In Gwinnett, much of the focus during last week’s primary elections was on commission and school board races. But it was Ronda Colvin-Leary who made history.
Colvin-Leary, a local attorney, won her nonpartisan race for a spot on Gwinnett’s State Court bench, making her the first black judge elected in the history of one of Georgia’s most diverse counties — and she may also be its first person of color elected in a countywide local election.
“I’m just humbled that so many people believed in me,” Colvin-Leary said. “And I think it’s significant also because I had the support of a lot of people, I had bipartisan support. … I think why that means so much to me is that people looked past the race [of the candidates].”
Last week’s higher profile Gwinnett races included legislative primaries and a handful of Democratic candidates competing for the right to pursue the county commission and school board seats up for grabs in November’s general election.
Many of those Democrats were people of color, and the victors — Ben Ku and Marlene Fosque on the commission side, Wandy Taylor and Everton Blair for the school board — will now have the chance to become the first non-white members of their respective bodies, though, all four will still have to beat Republican opponents come fall.
Colvin-Leary has already crossed the finish line.
Because Gwinnett’s local judicial races are nonpartisan, her victory last week over opponent Lance Tyler is final and there will be no second election in November.
Gwinnett spokesman Joe Sorenson said the county has had black judges appointed to its magistrate, juvenile and recorders courts. The county’s Administrative Office of the Courts, however, confirmed that no black judge had ever been elected.
Two Gwinnett cities recently elected the county’s first-ever non-white mayors, and voters in a handful of legislative districts have sent non-white candidates to the state Capitol in recent years. But Colvin-Leary is believed to be the first black candidate ever elected in a countywide local election.
Advocates say more diverse leadership can pave the way for fresh ideas and more equitable representation.
Renita Hamilton Edmonson, whose term as president of the Gwinnett branch of the NAACP recently ended, said she could not think of “any individual who has worked harder and deserves this achievement more.”
“This is a wonderful time in the history of Gwinnett County,” she said. “The significance of this event reflects the spirit of diversity, the melting of prejudices and welcomed change.”
Gwinnett has about 920,000 residents, and less than 40 percent of them are white. Black residents make up about 28 percent of the county’s population, with Latino (21 percent) and Asian (12 percent) not far behind.
The lack of minority representation on the county level has been the subject of ire — and litigation — in recent years.
An ongoing lawsuit filed by the Georgia Association of Latino Elected Officials, the Georgia NAACP and others argues that the way Gwinnett’s commission and school board districts are drawn dilutes the influence of minority voters. It asks for more majority-minority districts to be drawn.
Racially charged Facebook comments posted in early 2017 by current Commissioner Tommy Hunter added fuel to the fire.
Colvin-Leary was raised in a small town outside Montgomery, Alabama, and attended college at Auburn University. She got her law degree from Florida Coastal School of Law in Jacksonville and was admitted to the Georgia bar in 2001.
She previously worked in Atlanta Municipal Court and the DeKalb County Solicitor General’s Office. In addition to the private law practice she’s run in Lawrenceville for more than a decade, Colvin-Leary currently serves as the city of Winder’s solicitor.
She is married to a Marine Corps veteran and has two daughters. They live in Snellville.
Gwinnett State Court handles misdemeanor and traffic violations that are prosecuted by the solicitor’s office, as well civil actions.
“I love State Court because, for me, I like to think that … if you come to State Court we can try to address it before something else major happens and you wind up in Superior Court for a more serious offense,” Colvin-Leary said.
Superior Court may actually be where Gwinnett’s next black elected official lands.
Last week, local defense attorney Veronica Cope was one of the top two vote-getters in a five-candidate race for an open seat on the court’s bench. She and Tracey Mason will now compete in a July 24 runoff.
Body found in ballpark cooler before Reds-Braves game
The body of a third-party contractor has been found inside a beer cooler at SunTrust Park.
The body was found Tuesday by a worker from the same company. Cobb County police spokeswoman Sarah O’Hara tells The Atlanta Journal-Constitution she could not say if foul play is suspected because the investigation is ongoing.
Cobb County police say in a statement that officers responded to a “call of a deceased person located at SunTrust Park” before the Atlanta Braves’ game against the Cincinnati Reds.
The Braves declined comment, referring reporters to the statement from Cobb County police.
O’Hara tells the newspaper the identity of the person would not be released until the family is notified. She says the Braves are assisting in the investigation.
T.I. To Executive Produce A Business Competition Show Called ‘The Grand Hustle’
BET Networks has announced a new business competition series and its premiere date.
The 12-episode, one-hour series is set in Atlanta, GA and features “16 business minded men and women competing for an opportunity of a lifetime.”
Tip “T.I.” Harris is the creator and executive producer of the show, which centers around the hopeful hustlers as they compete for a coveted position with a six-figure salary within his multimillion-dollar Grand Hustle business empire.
“The candidates are determined to prove they have what it takes to out-hustle the rest. They serve up big deals and even bigger doses of drama each week as they fight for their seat at the table. Ultimately, only one will be crowned the Grand Hustler,” said BET in a statement.
The series kicks off Thursday, July 19 at 10:00 p.m.
“The Grand Hustle Empire is always expanding so therefore we needed to add a very talented, highly skilled executive to our team. It doesn’t matter if you got your hustle at Harvard or the hood, The Grand Hustle is about how you handle business and what you can do for the brand so I wanted to create a show that offers an equal playing field,” said T.I.
“Tip is one of the smartest most impressive businessmen I have ever met. His business acumen is second to none, and his entrepreneurial spirit is unmatched. I’m excited for the world to get a window into how Tip thinks and operates,” said exec producer Brian Sher.
Along with Tip and Sher, the show is executive produced by Christian Sarabia (EP) and Johnny Petillo (EP/Showrunner) and produced by 51 Minds Entertainment.
Sheree Whitfield Allegedly Fired From ‘Real Housewives of Atlanta
It was recently reported that Real Housewives of Atlanta cast member Sheree Whitfield was fired from the reality series with very few details explaining the cause of her exit.
Now, more recent reports indicate a reason and if they hold any truth, the reality star may have her jail bird bae, Tyrone Gilliams, to thank.
It is reported that Whitfield learned of her firing right after the reunion was filmed and was “very upset.”
It is also reported that the RHOA producers found issue in trying to incorporate Whitfield’s incarcerated boyfriend into her storyline as he is currently serving a decade-long sentence in prison for stealing $5 million in wire fraud schemes.
“Bravo can’t film inside or even outside the jail,” a source revealed. “This is causing a problem with her storyline.”
As of now, the self-proclaimed entrepreneur is yet to confirm or deny whether or not she has been given the chop from the show.