Cityhood allies win in Brookhaven

J. Max Davis gains mayor post

Brookhaven’s inaugural mayor and council will have a clear pro-city bent, despite the close vote to incorporate this past summer.

With about 15 percent of the eligible 28,500 voters casting ballots in Tuesday’s runoff election, J. Max Davis, former head of BrookhavenYes, won his bid to become mayor. Allies Rebecca Chase Williams, a former reporter, and business owner Joe Gebbia won their races for District 1 and 4 council seats, respectively.

Also winning Tuesday was health care administrator Bates Mattison in District 3, according to results from the DeKalb County elections office.

Mattison did not take a stance on cityhood, while the council’s only clear winner from November, business owner Jim Eyre for District 2, was a skeptic of incorporation.

“It’s hard for someone who didn’t like the idea of a city to begin with to convince me why they’re running,” said Gabe Callol, an unemployed property developer who said he supported Davis and Williams in Tuesday’s runoff election. “People, I think, are looking for an opportunity to start from scratch and do it right.”

About 55 percent of voters approved Brookhaven becoming a city in July, the narrowest margin yet of Georgia’s new cities.

Many opponents expressed skepticism about the time frame, giving the city just four months before a Dec. 17 official start date.

Further tightening the deadline: the crowded field of two dozen candidates who ran for just five elected spots. With only one candidate winning more than half of the vote last month, Tuesday’s runoff was needed to seat a council and mayor.

A five-member panel known as the Governor’s Commission has been working to help get operations ready for votes by those elected officials. Like other new cities, Brookhaven is expected to contract with private firms to provide most services, while hiring its own top staff and police department.

Only a handful of services, such as a website and a finance office, are expected to be ready for the start date in two weeks. Office space, which will serve as city hall, could be ready by year’s end as well, said Ben Vinson, head of the commission.

But Vinson also said most services will not begin until early next year. It will be spring before the city is able to create a police department and have plans in place for taking over the new city’s nine popular parks.

In the meantime, DeKalb County is likely to provide services. The two sides have yet to hash out a deal on prices and expectations, though.

That contract, like those with private vendors, will require a vote of the newly seated council. The mayor votes only in a tie.

The candidates are expected to hold at least one meeting before Dec. 17 but must first be sworn into office. As that can’t happen until county elections officials certify Tuesday’s vote, the regular meeting of the Governor’s Commission will continue as planned Thursday night.

Vinson said all of the winners will be invited to speak at the meeting. It begins at 8 p.m. at St. Martin’s Episcopal School on Ashford Dunwoody Road.

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