Stonecrest mayoral election: Hill wants to completely overhaul City Hall

Charles Hill Sr.

Credit: Charles Hill Sr.

Combined ShapeCaption
Charles Hill Sr.

Credit: Charles Hill Sr.

Dr. Charles Hill Sr., a longtime ophthalmologist in the Stonecrest community, aims to become the city’s next leader in firebrand fashion.

He’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, Jazzmin Cobble and Kirby Frazier.

»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

Hill has lived in the Stonecrest area for more than 38 years and he operates Hill’s Eye Clinic. He’s also the Chief of Ophthalmology at DeKalb Medical Center in Decatur. This is his first political campaign, but his son, Charles Hill Jr., ran for mayor of Stonecrest during the previous two elections.

Hill’s interview was conducted Friday, April 8. 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 first thing is we got to have economic development, and when I say economic development, I mean smart development. We desperately need a five-star hotel with a convention center out there. We need to develop small businesses within walking distance of each other to increase foot traffic. And increasing foot traffic and increasing density is going to attract stores like Publix and Whole Foods. Currently, the way things are, we’re not going to attract the kind of stores that we need out there.

We don’t need any more negative growth. We need positive growth. And to have strong economic development, we got to have security. We got to have a police department. We got to have adequate healthcare, and we got to have good school systems. People aren’t going to move to an area where they don’t have a good school system, good police and good safety. People aren’t going to move to where they don’t feel safe, and they’re not going to move to where there’s no good adequate healthcare to take care of any and all emergencies.

So those are things that we need to work on. We need to work on public safety. There’s no reason why we shouldn’t have our own police department, just like Brookhaven, just like Tucker, just like South Fulton and even little Lithonia. We need our own police department because people won’t come to an area where they don’t feel safe.

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

A: Oh my God. First of all, we got to have leadership that can be trusted. Leadership with integrity. Leadership with transparency. I can provide that. People can trust me to provide good, honest leadership. I have no hidden agendas. I’m financially secure. I don’t need to try to get in a position to make any money or try to win the race to put my picture on Facebook or go to parties and say I’m the mayor. I don’t need it. I have enough accolades and enough badges of honor to last me the rest of my life.

I studied for 18 years straight after high school. I’m a graduate of the University of Iowa, Michigan, Washington University and did my residency at Harvard and my fellowship at Emory. So I’m doing this as a service to this community. I’m a practicing physician and ophthalmologist in this area for 38 years. I love this community. I love this city. I love the county. I love the state of Georgia. I love America. So I’m here as a service to try to help this city, to try to pull it back up out of the dumps and restore integrity and honesty to our citizens. This is what it’s all about for me. I have no other hidden agendas whatsoever.

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

A: The powers of the mayor have to be restored. Listen, the baby was conceived, it was carried out throughout its pregnancy and it was born all in a state of corruption. It’s been born and raised in corruption. That’s all they know and that’s the only way they know how to cooperate. We need new blood, the city needs to be rebranded and all these folks need to be gotten rid of.

It’s going to take some time to go. It’s not going to be accomplished overnight. But first of all, you’ve got to start out by being honest and upfront and not tolerate any corruption based on your friendships or your cronyism or getting paid or whatever. I can do that, because I’m financially secure. I paid for my own campaign out of my own money, and I’m not bought or bossed by anyone. I’m going to do what’s right for the citizens of this community, for this city.

This is the problem. These people (think) that the voters are being dumbed down. They figure that they could do anything and everything and pull it over on these folks, because they think that the people don’t read and don’t keep up on stuff.

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

A: Here again, that’s going to be a problem. I think the first thing is we got to try to restore power back to the mayor. Listen, we are the 16th largest city in the state of Georgia. The 16th largest city in the state of Georgia, where the mayor has no power to do anything. That’s ridiculous. That can’t be left to stand that way.

You have no checks and balances. In any form of government, you have an executive branch and the legislative branch to kind of keep each other in check. Right now, you got the City Council out there. None of them know what the hell they’re doing. It’s just pathetic and ridiculous. We’re just in a bad place, and there has to be some better leadership to kind of straighten things out. The only way I can see to do that is we got to restore the powers back to the mayor, to someone who is going to be in there and they have to have sense enough to kind of pull this thing out of the gutter.

Q: From my understanding, that would require going back and changing the charter through the state Legislature, which I wouldn’t think would be a quick process.

A: Let me help you out on that. That charter change was ramrodded through the state Legislature illegally. The charter was changed illegally… It was kind of ramrodded through because certain people got together to get rid of Jason Lary. And they did that, but it was done illegally.

Q: Are you saying if you were elected mayor, it (the charter) would immediately revert back to the way that it was or that you would be able to ram the change through? How would that change?

A: Well, the governor has the power to take care of all that I think, from what I hear. So I think there’s going to be some legal challenges to that, and that has to be done because the way that things are now is just ridiculous. You got folks cronying up and doing whatever they want to do. Here’s the deal, we got rid of one dictator and now we got five dictators (the City Council). So things have to be changed. There has to be some checks and balances here. Otherwise, the city is just going to be doomed.

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

A: Honesty, integrity, transparency, public safety and economic development. That’s all I hear all the time. Right now, they have no confidence in independent members of the City Council because, listen – if just one of those City Council people had stood up and said, ‘Hey, this is wrong. What the mayor is doing is wrong. We don’t need this. We can’t tolerate this,’ we wouldn’t be going through all this stuff we’re going through right now. Not a single damn one of them stood up and said anything. All it would have taken would have been for one of them to stand up and say, ‘This is wrong. We can’t do this.’

And another thing, the City Council had the power to impeach the mayor. They could have impeached him. But none of them stood up and said one thing about anything. I called one of the City Council people, and I said, ‘Why aren’t y’all doing stuff? What don’t y’all stand up?’ They were all cowards. Not a single one of them stood up and said anything, and if you check your records, they still have not spoken out publicly against anything. You know why? Because they were all part of that system. They were all brought up in that system, and they all were considered part of the ‘Jason five.’ Not a single one of them stood up. All it would have taken was for one of them to stand up and say, ‘Hey, let me call Zach Hansen. We need to expose these people. This is not right.’ That’s all it would have taken.

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

A: There’s nobody on that council who has had any business experience. They’ve never ran a business. They’ve never had to pay taxes. They’ve never had to pay payroll. They never had to manage multiple people in any kind of employment capacity. They have no experience. Running a city is running a business.

I have several corporations that I run. I can do this. I do it every day. It’s not new to me. I can multitask plus I’m honest and I’m upfront. I will provide leadership that people can trust. You don’t have to worry about me doing anything underhanded or stealing anything. I am very well financially secure. I’m not going to tell you how much I’m worth, but I can live comfortably.

But let me tell you something. I grew up in Alabama, rural Montgomery County. My daddy was white and my mother was Black. But I was taught discipline, structure and organization from the time I was five years old. When we got up at 6 o’clock every morning to catch the school bus, our beds had to be made up. There couldn’t be a wrinkle in the bedspread. The room had to be neat and clean before we left. Everything had to be in order before we left for school. If not, when you came back, you got an ass whooping. Now, my dad died in my arms when I was 16 years old. I was on my own from that point on. I worked four part-time jobs to get through undergraduate school. I worked four part-time jobs, I had a double major in biology and chemistry, and I got a full scholarship from medical school at the University of Iowa. So I can do this.

Another thing is it goes back to the way that you were raised. I was raised that you don’t steal and you don’t lie. The key to success is hard work. There’s no way to get over, under or around it. But listen to me, I came from nowhere with nothing but a dream. And I’m a living example that if anybody wants to do anything and be successful in America, you can do it. I’m a living example of that because I had nothing from nobody. Nothing but a dream and hard work and discipline that was put into me by my mother and my father. So I’m a living example that you can do anything that you want to do. This is America, and I would not be where I am today if I lived in many other countries. I love this country, I love this city, and we’re all proud Georgians. If you cut and cut, we all bleed Georgia red blood. Isn’t that right?

More information on Hill’s campaign can be found on his website, charleshillforstonecrest.com.

Read more about 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

»Cobble aims to stabilize city government

»Frazier touts military leadership, temperament