Stonecrest mayoral election: Cobble aims to stabilize city government

Jazzmin Cobble

Credit: Jazzmin Cobble

Combined ShapeCaption
Jazzmin Cobble

Credit: Jazzmin Cobble

Jazzmin Cobble, a Stonecrest councilwoman who resigned last month to run for mayor, hopes her time away from City Hall is short-lived.

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 Diane Adoma, 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

Cobble is currently the director of the Office of Fleet Management within the Georgia Department of Administrative Services. She represented Stonecrest’s District 3 from 2017 through March 2022, when she resigned to run for mayor.

Cobble’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 most important thing ... is what’s embedded in my campaign platform, which is to restore, rebuild and reform. We need to restore confidence. We need to reform our government. And we need to rebuild our relationship. That’s what is most important for the next mayor to be able to do, and you do that with being in concert with the City Council and with the administration, the city manager and staff. You do that by being unified and working to advance one common agenda. Everything else will fall into place.

City services, the elevated economic development opportunities – (they) will be intentional and methodical. Doing business in Stonecrest will be successful if we work together on the principles of restoring confidence, rebuilding relationships and reforming our government.

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

A: Well I think the city already has. The City Council and the mayor pro tem, the city attorneys, the city manager, the CFO and the staff have all worked collectively to move the city beyond that. The City Council did its job, which was to implement legislative solutions. We’ve done that. The City Council has done that, not only on the state level with SB21 (the bill that changed the city’s charter and reduced the mayor’s powers), but also came home and did our own work here with revising policies. And (the AJC) wrote many stories about all the actions that have been taken.

So between SB21 and the changes we’ve made here at home with the support of our city manager and our legal team, the city has moved beyond that. We are focused – and I’m sorry, I say we because I am invested in this community, title or no title. But we are committed to getting back focused on delivering city services, making sure that those city services are advanced, making sure those city services are funded and making sure that we are taking care of our citizens and stakeholders.

So we’ve already begun to do that. We are not just now in the election season starting that work. We’re almost a year or more into that work, and I have no doubt that will continue, because that’s what the city is for – to provide services. And to provide a quality of life for our residents and our business owners that we all desire and want to have. So that has been the focus and it still is.

Q: How will you ensure that impropriety and scandal do not return to City Hall?

A: Again, I think we’ve done a lot of that already by making sure that policies are written that eliminate ambiguity, that we evaluate the reach of those policies to make sure that it captures everything that it could possibly capture. We continue to have our fantastic finance team, which is made up of course of our CFO and then four or five other finance team employees. Having the professional city manager in Stonecrest makes it so that you have professionals as department heads and those who are educated and trained and understand that there is an obligation to not only deliver services, but to do that to the letter of the law.

I would say that a lot of work has already been done via having this clear and concise council-manager form of government that sets up professionals to carry out the day-to-day tasks and delineate the powers between the executive branch and legislative branch. But also we continue to be as transparent as we can with all of the decisions that are being made for our citizens and stakeholders.

To continue to provide citizen engagement opportunities is a good example of transparency that’s already taken place. And we continue to look for more opportunities to do so. You’ll see with the creation of the steering committee that’s going along with the economic development plan, so you’ll see where the City Council has been making efforts to provide opportunities for feedback and engagement. That is the definition of transparency. We ensure that those things (malfeasance) don’t happen again by doing what we’ve already done, which was to tighten up policies, and a huge part of that was the changes that we saw in SB21.

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

A: Let me address the mayor’s role, the reduction, because I see that a little bit differently. I see that as the role was made clear and delineated from the legislative branch. I would not say that is a reduction. I would say that there is a clarity to make sure that there is proper checks and balances between the executive branch and the legislative branch.

If you wanted to identify a reduction, it would be that the mayor now votes only in the event of a tie. But if we think that a vote by itself is the only thing that makes the executive branch valuable or critical, then we are mistaken.

There are many other responsibilities that are innate to an executive branch. We see that on our federal level, we see that on our state level and we see that in our county level. The executive branch has value in it, and it’s critical to a government’s operation far beyond a vote. It is most certainly important that the executive branch understand that a large part of its role is to unify the government – to be a champion of its government.

Some people say that’s ceremonial. The ceremonial task assigned to any executive branch is what comes with being the mayor, the CEO, the governor, the president. You are the face and the voice of that government. But when you come from behind the camera and behind the television screen, you are just as active and involved in creating what your government will give to its residents and to its business owners. You are at the table. You are in the discussion, where you can garner partnership and build coalition. You are at the table with your legislative body, working to advance an agenda that is to benefit your community. That is innate in an executive branch. That is what an executive branch represents. That is not solely dependent on a vote.

Legislators are policy makers. That is why the vote is there. That doesn’t make the executive branch less critical, less valuable or less impactful. And it’s not unique for Stonecrest because we have seen other levels of government work and operate the same way where the executive branch does not have a vote. It may be a little different than what Stonecrest has seen in the past four years, but we now have a change, and we have seen that having the executive branch and the legislative branch both share a vote has caused conflict. And so SB21 ensures that there’s a delineation and a checks and balances there.

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

A: They want us to ultimately provide a quality of life that provides community and a culture that will ensure that we are all thriving together. They want to see that through better service delivery, which is improving roads, improving right-of-way maintenance and litter control. Improving public safety. They want to see that through understanding how their tax dollars are being used. They want to see that by their tax dollars being dedicated to projects that fulfil that desire of having that quality of life. They want to see that through economic development efforts that diversify your dining experience, their family entertainment experience, their retail experience.

All of that rolls up together for what the citizens are asking us to do. And we are on the right direction. We’re on the right path to delivering that to them. And that is always in the forefront of our minds and the goal. It’s always to deliver a quality of life, and that quality of life will certainly consist of being transparent about where their tax dollars are going and to be able to show them that projects and initiatives that bring that quality of life are funded and here’s how they’re funded.

We do that through our planning and zoning decisions. That created a quality of life depending on what the zoning is changed to. Being able to bring in economic development also was tied to planning and zoning decisions, seeing economic development opportunities planned out so that citizens have feedback into what we should be recruiting and what efforts we’re putting into retention. So it’s all wrapped up together.

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

A: Voters should choose me over the other candidates because I have been involved in ensuring that we are conducting this government with integrity and fiduciary responsibility. I have been vigilant about instituting these legislative solutions that make it so we never return to the place that we were. I’ve been vocal about impropriety. I have worked hand-in-hand with our City Council to recreate what was seemingly being torn down.

I’m going to continue to work in concert with our City Council, and we’re going to advance one unified agenda. When we are all together, working together collectively, coming up with strategies to deliver services and to provide a quality of life, we are all doing that together on one page. We will become this city that we can be proud of.

More information on Cobble’s campaign can be found on her website, cobbleformayor.com.

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

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

»Adoma says she has unfinished business in City Hall

»Frazier touts military leadership, temperament

»Hill wants to completely overhaul City Hall