Councilman Denny Shortal and wife Meredy celebrate Shortal’s re-election to the District 1, Post 1 seat on City Council.
Councilman Denny Shortal and wife Meredy celebrate Shortal’s re-election to the District 1, Post 1 seat on City Council.

Dunwoody’s cranky 2013 election season ended by returning two incumbents to Dunwoody City Council, where they’ll be joined by a critic of the council.

Councilman Doug Thompson, who won re-election to the District 3, Post 3 seat with 51 percent of the vote, said on election night that the Nov. 5 election results showed voters were sharply divided on a number of issues. Fellow incumbent Councilman Denis Shortal collected 58 percent of the vote in his race.

“It was so close that I don’t think either side can think their platform was the consensus opinion of the majority of Dunwoody,” Thompson said. “I think the election showed the issues we’re dealing with are very close in citizens’ minds.”

Only about one in five of Dunwoody’s registered voters showed up at the polls to decide the three council seats up for election. But the election drew eight candidates for the three seats, including three newcomers who announced they would run together as a slate to oust sitting council members in a “clean sweep” of Dunwoody government.

The sharp divisions shown during the election campaign spilled over in Dunwoody City Council’s meeting Nov. 12. Shortal said “the negativity in the last election was a little bit hard.”

“I think it’s time for all of us to get together,” Shortal said.

But Councilwoman Adrian Bonser, who did not seek re-election to her District 2, Post 2 seat, said the election showed a large number of voters rejected “the elitists in the city.”

“It does not appear the ‘clean sweep’ candidates had much of an impact, but they did,” Bonser said. “Fifty-one percent of the voters voted against the status quo.”

On Nov. 5, “clean sweep” candidate Jim Riticher took 52 percent of the votes in the District 2, Post 2 race to claim that council seat over two other candidates, Heyward Wescott and William A.J. Mercier.

Riticher and fellow “clean sweep” candidates Henly Shelton and Sam Eads said they wanted to change the direction of Dunwoody’s city government, which had produced loud complaints from residents who opposed several city projects.

Lindsay Ballow, left, congratulates Councilman Doug Thompson on his re-election in District 3, Post 3.
Lindsay Ballow, left, congratulates Councilman Doug Thompson on his re-election in District 3, Post 3.

Residents opposed to the city projects, including a proposal to rebuild Dunwoody Village Parkway and a design for a multi-use trail in Brook Run Park, organized a group called Save Dunwoody, who attended city meetings and posted yard signs critical of the projects.

Riticher said he thought he could make a difference as the sole newcomer on the council. “I can keep them on their toes,” Riticher said during a celebration party on Election Night. “We’ll try to shine lots of light.”

After the election, Save Dunwoody member Jim Dickson said the vote totals “verify the continued disconnect between the Dunwoody City Council and Dunwoody residents.”

On Nov. 5 each council district was treated as a separate election, with voters within a district voting only on the seat representing that district. But Dickson, like Bonser, argued that adding all the votes cast together showed half the city’s residents cast their ballots for candidates who did not support the city’s current direction.

“These election results are significant since the three coalition candidates were against the experienced politicians and others who make up the Dunwoody political establishment, the private club of insiders,” Dickson said.

But Thompson said he thought the election results meant city officials would continue in their current direction. “I think Dunwoody will continue the course it’s on,” he said.

But he said city officials will have to pay closer attention to their constituents.

“Nobody is going to sit here and say we’ve got a real majority going forward,” Thompson said.

In the race for the District 1, Post 1 seat, Shortal collected the largest percentage of votes cast of any of the candidates. With 58 percent of the vote, he handily outpolled Shelton, who collected 39 percent, and the third candidate in the race, David Davis, who received 3 percent.

After the votes were reported, Shortal said he planned to try to bring the city together again. “My idea is to move forward …,” Shortal said. “This is our city. We all need to stand together.”

Joe Earle is Editor-at-Large. He has more than 30-years of experience with daily newspapers, including the Atlanta Journal-Constitution and was Managing Editor of Reporter Newspapers.