The five candidates seeking the District 1 seat on the DeKalb County Commission present their qualifications for the job in very different ways.
When they appeared together Oct. 5 in Dunwoody at a meeting of the Dunwoody Homeowners Association, some candidates talked of their experience working to fix troubled institutions with large budgets while others indicated they primarily wanted to run scoundrels out of county government.
DeKalb’s commission has seen both budget fights and scandal in recent years. The District 1 seat is open because its former occupant, long-time Councilwoman Elaine Boyer, resigned a day before federal authorities accused her of misusing county funds. Boyer has pleaded guilty to wire fraud and mail fraud conspiracy. She is to be sentenced in December.
Meanwhile, suspended DeKalb CEO Burrell Ellis is facing trial on charges he used his position to force local business owners to contribute to his campaign.
The candidates seeking the District 1 seat are: Wendy Butler of Brookhaven, a lawyer and MARTA board member; Larry Danese of Brookhaven, a retired engineer who ran against Boyer in the past; Nancy Jester of Dunwoody, a former DeKalb school board member; and retirees Tom Owens of Doraville and Holmes E. Pyles of Smoke Rise.
Jester, former member of the DeKalb school board, says she’s had the financial training needed to tackle the county’s budget problems.
“I think the county budget has to be looked at quite closely,” she told more than 50 residents attending the DHA meeting at Kingsley Swim and Racquet Club. “I don’t think we have a shortage of money. I think we have a shortage of willpower.”
Butler touts her work on the MARTA board, saying its changes illustrate her experience turning around a multi-billion-dollar government operation. “I will demand the openness and the transparency we all deserve,” she said. “I have rolled my sleeves up with MARTA…. I will be proud to turn DeKalb County around.”
Other candidates drew attention to DeKalb County government’s problems. Danese said he would ensure no new taxes were imposed and repairs were made to county roads and bridges, but he also promised “to establish a culture and climate of ethical performance” in office.
Owens called for more oversight of the use of purchasing credit cards by county employees and for an end to DeKalb’s CEO form of government. “If you want somebody who’s going fight corruption and expose corruption, I’m your candidate,” he said.
Pyles suggested that all employees with county purchasing cards should be given lie detector tests. “It’s very simple,” he said. “I don’t know why we have to spend a lot of suing one another about what somebody said or didn’t say. We have the technology.”