Brookhaven’s mayoral candidates have some unusual entries on their campaign biographies. Dale Boone is a “competitive eater” involved in Indian television. John Ernst boasts previous work as an assistant to a former governor.
In recent interviews, the candidates elaborated on those activities and gave a deeper look behind their standard campaign literature. They also recently provided statements about their reasons for running, and appeared at the Reporter’s Oct. 20 candidate forum.
Boone is active in the entertainment industry as a TV producer and record-holding competitive eater. He is known for community activism as well, frequently attending City Council meetings to weigh in on issues of the day.
He shows particular concern for the businesses along Buford Highway. “I’m trying to be a problem-solver,” Boone said of his activism in that area. “Those people have a lot to offer, but no one comes to see them.”
Boone serves as president of the Oakwood Neighborhood Association. Prior to cityhood, he was active in the Brookhaven Yes campaign. He said he also once served on the parks and recreation commission in East Point.
Boone grew up in East Point, where he began what is now a 16-year career as a competitive eater that includes a championship from the World League of Competitive Eating. He holds records for rapidly consuming such foods as hot dogs and doughnuts. That career has gotten him spots on such TV programs as “The Tonight Show” and “The Weakest Link.”
Boone said he is a direct descendent of legendary frontiersman Daniel Boone, a connection he played up in his competitive eating persona, sometimes wearing a foxtail cap.
Boone is involved in television on the producing side as well, on the other side of the globe in India. After graduating from the Georgia Institute of Technology, he worked in Comcast’s Asia division, which gave him the opportunity to go to graduate school in India.
He said he earned a master’s degree in film and video from the Institute of India Technology. That led him into a side career in “Kollywood,” the filmmaking region of Chennai, India.
“I came up with a show focused on Indian music,” Boone said. The variety show is called “My India TV” and is created in collaboration with other producers in India, he said. Boone often travels to India for that business, doubling it with competitive-eating appearances.
However, Boone said that he is putting the TV and eating work on hold during the campaign—and after, if he wins. His last competitive eating event was Sept. 5.
“One thing I have learned out campaigning is, this job needs a full-time mayor at part-time pay,” Boone said. “I’m willing to put everything on hiatus for four years of my life.”
Today, he lives in Lynwood Park with wife Monica Vining, an attorney and co-president of the Brookhaven Farmers Market, and children Jack and Evan.
Aside from his mother Suzanne’s stint in the League of Women Voters, his family was “not at all” political when he was growing up, Ernst recalls. That’s changing a bit now, as his sister Liz is now his campaign manager.
After graduating from Emory University, Ernst got involved in Democratic political campaigns, first serving as a driver for David Poythress’s unsuccessful 1998 gubernatorial run. Ernst then became an assistant to former Gov. Roy Barnes.
“You ever see ‘The West Wing?’ I was his Charlie,” Ernst said of his work with Barnes, referring to the aide to the fictional president in the popular TV series. The work included opening doors and answering phones.
“Sometimes it would be someone irritated from Milledgeville or sometimes it would be the president of the United States,” Ernst said.
Ernst then attended the University of Georgia School of Law, where former Brookhaven state Rep. Mike Jacobs was a classmate, and former state senator and gubernatorial candidate Jason Carter was a class behind his.
“My group of people was civically minded,” Ernst said, attributing that in part to the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attacks happening during their time in law school.
In 2004, a year after graduating, Ernst considering running in the District 80 state rep. race eventually won by Jacobs, but decided not to. “It wasn’t the proper time for me to run,” Ernst said.
Ernst started his own law practice, dealing with bankruptcies, personal injury cases and real estate closings. The Daily Report, an Atlanta legal newspaper, recently named him to its “On the Rise” list of lawyers under age 40 who are “making a difference in the community.”
As the Daily Report noted, Ernst’s legal success has come as he copes with dyslexia, which he was diagnosed with around fourth or fifth grade, with his mother enrolling him in Sandy Springs’ Schenck School for students with dyslexia. While writing can be a challenge, “I can learn by listening,” Ernst said.
In 2013, Ernst was appointed to the DeKalb Board of Ethics position. “I thought it was a good fit,” he said, though it was quickly frustrating as well. “DeKalb controlled the ethics board by failing to fund it not having enough members,” he said.
Nonetheless, the board was able to deliver a conflict-of-interest reprimand to Commissioner Stan Watson earlier this year, Ernst noted.
Ernst also has been active in Brookhaven community events, including the Soccerfest screenings of the World Cup at Brookhaven Park.