A little over a year ago I was appointed by the Governor to take the position of Interim CEO for DeKalb County. It was a time of uncertainty and public scrutiny, and from day one I made it my goal to restore the public’s trust in our county government. I remain dedicated to making our government more accessible, transparent and accountable.
So much focus has been on suspended CEO Ellis and the resulting mistrial, but we must allow the legal system to do what it has been put in place to do and as we wait on the decision of District Attorney Robert James, we need to keep looking forward. My attention is still focused on enhancing public safety; stimulating economic development and job creation; sustainability; and ensuring efficiency and ethics in government.
Our county has faced many challenges and each day a new one arises. As I have said before, it takes years to build trust, but only a day to destroy it. We cannot dwell on what has happened in the past, but should move forward, ensuring that all departments that report to the CEO and all elected officials are held accountable for their actions. We have learned valuable lessons and have taken steps to prevent certain issues from happening again so that our county’s future can be faced with confidence.
We can continue to talk about the negative topics or we can talk about the positive changes that have been made and what is in store for the future.
We reconstituted our Board of Ethics giving them the necessary tools and resources to do their job. We also provided the Board of Ethics with funding to create a Chief Integrity Officer and staff to report unethical activity of elected officials and County staff to the Board of Ethics, as well as overhauling the County’s P-card policy, requiring annual training and audits from anyone holding a card.
DeKalb County is growing safer every day as we continue to hire qualified police officers. Public safety has always been a top concern for residents and we have put into place plans to recruit and retain our sworn personnel in both Police and Fire Rescue Departments. We have also seen a reduction in violent crime by five percent and a reduction in property crime by 18 percent since 2013.
Economic development is on the rise in DeKalb, most recently with the announcement of the expansion of Acuity Brands in Lithonia. The relocation of this corporation to the Panola Industrial Park area represents a $16 million investment and 700 new jobs for DeKalb and Rockdale counties.
DeKalb County is home to more than 700,000 people, and has more than 6,500 county employees who work hard for our county every day. None of this can be done without these dedicated employees who deserve to have proper training, compensation and promotional opportunities. Most importantly, they need stability in the workplace and leadership they can count on. We must meet the needs of our personnel to ensure that they are equipped and prepared to work in our community.
DeKalb County has been faced with challenges, but in the end we rise to and overcome these challenges. The future is bright in DeKalb County. I remain committed to deliver on my promise to the residents to secure a future of progress and prosperity in DeKalb.
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Lee May is interim DeKalb County CEO.