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Incoming Brunswick mayor aims to improve government accountability

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Brunswick Mayor-elect Cosby Johnson Credit: Benjamin Payne / GPB News

Brunswick Mayor-elect Cosby Johnson says he wants to make government transparency one of his priorities once he takes office next month, roughly two years after the murder of Ahmaud Arbery just outside the coastal city.

“Over the past two to three years, I've seen and continue to to see a continuation of people not feeling as if their voice mattered,” said Johnson, who won roughly 75% of the vote in the city's mayoral runoff election Tuesday over former Glynn County Republican Party chairman Ivan Figueroa.

Johnson, who identifies as an independent, plans to form a citizen's review board, which would act as an intermediary between residents and government agencies.

“That not only allows citizens to have a voice, but also has the ability to bring more cohesion between the [police] officers and the people," he said. "And so we're going to go to work to do that, to make sure that we have that accountability not only for those officers, but for firemen, for people like myself who are in elected office and want to serve the people.”

The 36-year-old Brunswick native will be sworn in Jan. 5, becoming only the city's second Black mayor in a community where 55% of its residents are Black.

Johnson will succeed retired U.S. Air Force Chief Master Sgt. Cornell Harvey, the city's first Black mayor, who has been in office since 2014. Harvey could not run for reelection because the city prohibits the mayor from running for a third consecutive term.

Also on Johnson's agenda is providing for higher compensation for the city's police officers, who he said are currently not paid competitively “to ensure that they stay here and stay involved and invested in the community.”

Johnson helped lobby the Georgia legislature earlier this year to repeal the state's citizen's arrest law, which was cited by defense attorneys for Travis and Gregory McMichael and William “Roddie” Bryan, the three white men convicted in November of murdering Ahmaud Arbery.

“One of the things that's a little beauty in the sadness is that we saw the people's voice be amplified to that state level,” Johnson said.

He also helped lobby the legislature to pass a hate crimes bill, which Johnson said he had been working on even before Arbery was murdered. Before its passage, Georgia was one of only a few states without a hate crimes law.

Johnson is the vice president of government affairs for the Georgia Chamber of Commerce, a position he plans to continue in while serving as mayor.

Copyright 2021 Georgia Public Broadcasting

Benjamin Payne