Atlanta councilman carrying on family’s roots in community service

Published 11:00 am Saturday, November 25, 2023

WEST POINT — Public service runs in Sandra Thornton’s family. She has been a member of the West Point City Council for more than 20 years. She was recently reelected to a sixth term as a council member. Her sister, Deborah Gilbert, is the city clerk/treasurer in Lanett, the town where they grew up. Sandra is the manager of a very active senior center in Lanett and is very proud her son, Jason Winston, is carrying on the family’s public service tradition in a major way. He’s a city council member in Atlanta.

Jason grew up in West Point. His dad, Burt Winston, still lives there and works for the M.W. Lee Mortuary. When he was a child, Jason attended West Point Elementary School and was a member of the Troup High Class of 2000. He was a quarterback for the Tigers, was senior class president and was voted Mr. Troup High by his classmates. He went on to attend Georgia State University in Atlanta and earned a B.S. in 2004. He’s currently working on his master’s degree at GSU. He met his wife, Shayla, at Georgia State. They have two daughters, Banks Harlow, who’s three, and Decker James, who’s one.

Jason represents a district on the southeast side of Atlanta. The district includes Grant Park and its famous zoo, Center Parc Credit Union Stadium (formerly Turner Field) the Lakewood Amphitheater and the Summer Hill and Brownsville communities. His constituents include Senator Raphael Warnock and some cast members of the TV show “The Walking Dead.”

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He’s currently working with famed Civil Rights attorney Benjamin Crump on a fair housing issue in his district. This involves some apartments that are not being held up to basic standards by the landlord.

In October, Jason joined Crump and Atlanta Mayor Andre Dickens in announcing a class-action lawsuit against the management company of Forest Cove Apartments. “Since I got into office, we have received call after call recounting the terrible conditions of these dilapidated apartments,” Jason wrote on his social media site, ATL District One News. “The city attempted to work with the management company to find solutions, yet none came. So, we chose to join other cities throughout the country to send a clear message to anyone looking to profit at the expense of Atlantans. We are not afraid to seek justice.”

“I’m proud of my son and what he’s doing in Atlanta,” Thornton said. “He stays busy all the time working for his district. He’s hard to get ahold of most of the time. He won his first race for the council two years ago, and that’s not easy to do. It took a lot of hard campaigning to do that your first time out.”

“Something’s going on in my district all the time, and I like that,” Jason told The Valley Times-News. “We recently opened a game room that’s a nice addition to the district, and we are always having outreach efforts to serve our neighborhoods. We have had events where we gave away free diapers for new mothers and trash bags to encourage people to pick up litter.”

Jason will be 42 on Dec. 14. This past summer he took part in his first Peachtree Road Race. He and Shayla recently joined with the Atlanta Department of Parks and Recreation, Atlanta Police and Atlanta Fire & Rescue to take part in an event known as Popsicles in the Park.

“Events like this are critical,” Jason said. “They allow our youth to better know our first responders. Building trust between our communities and law enforcement is a key tool in lowering crime and making our communities safe for everyone.”

He recently worked with the mayor’s office at a community health and resource fair. At such events, he said, citizens are informed about the resources that are available to improve health equity, especially for the city’s immigrant population.

Jason was also pleased to take part in a special event at the Atlanta Zoo as a groundbreaking was held for a new veterinary center.

“This will provide state-of-the-art treatment for animals at our zoo,” he said. “This kind of upgrade has been long overdue, and I am so excited to see it coming about.”

The Winstons live very close to the zoo, so close in fact zoo personnel can bring some of the smaller animals to show and talk about at birthday parties.

Elected in November 2021, Andre Dickens is the current mayor of Atlanta. The city has a council made up of 16 members. Jason of one of 12 council members who represent districts. Three members are elected at large, and there is a council president.

This being Thanksgiving week, Jason wants it known he has a lot to be thankful for.

“I am thankful to have grown up in a town like West Point,” he said. “Someone with my background can bring small-town values to the big city. I am thankful to have had the kind of mom I have. She loves what she does. She was the first African-American woman elected to public office in Troup County. I am thankful to represent the district I do. My district is filled with young families from all over the world.”

Sandra has long encouraged her son to have some kind of role in public service, but it was Shayla who persuaded him to run f0r the city council in Atlanta. Like Jason, she’s a Georgia State graduate and is now a district manager for Pandora Media.

Jason feels fortunate to have had some good friends while growing up in West Point, people like Jamie and Cheryl Morrison and Doug Shumate. He mentions former Troup High Principal Bill Parsons and head football coach Bubba Jeter for having a big influence on him. He also mentions former West Point Council Member Donald Gilliam as someone he always looked up to.

“I’m grateful the people of this area still think a lot of Jason,” Thornton said. “They helped him in his race for the city council.”