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DeKalb Commission to vote on new leader

Leadership of the DeKalb County Commission will be at stake Tuesday when its members try to decide on a presiding officer.

The board might have a hard time finding a majority for any candidate, similar to its power struggle in last year's annual leadership vote.

The presiding officer is responsible for setting agendas and making appointments to committees, some of which haven't been meeting regularly in the last year.

Commissioner Jeff Rader has announced his candidacy, and he said Commissioner Stan Watson has also expressed interest. Neither Watson nor Commissioner Larry Johnson, who currently serves as presiding officer, returned phone calls seeking comment.

Rader said he wants to hire an internal auditor to monitor county finances, fill staff positions, increase transparency and allow committees to choose their own leadership.

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"The points in my agenda are all things I've heard from commissioners as being weaknesses in the current structure," Rader said. "I want to devolve power to the members of the commission and give them resources to be effective."

Last January's elections initially resulted in a deadlocked board, with no commissioner able to achieve enough votes to win the presiding officer post. Two weeks later, Watson cast the swing vote for Johnson, who became presiding officer for the fifth time in his 12 years on the board.

The commission will need to muster four votes among its six members in order to approve a presiding officer.

A seventh seat on the commission, representing about 140,000 residents in southeast DeKalb, has been vacant for nearly a year and a half since Gov. Nathan Deal appointed then-Commissioner Lee May to serve as the county's interim CEO, replacing CEO Burrell Ellis, who has been been suspended as he faces extortion charges.

The commission is stuck in a stalemate over confirming a temporary commissioner to fill May's former seat.

About the Author

Mark Niesse covers elections, the Georgia General Assembly and state government.

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