Stonecrest mayoral election: Adoma says she has unfinished business in City Hall

Diane Adoma

Credit: Diane Adoma

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Diane Adoma

Credit: Diane Adoma

Diane Adoma, a former Stonecrest councilwoman who wasn’t afraid to challenge those in charge, aims to reignite that spirit by rejoining city leadership.

She’s among four candidates running in a May 24 special election to fill the remaining term of Jason Lary, the city’s founding mayor who resigned in January to plead guilty to federal fraud charges.

Whoever wins will bear the responsibility for leading Stonecrest past the recent scandal, which rocked DeKalb County’s newest, and most populous, city. In addition, they’ll become the city’s second-ever mayor and inherit a position that saw its voting power stripped by the state Legislature last year.

The Atlanta Journal-Constitution interviewed each of the four candidates, asking them the same list of questions. The other candidates are Jazzmin Cobble, Kirby Frazier and Dr. Charles Hill Sr.

»Links to the other candidate Q&As are available at the bottom of this story.

Stonecrest residents have until April 25 to register to vote in time for the mayoral special election. Early voting will be held from May 2 through May 20. Polls will be open on May 24 — the same day as the 2022 General Primary elections — from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m.

ExploreAccusations begin to fly in special election for Stonecrest mayor

Adoma currently owns a professional management firm and represented Stonecrest’s District 5 from 2017 through 2019, when she resigned to unsuccessfully run for mayor. She’s run two campaigns at the state level before the city was founded, once as a Democrat and once as a Republican.

Adoma’s interview was conducted Thursday, April 7. It has been lightly edited for brevity, and answers were not checked for accuracy.

Q: What is the most important thing for the next mayor to bring Stonecrest? And how will you accomplish that?

A: The very first thing that I think needs to happen is to restore the public trust. And the way that will happen is, first of all, I would be accountable, transparent and set up an ethics board. The other thing would be to establish some basic policies and procedures, so that City Hall can operate more efficient and be more effective.

Q: How does the city move forward from the previous mayor’s actions?

A: You have to go in and you have to do a forensic audit. You have to look at what went wrong. Why did it go wrong? How do we correct that? And then I think we have to sit down and work with all of our community partners.

We have to work with all three levels of government, and we have to figure out exactly where did the lack of oversight – where did it happen? How do we prevent that from happening again? What measures and policies do we need to put in place to ensure that the fiduciary responsibility is at its highest height?

Q: How will you ensure that impropriety and scandal doesn’t return to City Hall?

A: That goes back to the policies. If you look at it in DeKalb County, there’s 13 cities. And if you look in Georgia, there’s what, 538 cities. So let’s not reinvent the wheel. There’s already templates out there for how to run a city.

Let me give an example. There’s a meeting that we had, one of the council meetings when I served on the council, and my recommendation was to create a certified city of ethics. There’s only a few cities in Georgia that have that designation, but what that does is it puts those stricter measures in place. The Georgia Municipal Association as well as the National League of Cities highly support that. That particular measure was voted down or declined by the council. If we had put that in place back in the end of 2017 or 2018, I believe we may not be in the situation that we’re in right now.

Q: With the mayor’s role reduced from what it once was, meaning that the mayor doesn’t vote in most instances, what are your major policy goals, and how will you accomplish them?

A: I’ve heard that quite a bit that the mayor’s position in the new charter is ceremonial. However, let’s get this straight. The mayor’s position is where the power is derived, and the mayor is the face of the city.

The mayor is an ambassador for the city. They go out and vet new businesses, build new relationships and partnerships. They form strategic alliances. They’re working with economic development — all official signatures on key documents are signed off by the mayor. When people call the city, the first person they want to talk to is the mayor, regardless of whether the mayor has any power or not. The mayor is the figurehead of the city, and so if you put somebody that is ethical in that position, it can really be a powerful position because it’s derived – not necessarily from what the charter says – but its derived from the powers of the name itself.

And the charter does still give the mayor a lot of power. I don’t know if you were there when Stonecrest was first formed, but one of the things that I had written to the governor’s office was that, ‘Hey, something’s wrong with this charter. We got a mayor who is setting the agenda and voting on the agenda he set.’ If you look at Atlanta and other cities, the mayor only votes when there’s a tie. And that was always a problem from day one, and that should have been fixed immediately by the legislators because that made it difficult for the city to be able to do what they needed to do.

But even with that being the case, when we knew that was in place, what we should have done was implemented the stricter policies that I highly recommended when I served on that council. I questioned all the audit reports. I questioned the fact that we were not concerned about doing a forensic audit. I questioned when we were out of compliance with the immigration laws. I questioned why we were not registered in the federal database. There were many things that I questioned, and as of today, many of those things are still not in place.

Q: What do you hear Stonecrest residents want the most from their city leaders?

A: They want an ethical, sound leader. I think they’re tired of the drama. I think they just want a mayor who won’t embarrass them, and I think they want a beautiful, clean community that’s thriving economically. And the only way they’re going to get that – you’ve got to go in and clean up the mess that we have now. And once you get those policies and procedures in place, and you’ve set up the stricter financial oversight, once you get that in place, you’ll start and proceed as a city that investors would want to do business with because that’s what we want.

Stonecrest has lots of resources, and there’s three industries that can be sustained in Stonecrest based on the research. That’s healthcare, technology and tourism. Arabia Mountain is a 400-million-year-old mountain. People come from all over the world to hike it, and we don’t even sell them a bottle of water at the end of the mountain. That’s a lost opportunity.

Q: Why should voters choose you over the other candidates?

A: What makes me different from the other candidates is I am the only candidate in this race who possesses both businesses experience and legislative experience. I’m the only candidate in this race who has graduated from the Georgia Department of Economic Development. I’m the only candidate who has a track record of working with all the different entities in the city and the multi-levels of government.

In order to grow Stonecrest, you have to be able to reach across that table and work with other political parties, whether you agree with their value system or not. You still have to work with them. And 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. And in order to do that, we have to have a leader who will share information.

So what I would do is set up what I call a ‘transparency Stonecrest website,’ and that website would be like in Delaware, where citizens can see everything coming in, the revenue, they can see the movement of the revenue coming in, they can see the expenditures, they can get open records faster, there should be a way to get a business license 24/7. Those things are already in place in other cities and other states. All we need to do is step up to the plate and have a leader who would take those steps and make that happen.

More information on Adoma’s campaign can be found on her website, dianeformayor.com.

Read more about the candidates who want to be Stonecrest’s next mayor

»Stonecrest mayoral candidates in race to out-ethics the competition

»Cobble aims to stabilize city government

»Frazier touts military leadership, temperament

»Hill wants to completely overhaul City Hall