DeKalb County officials say an interim commissioner will be appointed to represent District 5 on the Board of Commissioners, but they don’t know what the process to select someone will be, how soon the appointment will be made or how long the person will be needed to fill the position, which expires in 2016.
Larry Johnson, presiding officer for the Board of Commissioners, said the county is waiting for Gov. Nathan Deal to sign a new bill that authorizes the temporary appointment for District 5. Once Deal signs, something that is expected to happen by the end of the month, the real work will begin.
The vacant seat belongs to Lee May, who is serving as the county’s interim CEO. Gov. Nathan Deal appointed Lee after suspending indicted DeKalb CEO Burrell Ellis, who is facing corruption charges. If Ellis returns to his seat, May would go back to representing District 5. Their futures, however, are in limbo as the Ellis trial grinds on.
“This is new for all of us. Once Governor Deal signs Senate Bill 367 into law, I will go before the board on this issue and then we can get started on the process,” said Johnson, who acknowledged the process must still be defined. For example, the BOC will have to determine the criteria that will be used to make the appointment.
“We just have a lot of things to sort through. This isn’t something you want to rush into,” said Johnson. “In a commissioner, you need someone who has a true heart of service and will love what they do. You want someone who is close to the people and understands the will of the people. It is also important for a commissioner to be able to understand collaborative leadership. We don’t need anyone with a ‘my way or the highway’ type of attitude.”
Meanwhile, May said he believes passing the bill is a good thing for the constituents of District 5.
“I supported state lawmakers making a law to fix this situation. People ought to have their own sole commissioner to address their needs and vote on their issues,” May said.
Even though the appointment process has not begun, people are coming forward to offer themselves for the seat. Two community activists, Faye Coffield and Gina Mangham, say they want to be considered.
“I have lived in the district for 35 years as a homeowner; 12 of those years, I have spent running my own business as a private investigator,” said Coffield, a retired police officer of 22 years from the Atlanta Police Department. “I want to work to build economic development by brining new business to the county. I have been fighting for the issues in this district for at least 33 years now. I am dedicated to serving the community and my track record shows that.”
Mangham, an attorney who has lived in District 5 for 20 years, has been pushing for the seat to be filled and for better representation on the board.
“I would love to be one of the nominees for the job. We need someone who has a true passion for the people in the district and I believe that I have that,” said Mangham.
State Sen. Fran Millar and State Rep. Stacey Abrams, who co-sponsored the bill for the interim appointment, said the legislation was passed on March 20, last day of the Legislative Session.
Millar said the bill was critical for the residents of District 5 and their future on dealing with issues in DeKalb County.
“This was an issue that brought different parties together to help the people of District 5. They deserve full representation and we could no longer sit by while members of the DeKalb Delegation sat on their thumbs,” said Millar, who represents District 40.
Abrams said without passing the bill, residents in District 5 would have never had full representation, and the seat could have remained vacant until 2016.
“District 5 is at somewhat at a disadvantage now because although Lee can provide some services, like casting the deciding votes on ties with the commission, he has a lot of responsibilities as CEO,” said Abrams, who represents District 89.
Once Deal signs the bill into law, DeKalb’s Board of Commissioners will advertise the open position in the county’s legal organ for two weeks. The salary for the commissioner seat is $35,000 a year.