Atlanta Regional Commission wrestles with citizen member vote
By Maria Saporta
The Atlanta Regional Commission, even with a new slate of elected officials as board members, reached another stalemate Wednesday in the election of a citizen board member.
Once again, the deadlock revolved around the election of the citizen member representing District 11 — which mainly covers portions of DeKalb and Fulton counties and a sliver of Cobb County.
That district has been represented by Tad Leithead of Cobb County, who has just finished serving two terms as chair of the Atlanta Regional Commission.
Citizen members are approved by the 23 elected officials on the ARC board — and bylaws call for members to receive at least a majority of the votes — putting the threshold at 12.
In December, the elected officials met to vote between Leithead and Minuard “Mickey” McGuire, an urban planner who had been proposed by Lee May, the interim CEO of DeKalb County.
The vote in December was 11 members in favor of McGuire and nine in favor of Leithead. Fulton County Chairman John Eaves, who has his own Fulton Commission board meeting at the same time as the ARC meeting, came later and asked to reconvene the group (which would have given McGuire 12 votes).
But Leithead, who was still ARC’s chair, and the rest of the board decided to table the citizen vote until January.
So 19 elected officials gathered in a small conference room before the ARC board meeting on Wednesday afternoon to vote on the District 11 citizen board member. Leithead watched the proceedings from one of the seats against the wall.
Eaves, who was supposed to have chaired the meeting, did not show up. So Gwinnett County Chair Charlotte Nash was asked to chair the meeting.
DeKalb’s Lee May made a passionate to his colleagues that they vote for McGuire, who is a resident of Dunwoody and who has served in state government under Republican and Democratic governors.
May also said that five citizen districts include portions of DeKalb County, yet the state’s third most populous county currently only has one citizen member on the ARC board. That means that DeKalb is underrepresented on the regional body.
Cobb Commission Chairman Tim Lee, however, made just as passionate a case for the elected leaders to vote for Leithead. He said that the former ARC chairman had “volumes of expertise and intuitive knowledge” of what in the best interest of Cobb County and the region.
Three votes were taken, and the results were all the same for each ballot: Leithead received 10 votes, and McGuire received nine.
The elected officials decided they would reconvene in February to try again. In addition to Eaves not being present at Wednesday’s vote, Atlanta Mayor Kasim Reed was out of the country. Also, questions have come up about whether Ceasar Mitchell, president of the Atlanta City Council, can serve as that body’s representative on the ARC board.
By the way, elected leaders on ARC’s board went for a year-and-a-half with a stalemate on the citizen representative for District 10, which straddles DeKalb and Gwinnett counties.
That stalemate was led by Norcross Mayor Bucky Johnson who was at odds with DeKalb County CEO Burrell Ellis over who should represent that district. When May took over as interim CEO, he agreed in the interest of regional cooperation to let Gwinnett represent that district.
“I gave in one time for the good of the board,” May said. “I’m not going to give in this time.”
Steve Brown, chairman of the Fayette County Commission, praised May for sacrificing representation for District 10, and it was only fair for DeKalb to win the citizen member election this time around.
“DeKalb is the third largest county in the region,” Brown said. “For them to have only one representative is a slight to them.”
Richard Oden, chairman of the Rockdale County Commission, said the votes of citizen members have “divided this board” into different camps.
“Let’s give the CEO what he needs with representation,” Oden said. “Any other decision would continue to divide this board.”