Atlanta City Councilwoman Cleta Winslow Arrested on DUI Charge

After an Atlanta Police Department officer watched her miss her lane, blow through a stop sign and a red light, Atlanta City Councilwoman Cleta Winslow admitted to having a few drinks, according to reports. She refused a field sobriety test and was arrested for DUI Less Safe and refusing the state administered breath test under implied consent. She’s also charged with a basket of moving violations.

A spokesman in Winslow’s office said that “they’re talking with the lawyers” right now, but confirmed the arrest and said that we can expect a statement before the end of the day.

Meanwhile — and oddly enough, given the impregnability of incumbency around here — Winslow has primary competition. Torry Lewis, an adjunct professor of political science and PhD candidate at Clark Atlanta, challenged Winslow in February. Lewis isn’t wasting time talking about it, either.

“If you look at this district, it needs people with good judgment,” Lewis said as he was preparing for a noon press conference at City Hall to discuss the Winslow arrest. Lewis ran unsuccessfully in a primary challenge against State Sen. Pedro Marin (D-Gwinnett) in 2006. Lewis was 22 years old at the time.

Lewis campaigns in a humongous RV called “The  Beast” that vaguely resembles an APD command vehicle. And Lewis’ PhD dissertation is in the use of rhetoric in politics. If he can’t make a driving joke connecting the two by the end of the day, he’s in the wrong line of work.

Atlanta City Council District 4 covers the West End neighborhood, along with Castleberry Heights, the Atlanta University Center, Mechanicsville, Pittsburgh, Adair Park, Oakland City, Bush Mountain, Venetian Hills, and Westview.  It’s the middle of the city.

Demographically, there’s a large student population in her district, which may explain why about one out of three households is formed by a single adult woman and only one of eight is a cohabitating couple. A quarter of the property in the district was vacant as of the 2010 census. A quarter of the district lives in dormitories or other group quarters. The three neighborhood planning units primarily forming Council district 4 are the poorest of the city, with a median household income between about $21000 and $30000, or about half the Atlanta average. It’s also home to some of the worst crime in the city.

Of all the Atlanta councilmembers, Winslow had probably been the low hanging fruit for a challenge even without the arrest. Winslow was a yes vote on the stadium. She was a yes vote on increasing PARKAtlanta fines last year. She was a yes vote on the 50 percent salary increase for city councilmembers. In a district teeming with college students and a vibrant bar scene, she voted present on a proposal to extend the drinking hours at bars in the city … a proposal that failed. (On second look, I wonder if voting to extend drinking hours would make her look better or worse, given the … unpleasantness … of the moment.)

In her previous re-election effort in 2009, she had the cops lined up against her. The police union said they “have been woefully ignored” by Winslow in the district and they unsuccessfully backed LaShawn M. Hoffman, CEO of the Pittsburgh Community Improvement Association.

She avoided a runoff by about 120 votes. Apparently, it only takes about 22oo votes to win a city council seat in Atlanta, even though her district contains about 25,000 residents.

After beating Hoffman, the five-time councilwoman paid an ethics fine for spending $5,420 of city money on her re-election effort. She didn’t pay any fine, however, for another $29,000 in taxpayer money that was spent on city-sponsored events … that had her name all over it. Jim Walls noted that “Winslow collected reimbursements from her city expense account for jazz musicians, a disc jockey, an inflatable bouncer, a popcorn machine and other equipment, plus $8,000 worth of barbecue and side dishes, for events Oct. 17 and 24” a couple of weeks before Election Day.

Hoffman told Atlanta Progressive News in February that he hadn’t decided whether or not to run again against Winslow in 2013, and previously reported that Kwabena Nkromo planned to run for the District 4 seat, but Nkromo hasn’t made an announcement yet.


  1. sockpuppet says:

    “Torry Lewis, an adjunct professor of political science and PhD candidate at Clark Atlanta … Lewis’ PhD dissertation is in the use of rhetoric in politics.”

    Would be nice to get more folks with degrees in engineering, medicine, economics, business, architecture etc. in office as opposed to the usual lineup of lawyers, political scientists and activists (and this goes for both parties by the way). Just sayin …

    I recall the backgrounds of the people appointed by Deal to the DeKalb school board and we could use some more folks like that.

    Incidentally, the picture you posted reminded me of something … whatever happened to Pete Randall?

    • Ed says:

      Wasn’t aware there were a ton of political scientists in office (that might actually lead to better policy.)

  2. George Chidi says:

    I saw Torry Lewis debate Pedro Marin at a forum in Norcross in 2006, when Lewis was running against Marin in a primary for a State Senate seat. He was 22 at the time. I remember sidling up to State Rep. Billy Mitchell during the forum and we talked a bit about him. Even then, I thought the fellow could handle himself really well, and we expected him to emerge somewhere else eventually.

    There are people who should be students of rhetoric, and Lewis is one of them. I’m not talking about speechifying nonsense; I mean the ability to give cogent, well-considered answers to questions of public policy. He gets it, and apparently he’s good at getting other people to get it. Engineers are nice, but we could use a few more folks in office who know how to get the public engaged in policy.

  3. George Chidi says:

    From perennial candidate Kwabena Nkromo, on Facebook.

    I sincerely pray that Sister Cleta will be well and this matter is handled appropriately and not excessively scandalized in any way due to only her pubic profile. Many of us in community leadership have known for a long time that she struggled with this issues privately and that is was a matter of time before they became public.

    My hope is that Councilperson Winslow will see that it is time she retire with grace at this moment and allow District 4 citizens to honor her years of service with a send off that retains some measure of dignity and grace. These offices are not inherited positions that are the personal possession and any one person or family, no matter how great the legacy is perceived to be by some. We deserve and should expect for ourselves the right to have a change in representation with different ideas and renewed vigor. Its way past time. – Cubby

  4. Rick Day says:

    As someone else somewhere else commented: “At least she shaved before her mug shot.”

    Next up: C.T. gets cited for falling asleep in the elevator.

  5. George Chidi says:

    Hoffman messaged me: he’s been redistricted out of her district (go figure), so he can’t challenge her even if he wanted. Looks like it’s just Torry, along with whoever else wants a shot.

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