Next Story

State-owned cyberwarfare training facility planned for Georgia

Power changes hands in DeKalb Commission vote


DeKalb County commissioners chose Kathie Gannon as their new leader Tuesday, just weeks after elections shattered intractable alliances and shifted power on the board.

Commissioners voted 5-2 to make Gannon the board’s presiding officer, a position that gives her the authority to set the county’s policy agenda, run board meetings and appoint committee members. She unseated Commissioner Larry Johnson, who had held the position since 2014.

The DeKalb Commission has been divided into factions on several key votes, split along geographic borders. Officials roughly representing the northern and southern parts of the county have been at odds over the county budget, a new animal shelter, a temporary representative for southeast DeKalb and a soccer complex.

The problem worsened when Commissioner Lee May became the county’s interim CEO in July 2013. That left the board evenly divided for two years and, at times, stalemated.

But with two new commissioners — Greg Adams and Steve Bradshaw — elected to the board last year, dynamics are shifting.

Gannon said she represents the change that voters wanted when they overhauled the county’s government during last year’s elections. She said she looks forward to working with Adams, Bradshaw and the newly elected CEO, Mike Thurmond, and district attorney, Sherry Boston.

“We rise together, or we fall together,” said Gannon, whose super district covers the western half of the county. “We’re all part of DeKalb County. … I’m going to help us do our job, which we haven’t done for a very long time.”

But cracks were already showing Tuesday in that united front.

Johnson said Gannon’s promise of better leadership was an “illusion of inclusion.” Johnson, whose district is in southwest DeKalb, said he better represents the majority of DeKalb’s residents.

“I’ve been a leader for the whole county and not just for one particular group,” Johnson said. “I love this county. It’s a great county. I will continue to serve and make a difference. But you just can’t just go around disrespecting a person in a position and then expect all of a sudden now things to change.”

Gannon’s ascent to the presiding officer position was a direct result of last year’s elections.

She got the job with the help of Bradshaw, who unseated Commissioner Sharon Barnes Sutton in a Stone Mountain-area district. Sutton previously backed Johnson.

Bradshaw said in a statement that Gannon would lead DeKalb “in a more collaborative way,” representing both north and south sides of the county.

John Evans, a former head of the DeKalb NAACP, said race played a role. Before the leadership vote, he urged the commission’s four black commissioners to use their majority to elect Johnson. Gannon is white; Johnson is black.

“We’re talking about power. If you want power, we’ve got four votes, they’ve got three votes,” Evans told commissioners during the public comment portion of the meeting. “If you don’t want to use it, you ought to just give it up. This is no play time.”

But Mereda Davis Johnson, who is black, said it’s time for a change.

“I trust that she will do the best for the county, including all districts in this county,” said Davis Johnson, who represents southeast DeKalb. “Hopefully we can come together, work together as a board and move this county forward.”

Gannon also won support from Commissioners Nancy Jester and Jeff Rader. Commissioners Greg Adams and Larry Johnson were opposed.

Gannon has said she wants to scrutinize public spending, strengthen public safety and more thoroughly vet policies. She was the board’s presiding officer in 2008.

She declined to discuss specific proposals, but she said she wants to examine police officer retention and affordable housing efforts.

The commission also elected Rader as its deputy presiding officer.

At the end of the contentious meeting, Johnson handed the presiding officer’s gavel to Gannon and they hugged on stage.

“I figure if Obama and Trump can do it, I can do it too,” he said.


Reader Comments ...

Next Up in Georgia Politics

Proposal would prohibit local government bans on Airbnb in Georgia
Proposal would prohibit local government bans on Airbnb in Georgia

With Airbnb and other short-term rental services becoming a rapidly growing industry, a Marietta lawmaker wants to make sure the flourishing businesses aren’t regulated out of business in Georgia. State Rep. Matt Dollar said since the industry is not going away, legislators need to define a statewide framework for how the businesses should...
Georgia’s immigration enforcement panel draws scrutiny
Georgia’s immigration enforcement panel draws scrutiny

When Georgia lawmakers passed a sweeping law cracking down on illegal immigration in 2011, they created a board to hold state and local government officials accountable. Over the next six years the Immigration Enforcement Review Board received 20 complaints to investigate, according to documents obtained through Georgia’s Open Records Act. And...
Why Donald Trump is more like Ronald Reagan than most other Republicans
Why Donald Trump is more like Ronald Reagan than most other Republicans

A roundup of editorials Monday looks at the economy as Donald Trump and the Republicans work on a tax cut bill. Opinions from the Right  From NBC News: Trump’s active leadership style and his combination of populism with market economics is far closer to Reagan’s words and deeds than anything House Speaker Paul Ryan of Wisconsin...
Presidents George W. Bush and Barack Obama remind us of who we are as a country and other opinions from the Left
Presidents George W. Bush and Barack Obama remind us of who we are as a country and other opinions from the Left

Here’s a roundup of editorials that remind us of the values we should cherish as a country and how our democracy needs to recover.  Opinions from the Left: From CNN: “We know, deep down, that repression is not the wave of the future. We know that the desire for freedom is not confined to, or owned by, any culture; it is the inborn...
Georgia blocks $100 million in fraudulent tax returns, so far, in 2017
Georgia blocks $100 million in fraudulent tax returns, so far, in 2017

Despite major data breaches such as the one at Equifax, tax agencies — including the Georgia Department of Revenue — are reporting increasing success in the war to stop fraudulent returns from turning into big money for crooks. Department of Revenue Commissioner Lynne Riley said the state has blocked $108 million worth of fraudulent returns...
More Stories