Former Fulton County Commissioner Emma Darnell, shown here in April 2015, died in May. Candidates to fill her seat on the commission were asked at a Monday forum what they would do to carry on the work she emphasized. KENT D. JOHNSON/ AJC FILE

District 6 Fulton commission candidates participate in forum

Six of the nine candidates for the District 6 seat on the Fulton County Commission participated in a forum Monday night, where the legacy of Emma Darnell, who held the seat since 1992 and died in May, was a prominent theme.

Joe Carn, Yoshina Colbert-Bradford, Dr. Sonia Francis-Rolle, Warren C. Head, Rafer Johnson, and Gordon Joyner attended the event sponsored by the South Metro Democratic Women’s Council.

Darnell was a strong advocate for seniors, a panelist said. The first question of the night was how candidates would continue her work in this area. Carn, a former vice mayor of College Park, said he had “worked for senior rights and advocated for seniors ever since I was a (College Park) council member,” and had helped obtain money to help seniors pay utility bills.

District 6 comprises East Point, College Park, Fairburn, South Fulton, Palmetto, Union City, Hapeville, Chatahoochee Hills and parts of Atlanta.

Candidates were also asked to describe a program Darnell started that they would want to continue.

Colbert-Bradford, a real estate broker, said she would keep many of Darnell’s principles and policies, and improve them. Joyner, a civil rights attorney and former Fulton commissioner who served with Darnell, cited their friendship and initiatives they worked on together, such as improving the library system.

Johnson, a Delta employee and community leader, focused his answer on bettering the environment: “We have a big opportunity to educate, inform and activate people to protect our planet,” he said.

On property tax increases, Colbert-Bradford said the city must work with knowledgeable and professional appraisers, as well as code enforcement, to track down owners of vacant homes.

On youth outreach, Head proposed the county partner with businesses so students can apply their studies to the workplace. Johnson agreed, saying schools should consider goals aside from a college degree for their students. “Train our kids up so they get the jobs locally and we don’t have to import people,” he said. “The reality is I don’t have authority over Fulton County Schools or the state legislature, but it’s the partnership that counts.”

The election will be Sept. 17. The next District 6 commissioner will serve the remainder of the term and there will be a new race in 2020. The next forum is Aug. 14 at the Cascade United Methodist Church.

“It’s not easy to look you in the eye and ask you for your vote, to let us put our yard signs in your yards in a campaign season that you were not expecting,” Joyner said. “There was no election scheduled for this summer, but now you have to pay attention to us.”

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