|DeKalb CEO race heats up|
Two challengers—a former police officer and a well-known businessman—have announced they will run for DeKalb County CEO Burrell Ellis’ seat, making the contest a three-way race so far.
Ellis kicked off his re-election campaign outside the historic Old Courthouse in downtown Decatur calling on a group of about 40 supporters to “stay together” to finish the job.
“Our work is not finished. We still have a job to do. I came to you in 2008 and pledged to work as your CEO to make your priorities DeKalb County’s priority. As we enter 2012, I will come to you again to ask you to renew that mandate,” said Ellis. “Yes, we have challenges to overcome, but I know we can work together and walk united as one DeKalb and continue our progress to finish the job of fulfilling DeKalb to its destiny of greatness.”
Ellis is facing Greg Adams, who served on the DeKalb Police Department for four years before giving up his job last year in order to run in this year’s election.
Adams said he is officially kicking off his campaign Feb. 2 at The Ravina Club. The retired U.S. Army veteran is building a campaign on protecting the citizens.
“I am running because I feel DeKalb needs someone with strong leadership who will work to rebuild the reputation of the county to be a place that is safe and has a positive rapport with the North and South regions of the county,” said Adams, who is a minister at a church in Scottdale. “The people recognize me and remember me from protecting them. I don’t have any politicians or board members backing me at this point. It’s too early for that anyway, but I know the citizens of DeKalb fully back and support me.”
Ellis’ other challenger is business consultant Jerome Edmondson, who owns the Entrepreneur Development Network and is president of Edmondson Associates Business Advisors.
Edmondson says that he has been meeting with homeowners’ groups, business owners, political leaders and community leaders throughout DeKalb to build his base of supporters.
“I’m running because DeKalb needs a new leader—one who doesn’t look down on county workers, one who will be accessible and not have padlocks to his office,” said Edmondson. “One who who will bring business to this county and halt raising taxes, one who can get along with the Board of Commissioners.”
Recently, Ellis had a heated exchange with DeKalb Commissioner Larry Johnson over his appointment of Gary Cornell as interim county planning director.
Commissioner Lee May said Ellis used the interim title as a “backdoor” way of making Cornell the actual director. The board voted to reject the appointment. May said he wants a legal opinion on the matter.
The power struggle between Ellis and the board has been brewing for months. Ellis came under fire in December after he vetoed the Board of Commissioners’ resolution for a study committee to examine DeKalb’s form of government to determine if the county should continue to be headed by an elected CEO or a county manager who would be hired to oversee the day-to-day operations.
Ellis vetoed the board’s resolution, saying the discussion would add uncertainty in the eyes of the bond rating agencies. DeKalb is rebounding from losing its AAA rating. Standard & Poor’s (S&P) lowered the county’s general obligation debt from AA- to BBB and its long-term rating on appropriation-backed debt from A+ to BBB because of cash flow imbalances and inconsistencies in the county’s financial plans. The ratings for water and sewer revenue bonds and revenue refunding bonds were restored to AA- long-term rating. The county’s series 2011A water and sewer revenue bonds received an A+ long-term rating.
Commissioner Elaine Boyer called the veto “beyond belief,” saying that only someone trying to protect their own power would be against having public discussions on the topic.
DeKalb NAACP President John Evans, a former commissioner, said he supports the idea of a study committee.
“When the county changed the form of government to one run by a CEO in the late 1970s, we had 29 people who served on the study committee. That’s when Manuel Maloof was CEO and chaired all of the meetings,” Evans said. “We should look at it again. It’s broke now, but we have got to fix it.”
Meanwhile, Ellis is holding town hall meetings across DeKalb to give residents a chance to meet with him face to face. The meetings are scheduled through March 27. Ellis has posted the series of meetings at www.burrellellis.com.
“We’ll be talking about your county government’s budget, public safety, jobs and economic development, delivery of county services, code compliance and municipal government,” Ellis said.