“I would be accountable, transparent and set up an ethics board,” Diane Adoma, a former District 5 councilwoman said. Former District 3 Councilwoman Jazzmin Cobble said, “We need to restore confidence. We need to reform our government. And we need to rebuild our relationship.”
U.S. Army veteran Kirby Frazier said, “The first thing I need to do coming into the office of mayor is to restore the trust of the people,” while ophthalmologist Dr. Charles Hill Sr. argued he’s unbeholden to anyone or any hidden agendas.
“We got to have leadership that can be trusted. Leadership with integrity. Leadership with transparency,” he said. “I can provide that.”
Adoma, Cobble, Frazier and Hill are all vying to get the most votes during the May 24 special election. The winner, who would occupy the mayor’s seat through the end of 2023, must get a majority of the votes to avoid a runoff, which would take place in late June if required.
How much power should the mayor have?
Stonecrest has only had one mayor up to this point.
Jason Lary, first elected in 2017 as the city’s founding mayor, wielded a lot of power during his tenure as the city’s leader. He was able to set meeting agendas, preside over meetings, vote on all items, appoint members to committees and perform several other duties.
However, the state Legislature stripped several of those powers, including the ability to vote except in the event of a tie, in 2020 after a state senator and multiple councilmembers thought Lary was abusing his position.
Weeks after the city’s charter was changed, Lary became embroiled in a scandal where he was accused of stealing federal COVID-19 relief funds to pay off his own personal debts including a lake house mortgage. He resigned in January and pleaded guilty to three felonies the following day. His sentencing is scheduled for May 2, which is also the first day of early voting to pick his successor.
The four candidates are split on whether limiting the mayor’s powers was a good idea.
“If you look at Atlanta and other cities, the mayor only votes when there’s a tie,” Adoma said, arguing the mayor has enough powers to warrant respect and authority.
“If we think that a vote by itself is the only thing that makes the executive branch valuable or critical, then we are mistaken,” Cobble, who was on the council when the charter change moved through the state Legislature, said.
Frazier and Hill said they’d petition for the mayor’s former voting privileges to be restored if they win.
“I understand now that they minimized (the mayor’s powers) due to the previous administration’s acts,” Frazier said. “But I believe the policy should be restored, so the mayor can actually effectively manage that position.”
Hill said, “The mayor has no power to do anything. That’s ridiculous.”
Tensions already heating up
For all of the candidates’ talk of ethics and anti-corruption, accusations of impropriety have already begun to pop up among their campaigns.
Adoma, Frazier and Hill accused Cobble of abusing her position as a recent councilmember during a news conference last week. They alleged that she continued to use her city email and connections to benefit her campaign — accusations she denied.
Cobble, who has received majority of the endorsements from other city, county and state leaders, said her competitors are “pulling at straws” to find a scandal, while she’s been working for the past few years to combat Lary’s corruption.
“I have been vigilant about instituting these legislative solutions that make it so we never return to the place that we were,” she said. “I’ve been vocal about impropriety. I have worked hand-in-hand with our City Council to recreate what was seemingly being torn down.”
Adoma, who also butted heads with Lary while she was a councilmember, said she believes Cobble is being too friendly with her former colleagues in City Hall, which compromises her integrity.
“We need a leader who’s not afraid to make those tough decisions, and I believe that, lastly, we have to restore the trust in the government,” Adoma said. “And in order to do that, we have to have a leader who will share information.”
Frazier, who has only lived in Stonecrest since 2018, argued that the city needs a fresh face to lead residents through this tough time.
“You can always count on me because I believe in holding people accountable, and I believe in being responsible,” he said. “That’s one thing I know from being in the military. You can never delegate those two: accountability and responsibility.”
Hill has lived in the Stonecrest area for more than 38 years — well before voters chose to incorporated the city at the end of 2016. He said he’s established in the community and financially secure in a way that makes him immune to corruption.
“I can multitask plus I’m honest and I’m upfront. I will provide leadership that people can trust,” he said. “You don’t have to worry about me doing anything underhanded or stealing anything.”
Read more from the candidates who want to be Stonecrest’s next mayor