Al Thurman, a former Powder Springs City Council member, will become the first African-American mayor of any city in Cobb County.
He won a run-off election Tuesday — a sign, experts say, that demographics in the city are changing.
Al Thurman defeated Powder Springs physician and councilman Chris Wizner, by 179 votes, or more than 14 percent.
William Boone, a politics professor at Clark Atlanta University, says this election is a sign of how much has changed in Cobb County, which rejected the expansion of MARTA in the 1970s.
“Although the reasons were not articulated overtly, a great deal of it had to do with the whole question of race,” Boone said. “A public transit system that is coming out of Atlanta, that’s heavily black in terms of its use, was sort of an anathema to some folks.”
Boone said it has been important to be upfront about race and how Cobb County used to be a “bastion for whites”:
“Since that time, the demographics and population of Cobb County and several other counties have changed dramatically and therefore that shift in population brings about a shift in who the voters are and what the needs are.”
According to the 2010 census, nearly 50 percent of the city of Powder Springs population is African-American and nine percent identifies as Hispanic or Latino.
“In Cobb County, a number of state legislators are now African-American and they’ve supplanted white Democrats who used to hold those seats, so I look at the Powder Springs mayoral election as the continuation of a trend where the county is becoming increasingly diversified,” explained Kerwin Swint, a professor at Kennesaw State University who lives near Powder Springs in Cobb County.
Swint said the southern halves of both Cobb and Gwinnett counties in the last five to 10 years are seeing greater minority representation in state and local government.
The current mayor, Pat Vaughn, is retiring this year after serving the city for more than a decade.