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Jonesboro’s first Black mayor, Dr. Donya Lyn Sartor, was ceremonially sworn in before a crowd of elected officials, dignitaries, politicos, and citizens Friday evening, March 31, 2023. It was a pivotal moment in the history of this city, where the Civil War’s pivotal Battle of Jonesboro was fought in 1864, the myth of Tara draws tourists from around the world, and the Ku Klux Klan briefly rented out office space to the Federal Aviation Administration in 1965.

“So there’s this phenomenon on the Earth called confluence,” Sartor told the crowd. “In nature, it’s when two rivers meet, and they join together. Each river existed separately, but when they met at this point of confluence, all of a sudden they were stronger together. They were a force to be reckoned with. This is a moment of political confluence. I cannot ignore the fact that this election has caused division, or simply exposed division that has already existed. Hence the timeliness of this idea of confluence. You all, we are indeed stronger together.

“This also reminds me of a similar moment from our sixteenth President, Abraham Lincoln. And how ironic: I’m the sixteenth mayor. He was at a point where he was doing his inaugural speech, and he could have taken that platform to criticize the Confederate Army. But at the last minute, he decided not to go with strong, convicting words. He was going to write, ‘Shall it be peace by peace or by sword?’ But in that moment, he decided to bring the people together. And he began his speech with, ‘We are not enemies. We are indeed friends.'”

Councilmember Billy Powell and former Mayor Pro Tempore Tracey Messick were present. Notably absent from the occasion were Sartor’s opponent, Pat Sebo-Hand, who had been considered a near shoo-in for the mayor’s seat and had heavy support from former Mayor Joy Day. Both had expressed concern about the contest’s impact on their friendship. Councilmembers Ed Wise and Bobby Lester also were not on the dais.

Watch Sartor’s full speech

The Jonesboro High School Marching Cardinals, fresh off the morning’s announcement that they will march in the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade in New York, played for the gathering (including a rendition of Sam Smith’s “Unholy”).

Councilmembers Alfred W. Dixon, Jr., who replaces Sartor on the council, and Don Dixon, who replaces Sebo-Hand, each took their oaths of office. Don Dixon will serve through December 31, 2025. Alfred Dixon was visibly moved and said he was happy to be back as councilman. He will serve through December 31 of this year, which means another election for the full term will take place this November:

Also taking the ceremonial oath of office were newly-elected Georgia House District 75 Rep. Eric Bell (who immediately took office during the tail end of the last Genral Assembly session), with former District 75 Rep. Mike Glanton and family looking on. Glanton was walking with a cane as he continues to recover from a stroke. City Manager Ricky L. Clark, Jr. presented Glanton with Sartor’s first official proclamation, thanking him for his service in the Georgia House.

After the ceremony, Sartor hugged supporters, sang with sisters of Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, Inc. (including School Board Chair Jessie Goree), and fielded her first impromptu press conference as mayor. Everyone was invited into City Hall for a buffet, where a few members of Sartor’s field team were spotted.

Among those in attendance were Councilmembers Chairman Jeff Turner and Darlene Turner, Clayton County Chief Operating Officer Detrick Stanford, District 1 Commissioner Dr. Alieka Anderson, District 2 Commissioner Gail Hambrick, District 4 Commissioner DeMont Davis, Solicitor-General Charles Brooks, Superior Court Judge Jewel Scott, Chief Magistrate Judge Keisha Wright Hill, Jonesboro Municipal Court Chief Judge Charles Keith Wood, Jr., State Rep. Rhonda Burnough, State Rep. Sandra Scott, State Sen. Gail Davenport, Clayton County School Board Chair Jessie Goree, School Board District 7 Member Sabrina Hill, Interim Sheriff Levon Allen, sheriff’s candidate Clarence Cox III, Clayton County Economic Development Officer and newly-appointed Stone Mountain Memorial Association board member Erica Rocker, former Jonesboro City Council candidate Arlene Charles, Stockbridge Councilwoman Neat Robinson, Clayton County Chamber of Commerce President and CEO Valencia Williamson, former Jonesboro Executive Assistant Cable Brooks, Anthony L. Watkins of Anthony L. Watkins Funeral Home, Michael Hightower of The Collaborative Group, John Funny and Attania Jean-Funny.

Please e-mail if you were there and had thoughts about the historic moment.

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Robin Kemp is executive editor and CEO of The Clayton Crescent, which she founded in 2020. She has worked for Gambit, CNN, The Weather Channel, Clayton News, Henry Herald, and numerous freelance outlets....

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