City of Mableton voters hit the polls in first day of early voting

Feb. 27—MABLETON — South Cobb residents turned out for the first day of early voting Monday to elect their new mayor and council.

As of 5:20 p.m. Monday, Cobb Elections Director Janine Eveler said 106 people voted at the Mable House Arts Center, while another 37 had cast ballots at the South Cobb Community Center.

Cobb elections says the new city of Mableton has about 47,200 active registered voters.

"It's been steady but not especially busy, and everything's gone very well," Eveler said, adding that no issues had been reported at either location.

Just four people had voted at the South Cobb Community Center as of 11 a.m. on a drizzly morning Monday, poll workers there said, but the pace picked up as lunchtime approached.

At the polls, voters are prioritizing different issues and bringing with them varying opinions of cityhood.

Around noon, Beulah Hannon told the MDJ that Mableton becoming a city was important to her because as the area grows, she doesn't want it to lean as heavily on the county and neighboring cities for services like sanitation.

Hannon also addressed those who have launched an effort to de-annex from the city before it officially seats its first mayor and council.

"I think they're looking at the worst part of it, because we will have some hiccups as far as trash," Hannon said. "Forming a whole new government's going to be hard, but I think it's going to be worth it in the long run. I think if we do this, our property values will continue to rise."

On the other side of the debate, Wanda Abernathy said she was opposed to the new city and stood by the efforts of the group De-Annex from Mableton, formerly known as Preserve South Cobb, to de-annex parts of the city where residents voted against incorporation.

In fact, she said she was not aware of the different candidates' platforms — "there was nothing, I saw nothing," Abernathy said — and she only knew about early voting because of a phone call she received Monday.

Kent Aberle, a musician living in Mableton City Council District 4, said he was aware of the significant pushback of some residents to the cityhood effort, and he is interested in how the formation of the city's government ends up.

"I feel like they need to be heard as well, but mostly just to make sure that it's done smoothly, and the candidates I kind of went for are people who really put out everything they had in mind, all their bullet points and everything that they wanted to accomplish, they put on their sites," Aberle said.

James Shepherd, a pastor living in the Six Flags area, said he voted based on his interest in how the new city's administration would focus on infrastructure.

Another local resident, Iasia Al-Shabbaz, brought along her granddaughter, Amari Beler, to see the democratic process at work. While Beler is not yet old enough to vote, her grandmother thought it important that Beler accompany her to the polls.

"I got to, because if I show her, she can serve somebody else," Al-Shabbaz said. "She can reach a different generation than I can."

Al-Shabbaz said she hopes the new city will help to address crime in the area, and she expects her local leaders to work with those in other Cobb cities and at the county level to make the area safer for all.

"You better run for the right reason, and the reason is the community, not your resume, the community. That's what I want you serving: the community. Us," Al-Shabbaz said.

Early voting runs Monday through Friday from Feb. 27 to March 17 at the South Cobb Community Center (620 Lions Club Drive, Mableton) and Mable House Arts Center (5239 Floyd Road, Mableton). Polls will be open during the week from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m.

Early voting will also take place at both locations on Saturday, March 4 and Saturday, March 11 from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.

The city of Mableton, comprising the southernmost portion of Cobb County, will offer four services — zoning, code enforcement, parks and recreation and sanitation — to roughly 77,500 people between Austell and Smyrna, making it Cobb's seventh and largest city.

Residents in the city limits voted to incorporate in the Nov. 8 general election, when cityhood was approved with 13,191 votes, or 53%, to 11,694 votes, or 47%.