You have reached your limit of free articles this month.

Enjoy unlimited access to myAJC.com

Starting at just 99¢ for 8 weeks.

GREAT REASONS TO SUBSCRIBE TODAY!

  • IN-DEPTH REPORTING
  • INTERACTIVE STORYTELLING
  • NEW TOPICS & COVERAGE
  • ePAPER
X

You have read of premium articles.

Get unlimited access to all of our breaking news, in-depth coverage and bonus content- exclusively for subscribers. Starting at just 99¢ for 8 weeks

X

Welcome to myAJC.com

This subscriber-only site gives you exclusive access to breaking news, in-depth coverage, exclusive interactives and bonus content.

You can read free articles of your choice a month that are only available on myAJC.com.

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

Handel cracks Georgia GOP ‘glass ceiling’
Handel cracks Georgia GOP ‘glass ceiling’

It might not have seemed that way, but the scene at a stuffed Roswell restaurant on the eve of last week’s runoff was a quietly remarkable one. It was the night before the 6th Congressional District vote, and Gov. Nathan Deal was campaigning for a former opponent his staff once described as a spout of “unhinged blather.” Sprinkled...
A new health care debate, Donald Trump, and a spike in breast cancer

Just in time for the renewed, fast-tempo debate over health care in Washington, public health researchers at Georgia State University have produced a pair of studies that help underline just what’s at stake. The more provocative of the two papers has intriguing national implications: In large swaths of the United States, swing areas that handed...
Georgians: Fix health care prices, stop partisanship
Georgians: Fix health care prices, stop partisanship

After the U.S. Senate finally revealed its proposed federal health care bill, advocates revved up their rhetoric with extreme positions, loud cheers and denunciations. “INJUSTICE!” blared the handmade sign of a protester Friday outside U.S. Sen. Johnny Isakson’s office. The Senate’s bill “is morally repugnant,” said...
Will Georgia’s 6th District do this all again in 2018?
Will Georgia’s 6th District do this all again in 2018?

Despite initial relief among Georgia’s 6th District residents that the barrage of campaign ads has come to an end, the reprieve might not last too long. “Now we know what New Hampshire looks like,” said Chip Lake, a GOP consultant based in Georgia. The question is, with 2018 just around the corner, will this year’s astronomical...
Trump signs law making it easier to fire bad VA employees
Trump signs law making it easier to fire bad VA employees

President Donald Trump signed a bill into law Friday that would expedite the process for top officials to fire problematic employees at the long-troubled U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs. The aim of the accountability legislation is to make it easier to root out the bad apples who have helped contribute to the cascade of scandals at the VA, harming...
More Stories