Lee May Trying to Save DeKalb County. But Is It Too Late?

Updated and Bumped (with a poll showing that DeKalb voters would support changing to a more traditional form of County government with a Board of Commissioners and a professional County manager instead of a CEO) Toplines here. Crosstabs here.

A Guest Post from Tim Darnell:

When he was appointed interim CEO, DeKalb commissioner Lee May hit the ground running, attending as many town hall meetings and community gatherings as he could. His message is that DeKalb is on the mend, and is serious about solving the mountain of crises that have impacted the county over the last year.

Taking over the duties of indicted CEO Burrell Ellis, May is set to appear Tuesday night at Briarwood Park, in the heart of a community that voted to municipalize just last year, Brookhaven.

But as May struggles to regain the confidence of DeKalb voters, will there be anything left of the county to save?

Less than a year after Brookhaven became a city, several other DeKalb communities are studying cityhood. The City of Briarcliff Initiative has raised $30,000 to commission a study into municipalization. This comes after a similar Lakeside cityhood movement began earlier this year, which in turn spawned a similar movement in the Tucker community around Northlake Mall, a commercial area that is vital to all of the proposed municipalities.

After the GOP gained control of both the state House and Senate, the legislative atmosphere for communities wishing to secede became much friendlier. First came Sandy Springs, then Dunwoody and Johns Creek. Last year Brookhaven joined the club.

DeKalb still provides numerous services to some of the cities that have formed their own communities, such as sanitation, fire and 911. But as more voters debate the merits of cityhood, is Lee May fighting a losing battle?


  1. KingRichard says:

    Dekalb is terrible, the rash of Cityhood in Dekalb county is a clear signal of what will happen in the future. If Dekalb won’t reform itself and be responsible then it will become non-existant. No one wants Dekalb County Government due to prolific scandals and utter worthlessness. Bottom performing county in America. I am nearly convinced that nothing can save it.

    • bgsmallz says:

      Honestly, that’s just ignorant. Calling DeKalb terrible or the bottom performing county in America lacks any sort of basis in this little thing called ‘reality.’

    • If DeKalb is so terrible, why do most of the new cities continue using it for trash pickup – the primary point of contact for people with local government. It seems to me that the best argument for cities is local zoning control combined with the ability to tax themselves (or save a little in efficiency with the county) to pay for a bigger police presence.

    • bgsmallz says:


      I think using language like ‘secede’ is inflammatory and does a disservice to the actual conversation. What we are talking about here is delivery of municipal services…and…this may be shocking…but there is a pretty clear reason on why municipalities have historically been and continue to be the mode of choice of delivery of such services. Framing incorporation as ‘secession’ ignores the reality of literally thousands of years of history and culture which has shown the city, town, village as being at the forefront of a bounded community and efficient local service delivery. (There is a reason the GA Constitution defines those services as municipal services).

      But who cares about history when ‘secede’ is so much more catchy? It’s got people talking! Ugh.

      If there is a legitimate criticism to how incorporation has evolved in this state, it is that the state legislature has never been able to put forth a comprehensive, non-partisan, and rational system for incorporation and annexation …therefore, what today looks like a political takeover by the GOP may very well only be a correction of the mistakes of political take-overs of the past (such as municipal service delivery by counties or the ‘three mile’ rule). But maybe some of the blame should be directed at ourselves… when we make a process that should be rational, some what subjective, and semi-orderly like incorporation of growing communities, into a hyper-partisan contest with commentators using language like ‘killing the county’ and ‘secede’ and incorporation foes paying top dollar for political campaigns to attack neighbors and rip apart communities.

      It’s a larger conversation…what is the optimal and most efficient balance of service delivery between the state, county, and municipality regardless of political affiliation. I urge you and others with a voice in the media to have that discussion…rather than to continue to rehash unfortunate stereotypes for easy page views.

      • bgsmallz says:

        Last note before receding back into my cave….Tim has done a solid job on local coverage in Brookhaven over the past couple of years …under some difficult circumstances considering the crazy anonymous posters that would visit his articles…I wouldn’t want my criticism/suggestion above to take away my sincere respect for his work.

      • griftdrift says:

        “If there is a legitimate criticism to how incorporation has evolved in this state, it is that the state legislature has never been able to put forth a comprehensive, non-partisan, and rational system for incorporation and annexation”


        Although years ago David Adelman tried to get a “township” bill through. Tried being the key term.

    • bgsmallz says:

      Agreed. And I think Lee May has promise…but what he has to continue to do is to beat the drum to do away with the CEO office. I’m concerned that once someone sniffs that office and the power that comes with it, that it will be hard to do away with it.

    • jbgotcha says:

      Michael Thurmond is a self-serving politician. He is going to stick around long enough to collect a golden parachute and pension and will use the platform to try and run for higher office. He has made ZERO attempts to find a permanent superintendent even though that’s what he claimed would be his priority. Don’t be naive. As for Lee May…I have little faith. He’s part of the same cronyism that has become a cancer on DeKalb.

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