The DeKalb Community Cabinet, started by DeKalb County Commissioner Stan Watson and a group of his colleagues, marked its 17th anniversary on Feb. 1.
The community meetings have been a longstanding tradition in South DeKalb, drawing residents, business owners and those who run county and state government together to network over a free, hot breakfast usually on the first Saturday of the month. Watson has hosted the meetings for several years with State Representative Pam Stephenson and Howard Mosby and DeKalb Commissioner Larry Johnson and Lee May, w ho is serving as DeKalb’s interim CEO.
Watson launched the breakfast meetings during his tenure as a state legislator to give residents the chance to get answers to their questions from community leaders, and hear firsthand about issues and concerns relevant to their communities. Watson continued the meetings even after he left office as a state representative.
Over the years, the meetings have been a pipeline for information with many of DeKalb’s and Georgia’s top brass attending the forums as guest speakers.
Susan Bailey, who has been attending the meetings for years, praised Watson for his dedication.
“I believe that he has been a good steward and done a good job in providing the Community Cabinet meetings. I get a lot of information when I come, especially about the school district and county government,” Bailey said.
Watson says he has made it his business to provide quality speakers.
“We’ve had three governors come through: Roy Barnes, Zell Miller and Sonny Perdue. We’ve had State Schools Superintendent Kathy Cox and Secretary of State Cathy Cox. We’ve had superintendents, DeKalb’s CEOs, Attorney General, sheriffs, Director of the Airport, Doug Hooker of the Atlanta Regional Commission, a lot of people to come through this Community Cabinet,” said Watson. “For 17 years, we have been here making it work, keeping people informed. Homeowners groups have come, Rotary Clubs and others to take information back to their groups.”
At the February meeting, which was held at Chapel Hill Middle School in Decatur, Department of Labor Commissioner Mark Butler and Billy Malone assistant director of DeKalb County Sanitation were guest speakers. Congressman Hank Johnson also gave an update on the Affordable Care Act and an appropriations bill concerning the federal government’s budget.
In addition to hearing from the speakers,Watson permitted those who are planning to run for public office the chance to introduce themselves. They included: Gubernatorial candidate Jason Carter, grandson of President Jimmy Carter; Robin Shipp, who is running for State Commissioner of Labor; Keith G. Heard, who is running for State Insurance Commissioner; Thad Mayfield for School Board; Dale Collins for Sheriff; Kyle Williams for State Senator; Jesse “Jay” Cunningham for School Board; and Lee B. Dukes for School Board.
Watson marked the Community Cabinet’s anniversary by paying a special tribute to the late Thomas Swain “Pop” Holden, Jr., a Gunnery Mate (E-6) who was active at American Legion Post 291. Holden, a resident of the Spring Valley community, served in the Korean War, World War II and Viet Nam. His wife, Mae Holden, accepted a bouquet of flowers and proclamation on his behalf.