As November 5 grows ever closer, local political groups teamed up to help City of Fayetteville voters get to know the candidates in this year’s municipal elections. On Oct. 7, the Fayette County Branch of the NAACP, the Fayette County Democratic Committee, the Fayette County Republican Party, and the Fayette County Democratic Women presented a meet and greet forum for Fayetteville City Council candidates at the county public library.
Fayetteville Mayor Ed Johnson, who is running for reelection unopposed, opened the evening by calling it electrifying to see so many gathered to hear the candidates speak.
Council Post 1 pits incumbent Harlan Shirley against Darryl Langford and Phil Onyedumekwu. Onyedumekwu was unable to attend the forum. Post 2 pits incumbent Kathaleen Brewer against Joe Clark, Oyin Mitchell, and Kevin Pratt II.
Among both races, the themes were common, even if the candidates might have different road maps to reach similar goals. Economic development, attracting and retaining young residents, and alleviating traffic issues ranked among the top priorities across the board.
Harlan Shirley’s message was a simple one. He’s been on the council that has set the course for the future of the city, and he wants the opportunity to see it through to the end.
“I have seen a lot of transitions, a lot of changes, become a reality, but they’re only a reality on paper, and they have not become a reality through moving dirt or seeing things actually start happening. For me, that is the most important part of being a public servant, to be able to see what you have done or what you have voted for become a reality,” said Shirley.
He said that the chemistry on council has allowed them accomplish much in his four years, and he would like four more before he retires.
“For the last four years, our team has worked diligently together to create an atmosphere that we can get along with one another and with the community,” he said. “I want to see what we have voted on and what we have struggled to see become a reality actually become that reality, and we will do it when we start seeing dirt turn.”
Darryl Langford believes his leadership, aided by a lengthy Army career as a Lt. Colonel and roles as a teacher and an associate pastor, make him the right man for the job.
“People don’t care how much you know until they know how much you care,” Langford said. “I’m a servant, and one thing I know about servants is that they put people first. I don’t want to consider myself a politician, I’m a servant, and I would like to serve the people of Fayetteville.”
He likes the direction Fayetteville is headed in terms of plans for economic development and improvements to the downtown area, and he wants to keep it going.
“I really approve of and am excited about what the city has going on right now,” he said. “I am running for city council because I want to expand on that success.
“I would like to add my leadership to make sure that economic development comes.”
Kathaleen Brewer pointed to her track record on council as the incumbent and as someone not afraid to ask the tough questions.
“I think what I bring to the table for the council is a creative mind and a visionary mind,” she said. “I think I’m the one who always wants to the know ’why’ behind why decisions are made and how they came about.”
Joe Clark, who is a Planning and Zoning Commissioner, wants to fight for his adopted home, having moved here in 2015.
“I believe Fayetteville has arrived at a moment in time where big decisions have to be made. We are at the point of where we can either stay where we’re at, or we can grow smart,” he said. “It’s not about getting the job, it’s about getting the job done.”
He pointed to supporting small businesses as a key to a thriving Fayetteville. Studies showing small businesses generate 80 percent of jobs in America, Clark said.
“We have got to support our local businesses, and we need to encourage everybody to shop here. If we can buy it here, buy it here,” he said. “The longterm solution for any city is pay attention to your small businesses. They are the number one thing that keeps a city going.”
Oyin Mitchell said that she appreciates the city’s comprehensive plan, but wants to get feedback from more residents.
“I believe that my candidacy represents growth. I am in favor of courageous conversations that can help the overall benefit of all the people that are within in the city,” she said.
“We need to make sure that we have everyone’s voice in order to know where we’re going.”
Kevin Pratt boasted that his experience in recruiting businesses and negotiating big-money contracts would be a huge boost to Fayetteville’s economic development goals.
“I believe Fayetteville is the best-kept secret, and I would do my best to recruit STEM and tech companies,” he said. “I am the most qualified candidate here today because I have recruited STEM companies, and I am the most qualified candidate because I have personally negotiated contracts.”
He also pointed to his history in serving others, including over 1,600 hours spent volunteering.
“I am not a politician, I am a community servant,” he said. “I looked at what the city needed and how I can influx my value proposition for the city because I want to be a value add, not a hindrance.”
Advanced In Person (Early) Voting is available Oct. 14-18 and 21-25 from 8 a.m. until 5 p.m. and Oct. 28-Nov. 1 from 7 a.m. until 5 p.m. Early voting locations are the Fayette County Administrative Complex, Peachtree City Library, and Tyrone Town Hall. Polls will be open on Election Day, November 5, from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. A runoff election, if required is Dec 3.