DeKalb Commission elects new leader, shifts power


DeKalb Commission elects new leader, shifts power

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The DeKalb County Board of Commissioners elected Commissioner Kathie Gannon as presiding officer Tuesday. From left: Commissioners Nancy Jester, Jeff Rader, Steve Bradshaw, Larry Johnson, Mereda Davis Johnson, Kathie Gannon and Greg Adams. STEVE SCHAEFER / SPECIAL TO THE AJC

The DeKalb County Board of Commissioners elected Commissioner Kathie Gannon as its new leader Tuesday, a change in power after years of factionalism and divisive votes.

The board voted 5-2 to make Gannon the commission’s presiding officer. She defeated Commissioner Larry Johnson, who had held the position since 2014.

Gannon said she represents the change that voters wanted when they overhauled the county’s government during last year’s elections. She said she’ll work to unify the commission and more thoroughly vet the county’s policies.

"We are going to work together,” Gannon said. “There is going to be no opportunity for south DeKalb to say, ‘See you left us behind.’ They’re going to be at the table. We rise tog or we fall together.”

Gannon, whose super district covers the western half of the county, will have the power as presiding officer to set the county’s policy agenda, run board meetings and appoint committee heads.

Johnson said Gannon’s promise of better leadership was an “illusion of inclusion.” Johnson, whose district is in southwest DeKalb, said he better represents the majority of DeKalb’s residents.

The commission has been divided into factions on several key votes, split roughly along geographic borders. Officials roughly representing the northern and southern parts of the county have been at odds over the county budget, a new animal shelter, a temporary representative for southeast DeKalb and a soccer complex.

Gannon was elected with the help of Commissioner Steve Bradshaw, who unseated Commissioner Sharon Barnes Sutton in a Stone Mountain-area district, and Commissioner Mereda Davis Johnson, who represents southeast DeKalb.

She was also supported by Commissioners Nancy Jester and Jeff Rader. Commissioners Greg Adams and Larry Johnson were opposed.

Gannon has said she wants to build consensus among elected officials, scrutinize public spending, strengthen public safety and more thoroughly vet policies. She was the board’s presiding officer in 2008.

Johnson, who represents East Lake, Gresham Park and Panthersville, had led the board since 2014 and was also presiding officer from 2009 to 2012. 

The commission also elected Rader as its deputy presiding officer.

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DeKalb County Commissioner Kathie Gannon during a DeKalb County Commission meeting Dec. 13. HYOSUB SHIN / HSHIN@AJC.COM The Atlanta Journal-Constitution
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