County officials, residents ready for ‘new day in DeKalb’


Champion Newspaper (98)

When his schedule allows, newly elected DeKalb County Commissioner Steve Bradshaw, representing District 4, heads to the gym promptly at 5 a.m. four times a week.

However, his gym schedule has been a little sporadic lately. Bradshaw, who defeated former DeKalb County Commissioner Sharon Barnes Sutton, said he’s still getting adjusted to taking office.

Bradshaw, along with Commissioner Gregory Adams and CEO Michael Thurmond, are a few of the new faces in county government.

Bradshaw said DeKalb County residents seem “cautiously optimistic” about having new faces in the county government.

In an interview with The Champion Jan. 12, Bradshaw said the county has a long way to go to restore trust in their government.  

“I’m going to work on the things that I ran on and the first thing we have to do is restore the public’s trust in DeKalb County,” Bradshaw said. “That’s not a one event thing. That’s going to take place over time. Little decisions day in and day out and showing people that we’re working on their behalf. That’s first and foremost.”

Restoring trust with residents will be an uphill battle, Bradshaw said.
“When you mess up, fess up,” he said. “It’s when you mess up and try to hide things, that’s when you get in trouble and people start to get uneasy.”

During the Board of Commissioners first regular meeting of the year, several residents expressed the cautious optimism Bradshaw spoke of. With the addition of Adams, the board of commissioners have all seven districts represented.

The Champion was unable to schedule an interview with Adams, after repeatead calls were made to his office.

“I’m so proud today that we have seven commissioners at one time,” said John Evans, a longtime civil rights activist in DeKalb County. “We have four Blacks and three Whites. It’s a new agenda. Now you’re going to have to decide how you’re going to operate it…It’s a new day. The whole thing starts today.”

One issue that seems to be at the top of the agenda for the county government is the water billing crisis.

Some DeKalb County residents are still frustrated over what some call “a systemic issue” with the county’s water billing system.

Thurmond said the issue is one of his top priorities and offered an apology to taxpayers.

“I offer my apologies to customers that have been negatively impacted…it’s unacceptable,” Thurmond said.

Bradshaw said he will defer to Thurmond in water billing matters, but said the issue is at the top of his agenda as well.

“The water billing, I know, is at the very top of the CEO’s agenda. He’s been in meeting after meeting and I’ve passed by him in the last several weeks or so and I know [water billing] is at the top of my agenda,” Bradshaw said.

DeKalb County resident Joel Edwards said he was hopeful that the new year would be about change in DeKalb County government.

“We hope, we the people hope and voted for a change in DeKalb County,” Edwards said. “We voted for one DeKalb County and we’re hoping you make the right decision moving this county forward.”

Commissioners may also look at an increase in pay for firefighters and police in 2017. Adams, a former DeKalb County police officer, ran on a platform of increasing pay for the county’s firefighter and police personnel.

Adams said he’s worked with Commissioner Larry Johnson on the issue.

Bradshaw called DeKalb County’s inability to retain police officers and firefighters a “crisis” and said he plans to work on a pay increase for those workers. Bradshaw said he and Public Safety Director Cedric Alexander have had a long discussion regarding retaining officers in the county.

“We need to make sure we address what I regard as a borderline crisis in our public safety departments around turnover. We need to keep our officers here,” Bradshaw said. “[Alexander] has put together a comprehensive plan…at the end of the day it’s about setting that as a priority.”

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