A closer look at the race for DeKalb Commission Super District 6

From left, Maryam Ahmad, Emily Halevy and Ted Terry are all running for DeKalb Commissioner Super District 6. All three are Democrats. SPECIAL PHOTOS

Kathie Gannon, DeKalb County's longtime Super District 6 commission, is retiring — and a trio of candidates has lined up to try and replace her.

Democrats Maryam Ahmad, Emily Halevy and Ted Terry are all vying to represent the district, which bears the “super” moniker because it’s one of two that covers an entire half of the county. Whoever wins June 9’s primary — or the subsequent runoff, should no one garner 50% of the vote — will represent an area that stretches from Dunwoody, Chamblee and Brookhaven in the north, then down to Decatur, East Lake and Bouldercrest.

Click here to see if you live in District 6, and read more about the candidates below.

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Maryam Ahmad: Ahmad is a political newcomer, community activist and public health data analyst. A first-generation American, she grew up in Clarkston and Stone Mountain and currently lives in the Atlanta portion of DeKalb.

She said she joined the District 6 race to try and bridge the gap between county officials and regular people.

As a public health professional with expertise in epidemiology, the 31-year-old Ahmad joins a recent surge of political hopefuls with backgrounds in medicine and science. She joined the race even before the brunt of the coronavirus pandemic hit — but calls the federal and statewide response to the virus "a complete disaster" and said it gives her an extra sense of duty.

“I’ve worked extremely hard and been through a lot to get where I’m at right now,” Ahmad said. “That’s why I’m so focused on just making the lives of everybody better.”

Ahmad has put forth a health-first platform that’s predicated on an ambitious community survey that would ask DeKalb residents about their ability to access and afford things like housing, jobs, education, transportation, fresh food, and physical and mental health care.

The results would then be analyzed and used to steer public policy, with an emphasis on addressing existing disparities and preventing them in the future.

“We could really be spending money way more efficiently and save money by using this prevention instead of waiting for things to happen,” Ahmad said.

Read more at her website.

Emily Halevy: Halevy is a digital media executive who became a smart development advocate after getting involved with a local zoning issue about five years ago.

In 2018, she founded the Coalition for a Diverse DeKalb, which supports affordable housing initiatives.

Halevy, who has lived near Avondale Estates with her family for about 15 years, has the backing of three sitting commissioners: Steve Bradshaw, Jeff Rader and Gannon, the outgoing District 6 representative.

State representatives Karla Drenner and Mary Margaret Oliver; former DeKalb CEO Liane Levatan; and the current mayors of Brookhaven and Avondale Estates have also offered endorsements.

Halevy said she’s proud to have the support but bills herself as an outsider who will listen to everyday residents.

“I don’t have deep political ties, I don’t have any favors to settle when I’m elected,” she said. “It’s all about the voters.”

Halevy's platform includes affordable housing initiatives, MARTA expansion and transit-oriented development, public safety pay increases and expanding public health planning.

She acknowledged, however, that DeKalb also has a myriad of long-standing issues like sewer problems and departmental mismanagement that must be addressed.

“Really at the heart of it is there’s a lack of trust between the DeKalb County government and the residents of DeKalb,” Halevy said. “And above and beyond any other policy platforms, we want leadership that’s ethical and holds our officials accountable.”

Read more at her website.

Ted Terry: Terry is the former "millenial mayor" of Clarkston, the diverse DeKalb city known as the "Ellis Island of the South." He joined the District 6 race in January after dropping his bid for the U.S. Senate seat currently held by David Perdue.

Thus far, he's secured endorsements from current DeKalb commissioners Larry Johnson and Mereda Davis Johnson, as well as former Georgia Gov. Roy Barnes, U.S. Rep. Hank Johnson and a handful of state legislators. Doraville Mayor Joseph Geierman, Atlanta City Council President Felicia Moore and rapper/activist Killer Mike have also backed him.

Halevy has criticized Terry for touting endorsements from folks outside District 6. But Terry said he’s proud to have support throughout the county.

“Those are all people who I’ve known and worked with and they’ve seen what I stand for,” he said.

In his six years as Clarkston’s mayor, Terry helped put a $15 minimum wage in place for city employees; make election day a holiday; decriminalize simple marijuana possession; and promote clean energy.

His platform as a commission candidate includes several similar initiatives. He’s also proposing a housing plan that includes the creation of an “affordable housing trust” that could help residents with down payments and rent, as well as “anti-displacement funds to help eligible low-income families stay in their homes.”

Terry, who is the former chapter leader of the Georgia Sierra Club and sits on the DeKalb Board of Health, said experience separates him from his competitors.

“People need to know that our elected officials are prepared and capable,” he said.

Read more at his website.

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