Clarkston’s new Mayor Ted Terry said he may be one of the youngest mayors in the United States, but that doesn’t translate into inexperience.
“I’ve worked for elected officials, city councilmen, mayors, Congress members and more over the past 10 years. I’ve been fortunate to work for all levels of government and have been able to really get a good feel of how they work,” Terry said.
Terry beat incumbent Mayor Emmanuel Ransom and challenger Ibrahim Awow Sufi Nov. 5. He begins his term in January.
Although he has only lived in the city for two years, Terry said he has gotten to know the issues the city faces by speaking with neighbors and going door-to-door in the community. He said his neighbors encouraged him to run for mayor and he ran a grassroots campaign.
“If you want to be a public servant that is truly representative of people, you’ve got to know what they think. All of the issues I ran on are things I learned from my neighbors, community members and new residents of Clarkston,” Terry said.
Terry said his time spent going to more than 1,000 homes and introducing himself to residents made him realize that Clarkston is a bigger city than people think. One apartment complex on one side of the town may have completely different problems than another one.
“The issues are totally different but there’s a unifying theme and people really want to be more involved in working with the government,” Terry said.
One of the ways Terry plans to bring more community involvement into the city’s government is through the use of participatory budgeting, something he said other cities and counties are taking a look at.
Terry said a small portion of the annual budget will be given to community members and taxpayers to allow them to decide how the money should be spent. People will then come together over the span of several months and brainstorm how to use the money.
“That’s one way I think we can get all of the people in the community involved in the process,” Terry said.
Other issues Terry said he heard while on the campaign trail are crime in the city and improving education. He said the city has a great police force but there still needs to be more community involvement in catching criminals, which is why the city is starting a new neighborhood watch program.
Although Clarkston can’t do much about the curriculum implemented in the DeKalb County public schools that serve the community, Terry said developing ways for students to continue learning after school in their communities is key.
“We need to make sure that they have a place to learn when they come back into the city like a world-class after school system,” Terry said.
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