Robb Pitts, new Fulton County commission chair, wants to expand role


When Robb Pitts was first elected to the Fulton County commission, in 2003, the government he joined was responsible for providing everything from police services to park land for residents from Sandy Springs to south Fulton.

Now, those areas — and more — have their own local governments to call for many of their day-to-day needs. But Pitts, who was elected this week to head the Fulton County commission, said the role that he will occupy has not changed, even with the formation of cities that provide an extra layer of government between the county board and most residents.

“Whatever the issues are, Fulton County will be right in the center,” said Pitts, who said he would like to expand the reach of his job. “There is a regional role for the chairman of the Fulton County commission to play.”

In recent years, the former chairman, John Eaves, convened mayors and other leaders from Fulton County’s 15 cities to discuss transportation needs and other issues that crossed local boundaries. Pitts said he would like to take that practice a step further by organizing meetings with other county leaders in the metro region.

In Fulton County, though, his priorities include fixing issues with property tax assessments, ensuring that transportation projects funded with last year’s sales tax are completed properly and reducing the recidivism rate at the county jail. Finding a way to make elections results come in faster, the library master plan and improving animal control services are also of great importance, Pitts said.

And immediately after taking office later this month, he will be absorbed with property tax collections and ensuring that the county brings in enough money to meet its obligations.

“Great opportunities and great challenges lie ahead,” Pitts said.

Pitts sees his role, in part, as the face of Fulton County — a chance to be a spokesperson for the region. He also said there’s a place for him to act like a “conductor” of the region, through Fulton County.

Pitts said with a new mayor in Atlanta and one other new member of the board of commissioners, his experience on the county board until 2014, and as Atlanta city council president earlier in his career, will be useful.

“Someone with my experience is ideally suited for this time and place,” Pitts said. “It couldn’t have worked out any better.”

There is no master plan to reorganize county government, Pitts said, and he doesn’t “foresee any wholesale changes” in the way government operates.

Still, he has been a vocal proponent of casino gambling in the past, and expects to continue advocating for it. And Pitts said he wants to be innovative when it comes to the county’s criminal justice system, and reducing the number of people who interact with it. He also intends to be outspoken about climate change and things the county can do to help protect the environment.

“There’s a lot that can happen with Fulton County’s participation and support,” Pitts said.

Natalie Hall, the new district 4 commissioner, said her first priority is the Fulton County budget, which will be approved in January. She said once she is sworn in later this month, she will have a number of questions about what the county is funding.

Hall, who was the chief of staff to Commissioner Joan Garner before she died of cancer this spring, said she is particularly interested in making sure that senior and youth programs, HIV prevention and treatment and the criminal justice system are well funded. She, too, wants to ensure that the property tax issues that surfaced this year when residents complained of too-high assessments don’t repeat themselves.

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