Nov. 21 Town Hall Meeting on DeKalb Governance

Earlier this year, Governor Deal installed Commissioner Lee May as interim CEO. May wasted no time becoming the first of the five individuals who have served as CEO to call for the abolition of the position. Click here for an AJC article (subscription required) published immediately after May assumed office.

Lately, after a few months as interim CEO, May’s public statements on abolishing the CEO position have been less clear. However, he is holding public hearings throughout the county to hear from citizens on this issue. Listening to citizens is a step in the right direction.

The first of these meetings is tomorrow, Thursday, November 21, from 6:30 to 8:30 p.m. at Dunwoody High School, 5035 Vermack Road. I encourage you to attend and participate.

There are two other meetings, on Monday, December 2, at 6:30 p.m. at the Porter Sanford Performing Arts Center, 3181 Rainbow Drive in Decatur, and on Tuesday, December 3, at 6:30 p.m. at Rehoboth Baptist Church, 2997 Lawrenceville Highway in Tucker, but the Dunwoody meeting is the one nearest to our community.

Out of the 159 counties in Georgia, DeKalb is the only one with a hybrid CEO-commission form of government. To say that our county’s form of government is dysfunctional would be an understatement. The CEO holds most of the cards. The commissioners hold very few. Yet the citizens expect their commissioners, each of whom represents at least 138,000 people, to get things done. In reality, it’s the CEO who can make things happen with ease.

For example, even if the county commission votes to award a contract to a vendor, the CEO can simply choose not to sign the contract. That sort of prerogative goes to the heart of the criminal charges against Burrell Ellis.

The alternative is a commission-manager form of government. The county commission would hire a professional county manager who is responsible and must be responsive to the commission as a whole. Every other Metro Atlanta county has this form of government.

The power to change DeKalb’s form of government belongs to the General Assembly. In my nine years in the House of Representatives, I’ve been a consistent advocate for scrapping the CEO form of government. There are others who agree, but we don’t comprise a majority of the members of the House and Senate from DeKalb County. That has been the impediment.

I applaud Lee May for leading this conversation. I hope his commitment to making this important change remains as strong as it was a few months ago. His leadership would give the issue a boost. I look forward to seeing you at Dunwoody High School tomorrow evening.

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