Bill seeks end of DeKalb CEO position

A proposal to eliminate DeKalb County's powerful CEO position has been introduced at the Georgia General Assembly.

The legislation would replace DeKalb’s chief executive with a county commission chairman elected countywide. A professional county manager hired by the commission would run day-to-day government operations.

The bill would also expand the number of commission seats from seven to nine and impose term limits on commissioners.

Rep. Scott Holcomb, D-Atlanta, said he introduced the measure Monday as a way to reform DeKalb’s government.

“The county manager’s responsibilities and duties are only to serve the county and not be involved in politics, where previously we had a CEO who was clearly a political figure,” Holcomb said. “I believe it will professionalize DeKalb County’s government structure, improve it and address the issues we’ve been facing over time.”

Interim DeKalb CEO Lee May, who isn't running for election this year, has said he supports proposals to end the county's chief executive position.

Suspended DeKalb CEO Burrell Ellis is currently serving a prison sentence for perjury and attempted extortion.

If the bill passes, it wouldn’t change DeKalb’s government immediately.

Voters would decide the issue during November’s election, and the changes wouldn’t take place until after the 2020 elections. Over the next four years, a CEO would continue to be in charge.

The DeKalb Commission currently has seven members, with five separate districts and two superdistrict commissioners representing the east and west halves of the county.

Holcomb’s bill would create eight districts and the commission chairman elected by the entire county.

With eight districts, each commissioner would represent about 85,000 residents instead of about 140,000 residents in each district currently. The county's two superdistricts would be eliminated.

“The commission districts have grown too large because of the massive expansion over the last few decades, so this takes them down down in size,” Holcomb said.

The commission chairman would be limited to two four-year terms, and every other commissioner would be allowed to serve three four-year terms.

Other legislators have said they’d prefer to review DeKalb’s government structure more broadly instead of eliminating the CEO position outright. Holcomb said he supports a charter review either in addition to or as part of his bill.

Holcomb's bill is considered local legislation that will first be considered by the Policy Committee of DeKalb's House delegation.