Some voters preparing to choose Brookhaven’s first mayor and City Council had as many questions about how the new city will work as they had questions about the candidates.
The referendum to create the city of Brookhaven was approved just a little more than 90 days ago and some voters said recently that it was a challenge to choose representatives in a Nov. 6 election for a city that didn’t yet exist.
At a candidate fair hosted by Reporter Newspapers at Briarwood Recreation Center on Oct. 30, Richard and Brenda Matthews were still undecided about which of the three candidates running in District 2 they would vote for.
Brenda Matthews said she worries that there hasn’t been enough time for residents to make an informed decision about the candidates.
“I just feel like this whole Brookhaven thing has been rushed. We should not be here Oct. 30 meeting the candidates,” Brenda Matthews said.
The two said they were not in favor of forming a city, but now that it exists they want to make sure it is well-run.
“This is an important vote. If you don’t get the right people with fair heads and open minds it can get out of hand real fast,” Richard Matthews said.
Valeria Horner was interested in talking to the candidates about their strategy for public safety. The Buford Highway resident said she would like to see better police protection and more measures for pedestrian safety on the major thoroughfare.
“We probably live in the most diverse part in District 4 and we want to have everyone’s input,” she said.
Horner also said she’s looking for a candidate with a history of community advocacy.
“For us there’s a big difference between someone who’d been involved in the community and someone who’s just getting involved.”
Rick Asbill, who lives in District 3, said he wanted a chance to meet some of the eight people running for that seat.
“We had no clue as to who the candidates were, what the positions were, or how the city of Brookhaven works,” Asbill said.
Asbill said he’s concerned about the transition from DeKalb County to Brookhaven providing services because he’s been happy with the services he’s received from the county.
“I hope we don’t get rid of them and not have a plan,” Asbill said.
About 20 candidates attended the informal Oct. 30 forum. Candidates set up tables with signs, flyers and sometimes even sweets to lure potential voters. People wandered through the gymnasium, stopping at different tables to talk with the candidates and each other along the way.
Carole Simpson was talking with Asbill and his wife, Lynn, all four holding handfuls of slick campaign flyers in patriotic colors.
“This has been the fastest process,” Carole Simpson said, lamenting the short window she has to learn about the candidates hoping to lead the new city.
Simpson said she plans to vote early but wanted to wait until she could talk to some of the candidates running for Brookhaven City Council.
“We’re sitting there kind of in the dark,” she said, noting what an important vote it will be. “It impacts everything.”
The candidates themselves say campaigning has been a challenge, too. Not only do they have to distinguish themselves from their opponents, but they have to educate voters about the city of Brookhaven.
Jim Eyre, who is running in District 2, said when he meets with residents they often will ask him a lot of questions about the new city.
“Obviously, people are concerned about getting the city started right,” Eyre said. “They still don’t have a handle on what services we will provide.”
Dawne Hurst, whose husband Larry Hurst is running for District 2, attended the forum in his place. She said they have enjoyed the process of meeting people in the community and hearing what they want to see for Brookhaven.
“Larry and I have had more of a grassroots effort and done a lot of campaigning ourselves,” she said.
Russell Mitchell, another District 2 candidate, said because the mayor and council races are non-partisan, voters have to put in more time to learn about the individual candidates.
“They can’t vote down party lines,” he said. “I think it’s fantastic that I can be me and I don’t have to be so structured.”