The race for Clayton County's top elected job is taking shape.
On Monday, state Rep. Roberta Abdul-Salaam launched her bid for Clayton County Commission chairman, the $142,733-a-year job held by Eldrin Bell who is seeking re-election.
Abdul-Salaam, D-Riverdale, is the second challenger in the race. Former Clayton Police Chief Jeff Turner announced his intentions to seek the job last year.
Citing frustration over efforts to reestablish and keep public transportation options in Clayton, Abdul-Salaam said, "I have been at the forefront of trying to keep transportation in the county and bring it back." Since being elected state representative in 2004, Abdul Salaam said she repeatedly worked to get bills passed on behalf of the county.
"We'd pass something that would benefit Clayton but it wouldn't get implemented at the county level," said Abdul-Salaam, who has lived in Clayton more than 25 years. Losing C-Tran bus service two years ago this month, she said, was "one of the big blows to Clayton County."
In addition to pushing for better transportation, Abdul-Salaam said if elected commission chair, she wants to improve the quality of life in Clayton.
"We deserve better. We’ve been hurt economically. We’ve been hurt with the loss of business. Tons of businesses have left the county and we have a lot of communities now that are close to being blighted communities and we don't want to let that happen," she said.
"I'm trying to bring some excitement back to the economic window of Clayton County. We have lots of great people who live in Clayton County and often we’re overshadowed by the negative."
Bell, who has been chairman since 2004, declined to comment on his challengers but said, "My emphasis is to remain on the right side of the issues. I’m not Johnny-come-lately. I've been on the right side of transit and the right side of taxes and economic development. I've been a champion of transit, a champion for our seniors and I feel that's the right side of the issues and that's where I plan to stay."
The three-way race comes at a time when Clayton's unemployment rate is 11.8 percent and taxpayers are faced with a 34 percent property tax hike, the highest rate in metro Atlanta.
Turner said he wants to bring a "new vision" to Clayton. "I'm looking to move the county forward and to make the citizens of Clayton County feel more included in decisions that directly affect them," he said.
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