2021: Georgia voters usher in new leadership

Middle Georgia selected several new mayors to lead their communities in a new direction.

MACON, Georgia (41NBC/WMGT) – Georgia voters helped create numerous history-making political firsts in 2021. They started off the year by sending two new Democratic senators to Washington to represent the Peach State. Jon Ossoff defeated incumbent Republican U.S. Senator David Perdue. And Raphael Warnock beat out the recently appointed Republican U.S. Senator Kelly Loeffler. Their wins gave Democrats control of the U.S. Senate just as the newly elected President Joe Biden took office.

In Middle Georgia, voters also selected several new mayors to lead their communities in a new direction. Most recently, Larhonda Patrick made history by becoming the first female and the first elected black mayor of Warner Robins. She beat out incumbent Mayor Randy Toms in a November run-off election. The transition comes as the city faces a $423,000 tax lien.

Fort Valley residents also elected a new mayor this year, but not without some controversy. In August, Mayor Barbara Williams announced she would not seek re-election. Councilman LeMario Brown and businessman Jeffery Lundy vied for her position. During early voting, Lundy was removed from the ballot after the local elections supervisor ruled he didn’t live in the city limits. Lundy challenged the ruling and the Superior court ordered his name back on the ballot. In the end, voters elected Lundy. A recount proved he won by just 19 votes.

The Dublin mayoral election was less dramatic. Former Mayor Phil Best announced his retirement in February after 22 years of service. Joshua Kight would get the position after running against former city councilman Jerry Davis.

And in Macon-Bibb County, attorney Lester Miller took office as mayor after winning his run-off election in 2020. The new mayor got to work fighting blight, COVID spread and crime.

Attorney Anita Howard made history when she took office as District Attorney for the Macon Judicial Circuit. She is the first woman of color to lead the office. She got to work hosting a series of virtual Q & A Sessions and published a magazine to demonstrate office transparency. But that transparency was questioned in June, when she was a no-show for a Media Roundtable Discussion. By October, six assistant district attorneys and a senior ADA resigned from the office.

A new face is leading the Houston County District Attorney’s Office too. Former District Attorney George Hartwig retired in September after serving in the post since 2010. Chief Assistant District Attorney William Kendall stepped into the role of Acting District Attorney. In two months, he hired eight additional prosecutors–some from Bibb County.

Middle Georgia saw new leadership in the field of education too. Doctor Mack Bullard left the Bibb County School District in February to lead the Twiggs County School System as superintendent. And soon there will be a new Bibb County School District superintendent. That’s because current leader Doctor Curtis Jones announced in September, He would retire at the end of the school year after seven years in the role. A nationwide search is under way for his replacement.

And finally, the highest court in Georgia welcomed a new justice in 2021. Governor Brian Kemp selected a judge with Macon ties to serve on the State Supreme Court. Judge Verda Colvin served in the Macon Judicial Circuit and the Court of Appeals for the Middle District. In July, she filled the seat of retiring Chief Justice Harold Melton.

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