Robb Pitts, Keisha Waites face off to lead Fulton County commission

5:34 p.m Wednesday, Nov. 8, 2017 Local
Branden Camp
Keisha Waites, who is running for the chair of Fulton County, speaks to a group of people during a candidate forum at the Cliftondale Community Club Atlanta. Robb Pitts sits in the front row. BRANDEN CAMP/SPECIAL

Two Democrats vying for the top job in Fulton County’s government will meet in a Dec. 5 runoff.

Robb Pitts, a former member of the Fulton County commission, received 38 percent of the vote in his quest to lead the body as chairman. Keisha Waites, a former state representative, captured 34 percent.

Pitts, who was president of the Atlanta City Council before he was elected to the Board of Commissioners in 2002, said fixing the county’s ongoing issue with property assessments and tax collection is his primary concern. Transportation issues and improvements to the criminal justice system are his other priorities.

Pitts said he wants to expand transitensure transportation projects that were approved by voters last fall are finished and prepare the county for autonomous vehicles.

Pitts praised the city of Atlanta for reducing penalties for possession of a small amount of marijuana, saying the decision could go a long way toward keeping people out of jail. He said he wants to reduce the amount of money Fulton spends on the jail, as well as lower the recidivism rate.

He also said he wants Fulton County to be a “huge player” in the state, and he expects to increase Fulton County’s visibility in Georgia.

“Fulton County is a big deal,” he said. “It has not gotten the recognition it needs and deserves. It needs to be more of a player.”

Waites, who works as a contractor for the Federal Emergency Management Agency, did not respond to multiple request for comment via email, phone and text. But she has said previously that her own issues with property tax liens make her better able to understand the issues county residents are facing as property values rise.

She’s also said she’s used to working with people who might hold different opinions. She’s touted legislation she wrote to provide tuition assistance to the children of officers killed in the line of duty, to make HIV tests routine, and to make the Capitol more accessible to people with disabilities.

Waites also said she thinks the county should expand mass transit, and said there are some services, like senior centers or libraries, that cities may be able to run better than counties. Waites said she sees the opportunity to accomplish more at the county level than she did while working in state government.

“We have operated in silos,” she said. “I offer a fresh perspective.”

Finishing third in Tuesday’s race was Republican candidate Gabriel Sterling, a Sandy Springs councilman.

In addition to the chair’s race, there is a runoff in the District 4 commission race. Kathryn Flowers, a Realtor who said she entered the race because she “wanted to be a person who offered solutions to the residents of Fulton County,” will face off against Natalie Hall, the chief of staff of deceased commissioner Joan Garner and the wife of Atlanta City Councilman Kwanza Hall. She said she wants to continue Garner’s work.

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