Estona Middlebrooks will take office as mayor of Mansfield January 1, following current Mayor Bill Cocchi's retirement. "I want to express thanks to Mayor Cocchi for his 19 years of service," she said.
MANSFIELD -- Estona Middlebrooks recalls a lesson learned in childhood from her minister father: "If you're going to complain about it, jump in there and help."
Now, at age 40, Middlebrooks is still taking those words seriously. That's why she ran for mayor of Mansfield after hearing the city's leader of nearly two decades, Bill Cocchi, was retiring. If it's a new era for the city, Middlebrooks decided, she might as well be the one to help usher it in instead of waiting for someone else to step up.
Middlebrooks was uncontested in her bid for mayor -- another candidate dropped out early on -- and she said the residents have been very welcoming.
"Some families have been here since the 1800s. I've lived here five years, so I'm new in town from that perspective. Everyone has been welcoming, encouraging and open-armed," she said.
It was Georgia Transmission Corporation's decision to run power lines through a residential area of Mansfield that sparked a fire in Middlebrooks and many others in the community. Now, neighbors who barely knew each other meet on a regular basis. Middlebrooks hopes that community spirit will continue, and she intends to foster it through city-sponsored activities such as a Christmas celebration planned for 6 p.m. Friday, Dec. 2 , for all residents at the Mansfield Community Center. She also plans to start a city website so the public can access ordinances and other important information.
Middlebrooks said she will investigate and pursue ways to lower residents' utility bills if at all possible. The city purchases electricity from the Municipal Electric Authority of Georgia, and power bills are much too high, she said.
As mayor, Middlebrooks will continue to support citizens in their quest to stop the power lines project. Though she is not directly impacted as a landowner, "In a 1.1-square-mile city, it affects all of us," she said.
Middlebrooks said she will make sure property owners who are being approached about selling easements are informed of their options. GTC has used powers of eminent domain in less than 3 percent of all cases, she said.
"The citizens can stand together and let them know we're not going to put up with this, and I hate to say this, but let them know it's going to cost more in court fees than it will cost to move the line ... To say we're going to pursue legal action directly against them, no, but we are going to fight them every step of the process," she said.
Middlebrooks was born in Monroe and moved around the state quite a bit in her youth. She and her husband Jason have four children -- Morgan, Zander, Trinity and Anson -- and were outgrowing their home near Walnut Grove five years ago when they decided to move to Mansfield.
The couple owns Imperial Logo, an embroidery and screen printing business. In addition, Middlebrooks has been a flight attendant with Atlantic Southeast Airlines for 19 years. She works two to three nights a week, typically taking the last flight out at night and the first back in the morning, so, "My kids hardly know I'm gone, and I'm available during the day."
Middlebrooks pledged to have an open door policy for citizens.
"If something needs to be fixed, let us know. Come straight to us and let us know what's going on and we'll see what we can do," she said. "We can't always give everybody everything they want but we will look into it and see what we can do."