Vernon Jones: Don't rush to change DeKalb government

DeKalb County commissioners need to get public input before abolishing the county’s elected chief executive officer, former CEO Vernon Jones said Tuesday.

After hearing from Jones and about a dozen residents, the commission decided Tuesday to hold off on voting on a resolution to change the county’s form of government. The proposal calls for DeKalb to hire a county manager and get rid of its elected CEO.

Jones insisted he is not backing commissioners or his replacement, CEO Burrell Ellis, but told commissioners they should have reservations about the making a quick switch.

“I’m asking them to move with caution,” Jones told the AJC. “I have not seen any public input. I am not here to grade anybody, just here to say I love this county and any change needs input from the citizens.”

DeKalb is the only county in Georgia with an elected CEO.

Commissioners said the move would bring “significant cost savings” and reduce “political infighting.”

The only time the composition of the government should be changed is when there is proof it will improve county services, Jones told the AJC.

“If it is not broken, don’t fix it,” he said.

Jones and several residents argued that an elected CEO’s loyalty is to taxpayers, while an appointed county manager would report only to the seven commissioners.

About a dozen residents, including former Lithonia Mayor Marcia Glenn-Hunter, told commissioners they should be focusing on bigger problems, including crime, property values and county services.

“DeKalb County is on fire and it’s up to you guys to decide to stop this burn,” Glenn-Hunter he told commissioners.

Decatur resident Brenda Pace asked the commission to hold a public hearing before taking any action.

“I don’t want to see DeKalb County end up a Clayton County or a Fulton County,” she told commissioners. “Never before did I think I would be agreement with Vernon Jones. This morning was a first.”

Tuesday was Jones’ first visit to the commission since he left office last year.

“I am very low key now,” he joked with reporters after addressing commissioners. “I can’t afford a [business] card. I don’t have a job.”