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DeKalb commissioners deadlock over leadership roles


New vote set Jan. 28


The DeKalb Board of Commissioners couldn’t muster enough votes to elect a presiding officer or deputy presiding officer at its Jan. 14 board meeting. The board is expected to try again at the Jan. 28 meeting. 

The commissioners were supposed to choose one of their peers to fill the two positions, but they ended up squabbling. They couldn’t get enough votes between the six of them to support Larry Johnson, Stan Watson or Jeff Rader, all three of whom were nominated for presiding officer.

The board also couldn’t get the required four votes to elect Sharon Barnes Sutton, who was nominated for deputy presiding officer, or Watson who was nominated for deputy presiding officer after he didn’t get presiding officer.  

The presiding officer runs the board’s meetings, appoints chairs to various board committees, and could be tapped as interim CEO of the county in the event of an emergency. The deputy presiding officer fills in for the presiding officer as needed.

The board’s non-election brought the cauldron that has been brewing for months to a head. Johnson called what happened “gutter politics.”   

“The comments that Commissioners Kathie Gannon and Jeff Rader made
during their nomination of Stan Watson that attacked my character and attempted to denigrate my leadership were unfortunate, misguided,
divisive, and borderline delusional,” said Johnson. “Gutter politics at
its best.”

Johnson said despite the attacks, he planned to “continue to serve the people of District 3 and DeKalb County without missing a beat.”

During the meeting, Rader urged the board to consider new leadership and seconded a motion for himself after the motion to elect Watson failed.

“Our board needs strong, transparent and inclusive leadership. This shouldn’t be either a beauty contest and it certainly should not be a contest of political alignment in order to get this done. What we should have are people who are genuinely committed to making every member of the commission effective,” Rader said.

“We have had the leadership of Commissioner Johnson in the past. We know what we can expect. He’s a good man, but he has not been able to accomplish the necessary goals to make DeKalb County a place that people don’t want to incorporate out of,” said Rader.

Watson didn’t comment on the debates during the meeting, but acknowledged after the meeting the board’s divisiveness.

“I think what has happened has allowed us to see our differences and similarities and to work harder for one common goal--leadership,” said Watson. “All of us care about the leadership of this county. At the end of the day, that’s really what this is all about.”

Since the board did not elect its leaders, Barnes Sutton will remain interim presiding officer. Barnes Sutton has held the position since last summer when Gov. Nathan Deal appointed Lee May, who was presiding officer at the time, to interim CEO. May moved up after Burrell Ellis was suspended amidst corruption charges that he is now battling in court.



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