Mayor-elect aims to ‘restore, rebuild, reform’ Stonecrest following scandals

Credit: Jazzmin Cobble

Credit: Jazzmin Cobble

Jazzmin Cobble says she can bring collaborative spirit, watchdog attitude to mayor’s office

It was no secret that Jazzmin Cobble, a former Stonecrest councilwoman, and Jason Lary, the city’s founding mayor, did not see eye to eye.

The two frequently butted heads, prompting lawsuits over missed public meetings, investigations into financial malfeasance and hours upon hours of arguments and questions. When Cobble ran for reelection last year, Lary campaigned for her opponents, and he frequently called her and other councilmembers “children, “sheep” and other disparaging names.

Both would resign their posts earlier this year but for very different reasons. Lary resigned to plead guilty to federal fraud charges. Cobble resigned to run for Lary’s vacant position.

With nearly 63% of the vote, Cobble was elected as the city’s next mayor, and she’ll have until the end of 2023 to shape Stonecrest in her vision — one that differs starkly from her predecessor.

“(I’m) excited to be able to say with certainty that Stonecrest is moving forward in the right direction with me being able to lead the executive branch on that mission,” Cobble told The Atlanta Journal-Constitution. “(I’m) overwhelmed with humility that the voters in such a resounding way chose me to lead us into that next chapter.”

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Cobble said she’s ready for her short-lived time away from City Hall to come to an end, and she’s excited to begin acting on her campaign slogan to restore, rebuild and reform Stonecrest.

“I think it seems like we’ve been around a long time, because we’ve been talked about for a long time, but we’re only five years old,” Cobble said. “Our goal is... to continue setting the foundation of Stonecrest and setting it on a more solid footing.”

Being vocal about impropriety

Cobble, the director of the Office of Fleet Management within the Georgia Department of Administrative Services, has been an elected official in Stonecrest since the city was founded in 2017.

As a District 3 councilmember, she’s seen Stonecrest grow into DeKalb County’s most populous city. But there have been plenty of growing pains along the way.

The city made headlines for infighting, large economic development deals that fell apart and for Lary’s various scandals. He was accused of abusing his powers as mayor to embezzle pandemic relief funds through a kickback scheme, improperly signing contracts and abusing his city-issued purchasing card — all of which prompted internal investigations.

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In addition to supporting and voting for those investigations, Cobble advocated for a charter change last year that stripped the mayor of many powers. Stonecrest’s mayor no longer presides over city meetings and can only vote in the event of a tie, which is a rarity for a five-member City Council.

“It’s one thing to be vocal about impropriety,” Cobble said. “It’s a whole other thing to be vigilant about instituting effective solutions.”

Cobble argued the charter change led to meetings running much more smoothly, and she said a mayor who works with council rather than fighting it will better serve residents and their needs. She pledged to be that type of leader.

“You have to be able to work together,” she said. “And you have to have someone who is willing to make that a priority to work with folks to get things done.”

As a result of the internal investigation into the pandemic relief program fraud, the city fired several employees implicated in Lary’s scheme. Since then, the city has been quickly trying to hire new staff, and Cobble said she will help continue that effort.

“You also have to make sure that you have the right staff in place that is guided by simply making the right decisions for our community, not guided by one elected official,” she said.

Time to move forward

Cobble was among four candidates who ran for mayor in the May 24 special election. The race had two core themes: ethics and moving forward.

The other candidates, Diane Adoma, Kirby Frazier and Dr. Charles Hill Sr., vied with Cobble over who would be the best person to lead the city out of the past few years of turmoil. Cobble avoided a runoff by receiving a majority of the 9,914 votes cast. Adoma, Frazier and Hill Sr. all released statements conceding the race.

“I think we all jumped in this race for the right reason. We want to see Stonecrest move away from the past and move into the future,” Frazier told the AJC after the result was released. Adoma and Hill Sr. did not respond to requests to comment for this article.

Cobble said she watched the election results come in while at home with family and close friends. She called her victory exciting but also relieving. Her inauguration has yet to be scheduled, but she said it will take place before the next council meeting so she can participate.

Once she’s in office, she said she’d aim to create a community committee to help decide how Stonecrest should spend $9.7 million in American Rescue Plan Act funds. Since Stonecrest currently only provides three city services, Cobble said she’d explore if and when the city should expand its responsibilities and reach.

In addition, she said she plans to focus on bridging gaps between residential, commercial and industrial communities in the city through more frequent economic development town halls and meetings.

Even though she hasn’t been in office for the past two months, Cobble said it never felt like she stepped away from being a public servant.

“Despite not having the title for a few months, that didn’t deter folks from reaching out for assistance and to get things done throughout the city... so I don’t feel like I took a break or a time off,” she said.