Allen, Hill allies on hand to celebrate

In a bombshell move, the Forest Park City Council voted to name former Clayton County Assistant Chief Deputy Brandon Criss as police chief, then announced it was terminating City Manager Dr. Marc-Antonie Cooper’s contract, appointing James Shelby as interim city manager, and naming Jonesboro City Manager Ricky L. Clark, Jr. as sole candidate to replace Cooper.

On hand were Criss, several CCSO deputies, District 1 Commissioner Dr. Alieka Anderson, Clayton County Board of Education District 4 member Victoria Williams, radio personality Dee Cee, and Rumours Gentlemen’s Club owner Jonathan Rashmir.

Among the revelers was Interim Sheriff Levon Allen.

Clark told The Clayton Crescent he turned in his resignation during a special called meeting in Jonesboro at 6 p.m., the same time as Forest Park’s work session.

Watch video after the second executive session:

YouTube video

Councilmembers were reluctant to comment on why Copper had been summarily let go. However, Councilwoman Latresa Akins-Wells told The Clayton Crescent, “We just felt like he needed to get from behind the desk and get out and about more.”

Here is video of the unanimous vote to approve hiring Criss as police chief:

YouTube video

Officials’ comments

Kimberly James, Ward 1: “I want to say congratulations to our incoming chief—there he is back there, in case y’all don’t know—congratulations [applause]. We had some great candidates, and we had a great person that we have selected, so we’re excited about that.”

Dabouze Antoine, Ward 2: “I wanna give a big, big, huge, huge shoutout to our new police chief, Mr. Criss. Ward 2, I’m talking about you, it’s about you right now, you, the citizens of Ward 2, gonna make sure that we have a community meeting with our chief, Ward 2, we will be having back our Neighborhood Watch, chief confirmed that, and the police academy that we talked about, and we will be meeting with the chief one-on-one.”

Héctor Gutierrez, Ward 3: “Shoutout to our school board member for coming out, thank you Ms. Williams. Shoutout to our commissioner, Dr. Anderson, we see you in the front, thank you for coming out. Congratulations to Chief Criss. I love that smile, and I can’t wait to see that, you kow, around our city, so keep smiling.”

Latresa Akins-Wells, Ward 4: “I know that we have an election that’s going on right now, but I wanted to send my condolences to Sheriff Allen and his family. I attended his dad’s service on Saturday. The one thing in the past I’ve said is you don’t beat a man when they’re down. And I wholeheartedly believe in that. You know, put aside the campaign and the differences and what you feel people are doing and what they aren’t doing, at the end of the day, people, we’re human. And we go through things, and we need you to get through those things. And so I just wanted to say my sincere condolences to him and his family, the sheriff’s department, you know, I know some of you are here. And just hold him up. And this is me not saying I’m supporting nobody, it don’t matter. but hold him up. Lift him up. Pray for him. Don’t kick him while he’s down. I had to say that. [Ed.: The Cox camp suspended its campaign, cancelled a scheduled candidate forum, and extended public condolences to Allen.] I wanted to say, chief, thank you so much, we welcome you, we appreciate you, and I myself didn’t get to go to all three interview sessions, but that last one, you made me proud, and all you had to do was speak about community policing because I’m all about my community. So I feel like you will come in and do the job that needs to be done and I ain’t gonna tell you it’s gonna be easy. You know, but we’ll pray for you, and give you the tools that you need to take that department to where it can be taken to. So thank you so much.”

Allan Mears, Ward 5: “I, too, want to congratulate the new police chief, looking forward to working with him in the community.”

Mayor Angelyne Butler: “Well, I echo the sentiments of my colleagues and Chief Criss, I welcome you to the City of Forest Park. Believe it or not, everything prior to this part was easy. So now, it’s time to roll up your sleeves and do the job that I know you can do. And so, you have the support of the mayor and council to fully execute your position. So I thank you for being here.”

James: “I would be remiss if I did not acknowledge Deputy Chief Johnson for stepping up and being our interim, or stepping in that space while we did not have a chief, so a round of applause for Deputy Chief Johnson.” [applause]

Butler: “And I do want to thank Dr. Anderson. Is there anything you want to say while you’re here, ma’am?”

Anderson: “I just want to say to you all, thank you for all that you all do. You all keep saying that this job is a hard job . But you know what, it’s easy because you do it well. So thank you guys for all that you all do in the city of Forest Park. Thank you all for letting me work with you all, and I just want to say that you all have a wonderful—when I say ‘a wonderful,’ you all have a wonderful police chief that is coming to you all, and I just want to say that, you know, he’s gonna step up to the plate because I’ve already told him, I said, ‘You’re coming from good stock, you’re coming from that sheriff’s department, so you can’t embarrass me.’ So I talked to him like he was my son and let him know, ‘You’re gonna do this job and you’re gonna do it well.’ Just to the citizens and everyone here, like Ms. Wells was saying, please continue to pray for everyone. Please continue to lift everyone up. We need that and we’re trying to move Clayton County forward, so all of the negativity, all of the things that come at us, you know, I understand. And I want us to all start working together. Our job is to work together to move this community forward. And that’s what we’re gonna do from District 1, 2, 3, and 4, all across Clayton County. We deserve better, our citizens deserve better, and we are giving them better, and I commend you all for everything that you do, I love y’all, and there’s nothing you can do about it.”

Meanwhile in Jonesboro…

At 6p.m., just as Forest Park was starting its work session, the Jonesboro City Council began its special called meeting.

Councilman Ed Wise said, “I’d like to make the motion, regrettably, that we accept the resignation of our city manager, Ricky Clark, and accept the terms, and, and…”

The motion was seconded and passed unanimously.

“Is there a second motion?” asked Mayor Donta Sartor.

“I’d like to make a motion that we appoint Melissa [Brooks] as interim city clerk.”

That also was seconded and passed unanimously.

“I would like to give our city manager, Ricky Clark, a moment of personal privilege,” Sartor said. “Not to be his last.”

Clark said, “Yes, ma’am. To this Jonesboro community, it has been indeed the honor of my life to serve here. This resignation was not one that was easy for me but one of the things—”

He choked back tears.

“One of the things that I can say is that Jonesboro has helped catapult my career. And for that, I’ll forever be grateful. We’ve done some amazing work here and the work continues. My commitment to this city is that I’ll always sing your praises because you are the reason that we are here today as we sit in this building and we look around, it’s just a testament to what good hard work really can do for a community when everybody works together. And so thank you for this opportunity to serve. I promise that I’m going out and I’m going to make you all proud. Thank you.”

Clark cried as he received a standing ovation. His colleagues on the dais also wiped tears.

Sartor asked the council if anyone wanted to comment. No one spoke. She added, “Also council, I want to thank you all so much for allowing us to be able to do this in a peaceful transition, and I will keep you all posted.”

The council was visibly shocked by Clark’s sudden departure. It was Clark who had stewarded most of the past several years of visible changes to downtown Jonesboro.

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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