The DeKalb County Board of Commissioners has a new presiding officer.
Commissioner Lee May was elected Jan. 8 by his peers to head the board for 2013. Commissioner Sharon Barnes Sutton is the new deputy presiding officer. Both were chosen by a vote of 5-2, with commissioners Kathie Gannon and Jeff Rader voting against them.
“I’m fine with that,” May said about the votes against him.
“More than ever we have to operate more inclusively, more together than we ever have,” May said. “We have challenges facing this county that are tremendous. It is my commitment…that I’m here to work with all the commissioners regardless of whether you voted for me or not.
“I’m excited about the future,” May said. “I’m excited about this board. I wouldn’t rather be in any other county than DeKalb County.”
Gannon said she hopes May will “dig deep and pull out those leadership skills” necessary to lead the board.
“Our presiding officer, even though they are elected to chair these meetings, there is still a perception by others…that they will provide leadership to guide this board around difficult issues,” Gannon said.
“I believe Commissioner May will do a good job chairing our commission meetings,” Gannon said. “But I also know that when tough decisions are made, he sometimes comes down on the side of political expediency.”
Rader said the election of May is a “continuation of the status quo.”
“We have had a very difficult time having inclusive dialogue and participation from the Board of Commissioners on internal decisions,” Rader said. “I’m hoping we can get transparency in the future.”
Before voting against Sutton for the deputy presiding officer position, Gannon said, “I try to be very positive as a person and in my life, but I cannot accept the choice before us.”
“This is not the choice to represent DeKalb County,” said Gannon, who made an unsuccessful move to elect Rader as deputy presiding officer. “We should elect someone with a proven track record of truth and integrity, someone who has chaired many committees—committees that meet, someone who has extensive board experience.”
Gannon said the board should continue with its history of making “an effort to maintain a racial balance in the composition of its officers to take into consideration all of DeKalb County.”
Gannon said the board does not need leadership that is broadcast in the media with “negative stories about financial issues, brushes with the law [and] misuse of public office.”
After being elected to the leadership role, Sutton said, “There’s a big difference in truth and in real leadership than stories that are fed to friends in the media.”