At tense meeting, Stonecrest mayor announced possible cancer return

Mayor Jason Lary

Credit: City of Stonecrest

Credit: City of Stonecrest

Mayor Jason Lary

Stonecrest’s mayor said over the weekend that he may be battling a third round of cancer, and he apologized for his impatience with other city leaders.

Mayor Jason Lary, who will turn 59 in three weeks, said he’ll know more about his health status by the end of the week, but he said he returned too quickly from his previous bout with cancer. Lary returned ahead of schedule in January after getting approval from the City Council to miss meetings from November until March.

The mayor made the latest cancer announcement after a speech demanding the City Council approve one of his appointments for city manager, a position which has been vacant for years. Lary named four candidates earlier this month.

“I’m smart enough and I’m diligent enough to select people that work well in my administration confirmed by you all,” he said Sunday during a virtual City Council retreat. “I’m not coming back to you all with four more people. You better pick one of these four, or I’m going to be that guy.”

During his speech to the five-member City Council, Lary also said that the city’s leaders need to “mature up,” which offended a few of his colleagues.

“When you talk to the council and say what we better do, that is most unprofessional and offensive,” Councilwoman Tammy Grimes said.

Councilman Rob Turner quoted the Bible as a rebuke to Lary’s strong language — Matthew 12:37: “For by your words you will be justified, and by your words you will be condemned.”

“Please be more mindful in how you express your discontent, your disagreement and your frustration and remember how you’re talking to us as colleagues and as adults — people who love this city as much as you do,” Turner added.

Lary didn’t return The Atlanta Journal-Constitution’s request for further comment Monday.

Tensions between the mayor and most of the City Council have worsened since Lary returned from his second battle with cancer. Meetings have been abruptly canceled, accusations of malfeasance have been made and internal investigations and financial audits have been launched.

At the end of Sunday’s meeting, Lary apologized for his word choice, saying his uncertain health condition has heightened his sense of urgency.

“I may have to go out for a third cancer surgery, and when I use the words ‘you better pick somebody,’ ‘we have to grow up,’ or ‘mature up,’ I may not be here,” he said. “So I’ll apologize for using those words.”

The city has a deputy city manager, Plez Joyner, but it hasn’t had a city manager since 2019, when Michael Harris left to take a position with the Henry County government. In lieu of a successor, the city has relied on Jacobs Engineering, a private company from Dallas, Texas, to manage the city’s administration.

“I have a different sense of urgency than you all (City Council) because something might happen to me,” Lary said.

Lary has chosen to keep most of the details surrounding his cancer battles private. He was first diagnosed and treated for prostate cancer in 2018, but he didn’t take any time off during his radiation treatments.

Missing council meetings created rifts between Lary and Councilwoman Jazzmin Cobble, who was sued over two missed meetings in 2019. A judge dismissed a petition to remove her, but the two have had a rocky relationship since then.

While there’s been many disagreements between the council and mayor, city leaders said those issues don’t trump the mayor’s well-being.

“We differ on a lot of political things, but when it comes to our health and our family, there’s no separation,” Mayor Pro Tem George Turner said to end Sunday’s meeting. “We pray for your speedy recovery and your good health.”

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