Brookhaven voters back to polls Tuesday

Georgia’s newest city – just two weeks away from its official launch – will finally see who will lead it after Tuesday’s runoff election.

Brookhaven voters head to the polls to select a mayor and three of four council seats. With a crowded field of two dozen candidates for five posts, only District 2 councilman Jim Eyre, was able to grab more than 50 percent of the vote in last month’s election.

Without a majority of elected officials to make decisions ranging from hiring a city manager to adopting a city code, Brookhaven has mostly been shaped so far by the five-member Governor’s Commission.

That panel plans to make recommendations for those issues and others, such as locations for a city hall and private firms expected to provide most city services. The new council then is to weigh and vote on any contracts.

The most critical race, and the person expected to lead direction on those decisions, will be Brookhaven’s first mayor. The mayor votes only in a tie but, as the only citywide office, is expected to set the agenda.

The two candidates battling for the office come from opposite sides of the cityhood effort.

Attorney J. Max Davis served as head of Brookhaven Yes and was among the leaders pushing for incorporation. He said his candidacy as a continuation of that effort, to see the city become as successful as Dunwoody or Sandy Springs, its neighbors to the west and north.

Computer consultant Sandy Murray, meanwhile, was an early skeptic of cityhood. She cited the neighboring cities, noting it took them several years to plan for a referendum on cityhood. Brookhaven’s vote happened just about a year after the movement began.

Beyond those differences, though, both Davis and Murray have cited financial management and starting a police department as priorities. How the council shapes up will also play a role in those services are delivered.

Also in Tuesday’s runoff:

District 1: The northern area of the city lies adjacent to Dunwoody and served as the birthplace of a cityhood effort. Attorney Kevin Fitzpatrick had pledged to focus on creating the city’s police force, expected to hit the street sometime next year. Former reporter Rebecca Chase Williams has listed creating a budget and hiring a city manager as her top priorities.

District 3: The central area that includes Historic Brookhaven and Silver Lake had the most candidates and the closest race in last month’s election. Bates Mattison, a healthcare administrator, cites his work experience to help oversee the project management in a city whose services will mostly be run by vendors. Kevin Quirk, an attorney, has said his focus will be on hiring a city manager, finance director and clerk so that officials can focus on services such as police and parks.

District 4: The southern end of the new city had the lowest voter turnout last month and, along with District 2, the most vocal opposition to cityhood. Business owner Joe Gebbia was a cityhood supporter who has pledged to focus on key start-up issues, from finding a location for city hall and hiring a city manager to help plan direction for Brookhaven. Karen Lord, who sells and provides support for medical equipment, did not take a stand on cityhood but admits to voting against incorporation over concerns the process was rushed. She has pledged to focus on fiscal issues and transparency.

Winners of Tuesday’s election are expected to be sworn in as soon as DeKalb County election officials certify results. Brookhaven officially begins operations on Dec. 17.

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