Women’s History—Celebrating Lithonia And Stonecrest’s Women Mayors

Shameka Reynolds of Lithonia and Stonecrest’s Jazzmin Cobble are shaping their cities.

Two young women are leading two sister cities in the Heritage Area into the future. While Lithonia is very historic (with roots going back to the 1840s) and Stonecrest is very new (founded in 2017), both are being led by impressive women: Mayor Shameka Reynolds of Lithonia and Stonecrest Mayor Jazzmin Cobble. Both mayors sat down with Arabia Alliance staff to talk about what governing means to them.

City Of Granite

Known for its rock quarrying industry, Lithonia (“lithos” is Greek for stone) was once a granite quarrying hub for much of the country. Stone quarried from the Lithonia area wound up in the Brooklyn Bridge in NYC, West Point Military Academy, and at buildings in the Annapolis Naval Academy.

Born and raised in Lithonia, and a graduate of Lithonia High School, one could say that the city’s current Mayor Shameka Reynolds has got granite in her blood. “I have been in the City of Lithonia all my life,” said Reynolds. “I was brought up in a funeral home [the family business], which is all about service.” Reynolds got to know the community through her family’s Tri-Cities Funeral Home. One day in the midst of working, an older woman encouraged Reynolds to run for public office. Reynolds, however, wasn’t initially interested and thought on it for a couple of years before deciding to run for city council. She won her first election handily. And that woman who encouraged her to run was Barbara Lester, daughter of Maggie Woods, Lithonia’s first female city council person.

Reynolds served on the Lithonia City Council for 8 years before running for Mayor in 2019 and winning with 60-percent of the vote. Right after she took office, however, COVID hit and the world went into lockdown. Reynolds recalls that those were dark days. During the pandemic, she began regular food giveaways for the community. “Because of COVID, I learned that there are a lot of people suffering,” said Reynolds. “But they were suffering before Covid, so as of today I’m still doing a food giveaway every Tuesday.” To keep this program going, the Mayor has partnered with the local nonprofit 1PowerHouse, which hosts regular food giveaways around the Atlanta Metro Area.

Since then, Reynolds has kept up the pace working for Lithonians on a number of projects that cumulatively will help transform the City of Granite. These include planning a new, state-of-the-art Lucious Sanders Recreation Center (to be located in Lithonia Park by the pool), bringing concerts and events back to Lithonia Amphitheater, which sat vacant for years, and procuring funds from DeKalb County for a new parking lot off of Main Street, which Reynolds hopes will have electric car charging stations.

This doesn’t even touch her efforts at the Bruce Street School, where Reynolds has worked with the Arabia Alliance to revitalize the historic stone schoolhouse ruins into a multi-purpose outdoor museum about Bruce Street and Black Education in the Jim Crow South. “My grandmother was Ammer Scales and she went to that school,” said Reynolds. “So I too am a product of Bruce Street.”

In addition to her mayoral duties, Reynolds has continued working full-time at the family business, the Tri-Cities Funeral Home, which has been owned by the Reynolds and providing funeral services to the Atlanta Metro area since 1960. Lithonia’s mayor is unique in that she gets to know Lithonians in life and afterlife. “Funeral service is a service just like being a mayor or city council person,” said Reynolds. “You’re serving people, and funeral service is the same way, it’s just in death. But the people who are living, they trust you and need you. In this way, my jobs are really familiar to each other.”

In 2023, Reynolds ran unopposed and was reelected to a second term as mayor. At the same time, while she was campaigning, she was battling stage-three breast cancer. She received her last round of chemo treatments last August and has been cancer free since September. Mayor Reynolds returned to work back in January. She says she still has some days when she’s weak or tired. But she loves her job and isn’t going anywhere. “I enjoy it and I will probably be here until I die,” said Reynolds. “I want to leave a mark on the city. I want people to say about me, ‘She really cared for us. She didn’t just sit in her seat.’ And I didn’t because I’m from here.”

Another City Of Stone

Once part of Greater Lithonia and unincorporated DeKalb County, the citizens of what is now Stonecrest voted in 2016 to incorporate into a new city, which occurred the following year. This young city of Stonecrest is led by one of the youngest mayors in the state: Jazzmin Cobble.

Born in Philadelphia in 1986, Cobble moved to Georgia while still in in high school. “I grew up only knowing community and public service because my mom was 100 percent community,” said Cobble. “Whether she was a city employee, or running multiple nonprofits, or volunteering from church, she’s always helping the community. It’s the only thing I’ve known her to do.” Cobble also credits her aunt Rita Scott, a labor union leader and MARTA Board Member, for being a “powerhouse” and inspiration in her life. “She taught me everything I know about making sure that working people in this state, their needs, desires and interests are represented,” said Cobble. “She was the very first person I went to when I said I wanted to run for city council, and she asked me, ‘What is your why?’”

It’s clear that Cobble’s “why” has been public service. She says she saw a city being formed and wanted to help her community. She ran for that City Council position and became the first woman elected to the Stonecrest City Council in 2017 and, at the time, the youngest city council member elected in DeKalb County history. Just four years later, she made history again, running to fill the seat of former-Mayor Jason Lary (who was convicted for stealing COVID relief funds), and becoming Stonecrest’s first woman mayor at the age of 36. Cobble’s a bit of a political force, having faced 5 special and general elections in almost as many years and won them all.

“I like to call Stonecrest our own best kept secret that we no longer want to be a secret,” said Cobble. “We would like to open the gates to invite others in to experience what we’ve been experiencing for so long. But also to highlight, champion and scream from the top of Arabia Mountain the great things you could meet in Stonecrest for like our regional mall, our two active industrial parks, our crown jewel Arabia Mountain and AWARE.”

In addition to flaunting a little more of what the city’s already got, the mayor is hoping to bring more new experiences to the city like great fine dining and film and entertainment. She’s also been working to create a brand-new botanical garden off of Panola Road with a big focus on agriculture, plus a “Bicycle, Pedestrian & Trail Plan” to make the entire city more walkable, bikeable, and accessible for all. 

Stonecrest is still a young city; Cobble is looking to define its identity around recreation and eco-tourism. She believes this will bring even more economic development to the area. “We have quite the recreation system here in the city,” said Cobble. “We have 8 city parks and miles and miles of trails and connectivity, and the Arabia Mountain NHA, the South River, Panola Shoals, and Everett Park. We have something that rivals many across this country in regards to recreation.”

Hard to believe, Cobble does all this in addition to working full-time as the state’s Fleet Director She’s responsible for all of the state’s motorized vehicles, more than 20,000 assets. “Airplanes, boats, cars, trucks, equipment, ATVs, anything with an axle,” said Cobble. She smiles and says she was the first woman and first African American in the state’s history (and the youngest) to run that position as well. Talk about women making history!

From left to right: Stonecrest Mayor Jazzmin Cobble, Arabia Alliance Executive Director Revonda Cosby, and Lithonia Mayor Shameka Reynolds speaking at the Arabia Alliance’s Walking With Women Walks 2023.