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DeKalb CEO backtracks on saying MARTA nominee would be county’s first black female

MARTA bus DeKalb County's CEO has nominated a union lobbyist to MARTA's board of directors. DeKalb's board of commissioners is to vote on the nomination. File/Credit: MARTA

By David Pendered

DeKalb County’s CEO has stepped back from a statement that his nominee to MARTA’s board of directors would be the county’s first African American female to serve on the board – presuming her nomination is confirmed.


DeKalb County’s CEO has nominated a union lobbyist to MARTA’s board of directors. DeKalb’s board of commissioners is to vote on the nomination. File/Credit: MARTA

DeKalb CEO Michael Thurmond’s administration withdrew the “first ever” observation about nominee Rita Scott, a union lobbyist, after former DeKalb CEO Vernon Jones noted that he had nominated the county’s first two black women to serve on MARTA’s board.

Jones, a Democrat, now serves in the state House, where he represents the Lithonia area. This is the full text of the email Jones sent to Thurmond,  county commissioners and a handful of others:

  • “While I join in congratulating Rita Scott on her nomination to the MARTA board, I would like to correct your June 26, 2018 press release regarding her being the first African American woman nominated, or if approved, to serve on the MARTA Board from DeKalb County.
  • “Factually, during my Administration two appointments were made. The first African American woman nominated, confirmed and served on the MARTA board representing DeKalb County was former State Representative Henrietta Turnquest. The second African American woman nominated, confirmed and served on the MARTA Board was former State Representative JoAnn McClinton. Both women served DeKalb County citizens with distinction.
  • “I hope that his clears up any historical misinformation.  You may want to re-issue your press statement.”
Michael Thurmond

Michael Thurmond

Thurmond’s administration responded by email to Jones on July 4. The email provides a link to a subsequent statement it issued regarding Scott’s nomination to the transit board.

The second statement eliminates all reference to race or ethnicity.

The original headline read:

  • DeKalb CEO Nominates Rita Scott to MARTA Board
  • Scott could become DeKalb’s first African-American woman on board”

The headline on the second statement reads:

  • “DeKalb CEO Nominates Rita Scott to MARTA Board”

The second paragraph of the first statement read:

  • “If approved, Scott would become the first African-American woman to represent DeKalb County on the board.”

The paragraph is eliminated from the second statement.

Vernon Jones

Vernon Jones

Thurmond’s biography on DeKalb County’s website indicates he is aware of the importance of expanding opportunities for non-whites, and those not born to the manor, to serve in office:

  • “Thurmond was raised as a sharecropper’s son in Clarke County, Georgia. … In 1986, he became the first African-American elected to the Georgia General Assembly from Clarke County since Reconstruction.”

Jones and Thurmond are contemporaries who have served in office simultaneously over the years.

Jones, 57, served in the state House from 1991 to 2001. He was elected and served as DeKalb’s CEO from 2001 to 2009. He ran unsuccessfully for Congress, the U.S. Senate, and DeKalb sheriff, before being elected to the state House in 2016.

Thurmond, 65, served in the state House from 1986 to 1992. Thurmond has overseen the Georgia Division of Family and Children Services, the Georgia Labor Department, and the DeKalb County School District. He fan for unsuccessfully for Congress in 1992, and he ran for U.S. Senate in 2010 – a time when it appeared Democrats would not be able to field a candidate. He was elected DeKalb CEO in 2016.



Rita Scott

Rita Scott


David Pendered

David Pendered, Managing Editor, is an Atlanta journalist with more than 30 years experience reporting on the region’s urban affairs, from Atlanta City Hall to the state Capitol. Since 2008, he has written for print and digital publications, and advised on media and governmental affairs. Previously, he spent more than 26 years with The Atlanta Journal-Constitution and won awards for his coverage of schools and urban development. David graduated from North Carolina State University and was a Western Knight Center Fellow.


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  1. Emil July 5, 2018 10:32 pm

    And we wonder why the pendulum of politics has swung the way it has when badges like this become the issue of the day.Report

  2. Chris Johnston July 6, 2018 10:24 am

    Political theater: Thurmond and Jones both claim to be the top practicioner of putting a darker face on DeKalb County. Meanwhile the County suffers.
    With MARTA’s many problems, many due to its union employees, the last thing the MARTA’s owners and riders should want is a union flunky added to the MARTA Board.Report


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