This morning (Jan. 8), DeKalb County Commissioner Lee May, who has served as deputy presiding officer for four years, got a promotion from his colleagues. The Board of Commissioners elected May to replace Commissioner Larry Johnson as presiding officer. The board elected Sharon Barnes Sutton as deputy presiding officer to replace May.
The election of two blacks to run the meetings, however, did not come without a fight from Commissioner Kathie Gannon. Gannon, one of three whites on the 7-member board, reminded her colleagues that in the past, they had always elected a black and white to fill the board’s leadership roles. She criticized May’s nomination, saying that when it comes to voting on issues, May “sometimes comes down on the side of political expediency.” Gannon also said that Sutton wasn’t a good choice for deputy presiding officer because she had too much baggage.
Referring to Sutton, Gannon said: “I try to be positive. But I cannot accept the choice before us. We do not need leadership that is depicted in broadcasts and negative stories about personal finance issues, brushes with the law, misuse of public office. This is not the choice to represent DeKalb.”
Gannon went on to express her concern with the board’s continued departure of electing a white for either presiding officer or deputy presiding officer.
“Historically, this board made an effort to maintain a racial balance in composition of their officers, to take into consideration all of DeKalb County—One Dekalb,” said Gannon, referring to DeKalb CEO Burrell Ellis’ slogan that DeKalb is united as one.
Ellis came under the glare of the media spotlight yesterday as authorities raided his home and office as part of an investigation by DeKalb County District Attorney Robert James. The D.A. has declined to say what or why Ellis is under investigation.
Meanwhile, Gannon made similar remarks about blacks and whites on the commission sharing leadership roles in 2009 when the board elected Johnson to serve as presiding officer and May as deputy presiding officer. Gannon was very vocal that a white should hold one of the positions, just as she was vocal today. In 2009 when the board got ready to conduct the elections, Gannon was rebuffed by then-Commissioner Connie Stokes, who said there was never a problem when blacks were overlooked for leadership roles and those roles were given to whites.“That’s what was done to us and nobody said anything,” Stokes said.
Today, the board voted down Gannon’s substitute motion to consider Commissioner Jeff Rader for deputy presiding officer. Gannon said Rader has served longer on the Commission than Barnes Sutton and that he had a proven track record of integrity.
“Commissioner Rader represents a part of the county that we should be reaching out to, areas that are starting to feel alienated because they don’t think there’s an interest in their issues or efforts made to protect their communities,” Gannon said.
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