ARC elects citizen member – at last

By Maria Saporta

The fourth time was the charm.

The elected officials on the Atlanta Regional Commission’s board Wednesday decisively voted for a new citizens board member — Minuard “Mickey” McGuire — removing citizen member Tad Leithead from the board.

Leithead, who has been on ARC’s board since July, 2000, served as chairman of the 10-county regional planning body from January 2010 to December 2013.

But in December, interim DeKalb County CEO proposed McGuire to replace Leithead as the citizen member representing ARC’s11th district. ARC’s by-laws call for at least 12 of the 23 elected officials on ARC’s board to vote for a citizen member before that person is approved.

The problem was that in three different attempts neither Leithead nor McGuire received the necessary 12 votes.

Until Thursday.

After the first secret ballot and the votes were tabulated, Fulton County Commission Chair John Eaves announced that McGuire had received 14 votes and Leithead had received six.

Three elected officials were not present at the time of the vote — Atlanta City Council President Ceasar Mitchell; Atlanta Mayor Kasim Reed and Conyers Mayor Randy Mills. Both Mitchell and Reed arrived shortly after, and both of them had been expected to have voted for McGuire.

Clayton County Chair Jeff Turner said he appreciated the years of service that Leithead had dedicated to ARC, but he felt DeKalb needed greater representation on the board. Although five citizen districts are partly located in DeKalb, the county has been represented by only one citizen board member.

“I give a lot of credit to Lee May, who reached out to me and his colleagues,” Eaves said. “He said his nominee would be good for ARC. I told him I would support him. It shouldn’t have taken quite as long, but it ended up working out.”

May clearly was pleased with his hard-fought victory, which had led several people to question whether the ARC was able to reach a consensus for the region. It had taken 12 votes to select a chairman — Kerry Armstrong — in December.

“I’m excited that we can finally move forward with strong leadership,” May said of his nominee — Dunwoody resident McGuire. “We are reviewing the bylaws so that that we don’t find ourselves in this position again. Tad Leithead is a great individual who has given us great leadership. Every one knew that. That’s why it took so long. But today’s vote was about unity.”

Steve Brown, chairman of the Fayette County Commission, said the results of Wednesday’s vote showed that some elected officials may have done some soul searching since the last vote in late February.

May’s quiet but forceful argument that DeKalb needed greater representation and that it was time for fresh leadership must have resonated with ARC board members.

Coincidentally, during the full ARC board meeting, seven members of the general public addressed board members about their governance issues. They believed that citizen members are not accountable to the public because they are not elected.

The last two chairs of ARC have been citizen members, which Brown said is because they “have a majority voting block because of the division between cities and counties.”

The public comments also objected to representatives from community improvement districts being able to serve as citizen members because they are part of self-taxing geographic areas. Leithead is chairman of the Cumberland CID; and Armstrong is chairman of the North Fulton CID.

Brown has proposed having term limits for citizen members serving on ARC’s board.

The ARC is reviewing its bylaws, but it has not yet started discussing the issue of term limits or whether CID officials can be citizen members.

Maria Saporta, Editor, is a longtime Atlanta business, civic and urban affairs journalist with a deep knowledge of our city, our region and state.  Since 2008, she has written a weekly column and news stories for the Atlanta Business Chronicle. Prior to that, she spent 27 years with The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, becoming its business columnist in 1991. Maria received her Master’s degree in urban studies from Georgia State and her Bachelor’s degree in journalism from Boston University. Maria was born in Atlanta to European parents and has two young adult children.

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