Clemons. Fortunately, Austellians now have an opportunity to end Jerkins’ reign of error this November by electing any one of three candidates running to replace Clemons. My personal choice is Chris Djonis, who ran against Jerkins four years ago and lost by only 80 votes after being outspent four to one.
As mayor, Djonis will serve as a desperately needed change agent in a city that has stagnated under its current and former mayor. He will revitalize our moribund downtown with much needed commercial and residential development. But don’t take my word for it. Check out his website at Djonis4Mayor.com and see for yourself if he is the change we need.