Dunwoody Mayor Denis Shortal’s recent announcement that is not seeking reelection and retiring from politics to spend time with his family has not shaken out any new mayoral candidates in a race that will be decided in November.
City Councilmember Terry Nall remains the only declared candidate for mayor, having announced his intent to run for the seat in February.
Most other members of the City Council say they are not running for mayor, Councilmember Lynn Deutsch, who is up for reelection, has not yet decided on a re-election or a mayoral campaign. Another possible contender, DeKalb County Commissioner Nancy Jester, says she will not run.
Jester, a Dunwoody resident, has been rumored by some local politicians as a potential mayoral candidate. She said in an interview she has no plans to leave her seat to run for mayor.
“I feel like I have more work to do at the county,” she said. As chair of the Finance and Budget Committee, Jester said, she wants to continue to work on progress made in getting DeKalb’s “fiscal house in order.” She said she is also carefully monitoring the county’s federal consent decree requiring rehabilitation and repair of aging sewer infrastructure to reduce sewage spills.
“I think it wouldn’t be good for my constituents to leave this position in the middle of my term,” she said. “I just can’t abandon my duties.”
Besides the mayor’s seat, two council seats are up for election. Councilmember John Heneghan said he is seeking another term on the council and is not running for mayor now. He might consider a run for mayor in the next election, he added.
Deutsch said she has not decided if she will seek reelection for her council seat or run for mayor.
The other councilmembers — Jim Riticher, Pam Tallmadge and Tom Lambert — all said they are not running for mayor.
“Now that Denny [Shortal] has stated he is retiring from politics, and I think he’s done a great job, I’m glad to endorse Terry Nall for mayor,” Riticher said.
Tallmadge said she is a proponent of term limits and will only serve two terms on the council, this being her second term, and has no plans for higher office. Lambert said he is happy in his current position.
The city election is Nov. 5, with candidate qualifying being held between Aug. 19 and 21.
Stacey Harris, a longtime civic activist and current member of the Zoning Board of Appeals, has already announced she is running for Nall’s seat on the City Council.
The EMS response issue
Shortal made the surprise announcement of his political retirement during last month’s “State of the City” address.
Although Shortal and Nall won’t be facing off in a mayoral race, Shortal appeared to take a jab at the candidate for his seat in elsewhere in his “State of the City” speech by addressing DeKalb County’s ambulance response times, an issue “that has been batted around here quite a bit,” he said.
Last year, Shortal and DeKalb CEO Michael Thurmond worked behind the scenes to come up with a memorandum of understanding that included adding a third ambulance to the city during peak hours and creating tiered response times for critical and non-critical emergencies.
Nall expressed disappointment at the time with the MOU because he and other council members believe the best avenue for Dunwoody is to have its own EMS zone, separate from DeKalb. Shortal has said he no longer supports that position. Nall has made the issue a key plank in his campaign platform.
“That’s a binding agreement,” Shortal said of the MOU, pointing to a blowup image of it on a projection screen.
“We’ve come a long way in a short time. … and [CEO] Thurmond and I have a mutual trust. I trust that man.” The two men then hugged before Shortal continued with his speech.
In a written statement, Nall said he understands that Shortal “personally trusts” the county CEO.
“But the more accountable corollary is ‘trust, but verify,’” Nall said. “Personally, I’m in the ‘verify’ camp already, as that’s where Dunwoody finds itself today with DeKalb County EMS ambulance services. It will require our continued vigilance to ensure responsive public safety in the future for our residents, businesses, and visitors.”