Payback pays off for Joe Lockwood; Mayor, irked by 2 on City Council, drives their defeat.
By Doug NurseThe Atlanta Journal-ConstitutionPublished on: 11/11/07
A thoroughly ticked-off Mayor Joe Lockwood cranked out a blistering memo in January to City Council members, warning them not to trifle with him or there would be a reckoning.
"I have no problem harnessing my public support, and the people that voted me in, in order to do what is best for our city," Lockwood wrote after confusion over an agenda for a meeting."So anyone with their own personal agendas, lack of respect for me, lack of respect for any City Council person, or failure to work as a united team, please be aware that there will be a time in the future that all of us will be in the position of running for re-election. ..."It seems he meant it.
For the rest of the year, Lockwood remained on the losing end of a 4-3 split on the Milton City Council.But when election time came, he went to work to defeat two members of the majority who had nettled him time and again.After the ballots were counted Tuesday, council members Neal O'Brien and Rick Mohrig went down by roughly a 2-1 margin.
Milton and Johns Creek became cities on Dec. 1 after holding elections a few weeks prior. Half of the six City Council members served initial terms of one year. The other three will serve for three years, standing for re-election in 2009. All subsequent elections will be for 4-year terms. The mayor's first term is three years, too.
The three candidates Lockwood supported, incumbent Julie Zahner Bailey, and challengers Burt Hewitt and Alan Tart, were dubbed Team Lockwood by the opposition."He had an impact," said defeated Councilman Rick Mohrig. "He's prominent and well-known in the community. People listen to what the mayor has to say. It was a deciding factor."
Lockwood, a building contractor, made appearances on behalf of Tart, Hewitt and Zahner Bailey. He helped raise money, put up signs, sent e-mails and published political advertisements.Lockwood polled about 4,100 votes in his race for mayor last year, more than the number of people who voted for cityhood.
"I had a number of people tell me they supported me because of Joe," Hewitt said. "But I had just as many say they supported me because I wasn't the other guy. The mayor's support certainly didn't hurt. A lot of people like Joe. But I can't say how it would have turned out if he hadn't been involved. I'd like to think I got a vote or two myself."
Lockwood said he just wanted to be able to work with a City Council that wasn't set against him.It was a calculated risk. If Lockwood won, he would send a signal that his popularity could help shape the council's agenda. If he lost, he was toast. The reigning majority would steamroll him for the rest of his term."It's very unusual for a mayor to get that involved in City Council races, especially against incumbents," said Councilwoman Karen Thurman, who supported the losing slate. "He rolled the dice and he won."