Elections in Clarkston — our Ellis Island — reflects our growing diversity

By Saba Long

A decades-long haven for international refugees, the City of Clarkston is easily the most diverse square mile of DeKalb County and the State of Georgia.

With a population of nearly 8,000, the Ellis Island of the South is in the midst of an interesting mayoral and City Council elections with the incumbent mayor, Emanuel Ransom, an African-American, facing two challengers – Ibrahim Awow Sufi, a Somali-American; and Ted Terry, a resident of Clarkston for the past two years.

Most recently, Terry, as a field coordinator of Georgia Solar Utilities Inc., successfully lobbied the Georgia Public Service Commission to expand solar power usage in the state. As a mayoral candidate, Terry’s campaign platform includes public safety and green energy, including the use of LED street lights similar to those in Sandy Springs.

Also important to watch are the responses and positions that the three mayoral candidates will have towards the international refugee community.

In a 2012 PBS documentary, Clarkston was called “the future of America on steroids.” Its nearly 8,000 population includes East Africans, Vietnamese, Iraqis, Bosnians, Sudanese, and Bhutanese.

In the same year, the federally operated Government Accountability Office (GAO) issued a report highlighting the need for local community stakeholder engagement in refugee resettlement. The report indicated, locals were “not initially consulted regarding the resettlement of thousands of refugees beginning in 1996, [and] described the flight of long-time residents from the town in response to refugee resettlement and the perceived deterioration of the quality of schools.”

In response to these concerns, local and state elected officials reduced refugee placements in Clarkston, only placing new refugees with relatives already settled in the city.

Notable nonprofits, including the International Rescue Committee and World Relief, partner with the local and state government to provide transition assistance and self-sufficiency services to recipients.

With a current budget just under $3.5 million, this small city will have to partner with the federal government, the State of Georgia, DeKalb County, the Atlanta Regional Commission and other entities to capitalize on the challenges and opportunities of its diverse community.

Saba Long is a communications and political professional who lives in downtown Atlanta. She serves as the senior council aide and communications liaison for Post 2 At-Large Atlanta City Councilman Aaron Watson. Most recently, Saba was the press secretary for MAVEN and Untie Atlanta -- the Metro Chamber’s education and advocacy campaigns in supportive of the Atlanta Regional Transportation Referendum. She has consulted with H.E.G. an analytics and evaluation firm where she lent strategic marketing and social media expertise to numerous political campaigns, including that of Fulton County Chairman John Eaves and the 2010 Clayton County transportation referendum. In 2009, Saba served as the deputy campaign manager for the campaign of City Council President Ceasar Mitchell. Previously, Saba was a Junior Account Executive at iFusion Marketing, where she lent fractional marketing strategy to various ATDC technology startups operating out of the Georgia Tech incubator, ATDC. For the past two years, Saba has presented on online marketing and politics to the incoming fellows of the Atlanta chapter of the New Leaders Council.

1 reply
  1. moliere says:

    “Emanuel Ransom, an African-American, facing two challengers – Ibrahim Awow Sufi, a Somali-American”
    Pardon me, but Ibrahim Awow Sufi is the actual African-American. Emanuel Ransom is a black American. Or at the very least, you could have called the former an African-American from America and the latter an African-American from Somalia. Now I am one who says that black Americans should stop referring to themselves as African-Americans when Italian-Americans, Irish-Americans and other European ethnic hyphenated Americans do the same. But still, Mr. Sufi is the one who can far more legitimately claim to be African-American than Mr. Ransom in this political contest.Report

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