For Roswell voters, it’s a novelty: the first tightly contested mayoral race in four decades.
Jere Wood, the three-term incumbent mayor, has been pushed into a Dec. 1 runoff with former city council member David Tolleson for the right to lead Georgia’s sixth largest city.
With 90,000 people, Roswell is the largest city in affluent North Fulton County. The town built along the Chattahoochee River heavily influences the region’s agenda in discussions about illegal immigration, traffic congestion, foreclosures and lack of redevelopment. Only two mayors have served in the past 42 years.
With no major issue dividing the candidates, the Roswell runoff has turned into a personality contest.
Tolleson, 47, is a soft-spoken non-profit executive who prides himself on being a consensus-builder. He was elected to the city council in 1999 but resigned a few months ago to run for mayor.
“I think the issues are basically the same and for some folks it’s who they know better,” Tolleson said.
Wood, 60, is a lawyer with a domineering personality that sometimes rubs people the wrong way. He became mayor in 1998 after defeating 32-year incumbent W.L. “Pug” Mabry on a no-sprawl platform and has since been re-elected easily.
“David has made every effort to make it a battle of styles and I tell people it’s about results,” said Wood, who contends Roswell has become a safer and better place to live since he was elected.
Wood finished on top with 40 percent of the vote in the general election. Tolleson got 32 percent and Lori Henry, a City Council member, got 28 percent.
Since then, Wood has grabbed several endorsements which were announced in heavily promoted events in the city hall rotunda. The big endorsement came from Henry, the third-place finisher.
Wood, in turn, said he would appoint her to work with residents who are fighting the state government’s demand that they spend millions to repair the dam at Martin’s Landing subdivision. Wood also said he would appoint her to a committee that will overhaul the city's community development department, often viewed as anti-business.
Council member Kent Igleheart endorsed Wood, too. Tolleson was endorsed before the general election by sitting council members Becky Wynn and Rick Dippolito.
Tolleson and Wood face each other in a debate Tuesday night sponsored by The Beacon newspaper at the Moksha Indian Cuisine at 1380 Old Roswell Road. A social hour precedes the debate, which is open to the public and starts at 7:15 p.m.
A few other suburban cities have runoffs on Dec. 1.
In Duluth, IT project manager Billy Jones squares off against adult educator Elise Whitworth for the City Council's Post 3. Twenty-one votes separated the candidates in the Nov. 3 race, with Jones garnering 276 votes to Whitworth's 255.
In Lawrenceville, retired businessman John Merrill faces community outreach manager Katie Hart Smith for City Council Post 3. Smith earned 399 votes to Merrill's 261 in the Nov. 3 election.
Clarkston will have its first mayoral runoff in its 127-year history, when businessman Howard Tygrett faces current council member Pat Davis-Morris.
In Doraville, attorney Karen Pachuta will square off against incumbent Bob Spangler for the City Council District 3.
In East Point, incumbent Mayor Joe Macon faces Earnestine Pittman. Greg Fann, the incumbent for the at-large Ward A seat, faces Sharonda Hubbard.
In Forest Park, incumbent Sparkle Adams faces Thomas Smith Jr. for the Ward 1 seat. Karen-Brandee Williams and Donald E. Wright will battle for the Ward 2 seat.
In Peachtree City, Don Haddix and Cyndi Plunkett seek the mayor’s job; incumbent Mayor Harold Logsdon decided to run for insurance commissioner in 2010. Kim Learnard and Robert Walsh are running for Council Post 3 and Eric Imker and Beth Pullias for Council Post 1.
In College Park, incumbent Charles E. Phillips Sr. faces April Wright-Wyatt for the Ward 4 council seat.
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