Like most folks, even if I have to admit to more than a bit of nostalgia being in the mix, I still love my hometown and birthplace of DeKalb County. Unlike most of my family, I have also chosen to stay in DeKalb. Despite some pretty significant shifts on several fronts, it remains my home and when we built and bought what I now refer to as my eventual “dirt nap” house in Scottdale, that community was on the front end of some pretty significant and continuing gentrification. Living just outside of Avondale Estates and not far from the city limits of Decatur by choice, I increasingly find myself having to defend the management and operations of the local governments of DeKalb.
DeKalb County, Georgia; DeKalb County, Alabama; the city of DeKalb in central Mississippi, and others are all named for German-born Revolutionary War hero, Gen. Baron Johann DeKalb (1721-1780). DeKalb was born in Germany and was originally commissioned as a member of the French Army in 1743. He would later travel to North America in 1777 with his protege, the Marquis de LaFayette. Both were responding to calls from the young colonies for aid from France against the British Army, in the war for colonial independence. Both men would bravely fight alongside colonial forces, and later become decorated as heroes. General DeKalb would join Gen. George Washington at Valley Forge. LaFayette was closer to Washington though, and DeKalb would later be dispatched to defend the Carolinas, where he was later critically wounded.
DeKalb was buried in Camden, South Carolina, and the following quote of his bravery came from General Washington, “So, there lies the brave deKalb. The generous stranger, who came from a distant land to fight our battles and to water with his blood the tree of liberty. Would to God he had lived to share its fruits.”
This brings me back home, and the growing laundry list of defamation to that great name being brought by this county of DeKalb in Georgia. Most recently, our DeKalb Office of Voter Registration and Elections (VRE) demonstrated in the May 24, 2022, General Primary Election contests, that it not only has trouble counting votes, it cannot even count its precincts. In the Democratic Primary contest for DeKalb County Commission District 2, the county initially did not include five precincts within the newly mapped district for advance voting and later on Election Day. The tallies of those precincts were added on election night as ballots were cast for this race.
What followed would last nearly a week, with a winner still not determined a week later, and a hand recount being conducted without a court order, as required by state law, and with three other precincts originally included in the election night tallies, now being subtracted without explanation, though ballots were cast in the District 2 race in those same precincts. The earlier five missing precincts were also tallied and added to the final totals.
If you are keeping score, this is eight precincts out of only 43 – nearly 20 percent of the total number, that were out, then in and in then out. The vote totals flipped. Marshall Orson, originally in first place with 43 percent of the vote, moved to third place; Lauren Alexander remained in a strong second position, and trailing finisher Michelle Long Spears moved to the front of the pack. The hand recount would total 18,647 votes, nearly 2,000 more votes than earlier tabulated, again, without explanation. Though the VRE delayed releasing results continually, the DeKalb County Board of Elections finally certified those results, sending them on to the secretary of state.
For decades the center for election delays and dysfunction in Georgia has been Fulton County. Well, “F-County” now has a new rival in “Big-D.” DeKalb is devolving and developing a reputation for incompetency and lacking stewardship across the board. Regular critics of Fulton County refer to the “F-U county” and virtually all 100 miles of Fulton have now been municipalized into 16 cities.
DeKalb voters, including me, have defended maintaining large swaths of unincorporated DeKalb long served by a county government, increasingly demonstrating an inability to handle the basics. Our D is becoming the new F.
I remain a fan and supporter of DeKalb CEO Michael Thurmond, as well as several members of our county commission. Please wake up folks, it’s time to start firing and then hiring again. You have incompetent managers in positions of responsibility and authority. Just like Baron DeKalb, the people of DeKalb deserve better and they are depending on you.
Bill Crane also serves as a political analyst and commentator for Channel 2’s Action News, WSB-AM News/Talk 750 and now 95.5 FM, as well as a columnist for The Champion, DeKalb Free Press and Georgia Trend. Crane is a DeKalb native and business owner, living in Scottdale. You can reach him or comment on a column at firstname.lastname@example.org.