Sandy Springs City Councilmember Gabriel Sterling will run for the Fulton County chairman seat, he announced April 6.
Incumbent Chairman John Eaves is running for mayor of Atlanta, and a special election for the seat is expected this fall.
Sterling, a Republican political and public relations consultant and entrepreneur, cited Sandy Springs’ largely privatized city government as a model for the county.
“Sandy Springs is run efficiently, providing quality, responsive service, and I want to see that kind of smart government and competition brought to bear in Fulton County,” Sterling said in a press release. “We can’t afford to go back to the dysfunction and divisiveness that defined Fulton for so long. We need fresh ideas like we’ve implemented in Sandy Springs and a steady hand in the chairmanship. I think my record shows that I can help lead this large and diverse county successfully.”
Sterling already announced last year that he would not run for City Council re-election. The chairmanship bid means he, at least for now, is giving up on a previously announced run to replace retiring state Rep. Wendell Willard of District 51 in 2018.
In an interview last month, Sterling said he likes “the opportunity to be able to affect things quickly and directly” on such issues as transit and homelessness offered by the chairmanship, which is the Fulton Board of Commissioners’ only countywide seat. He also said it’s an “exciting idea” to potentially join a historic GOP majority on the Fulton board and expand “Republican reforms” to improve its government.
In his press release announcement, Sterling made similar points and spoke of “rightsizing” county government.
“With nearly all of Fulton County incorporated into cities, now is the time to rightsize our Fulton government, reduce spending, cut taxes and focus on the core responsibilities of the county,” said Sterling. “We can enhance the quality of life for everyone who lives, works, prays and plays here.”
In an interview, Sterling said that does not mean he has particular county departments in mind for cutting, but rather wants to look at Fulton government with the competitive approach of Sandy Springs.
“There are certain things cities can band together and do,” he said, citing the collaborative 911 service among Sandy Springs, Brookhaven, Dunwoody and Johns Creek. “I’m not saying I have all the answers right now, and anybody who does is probably lying through their teeth.”
Sterling runs the public relations consulting firm SSH, Inc. He also serves as vice chairman of the Sandy Springs Development Authority and is a board member for the Phoenix Patriot Foundation.
Sterling has been involved in Republican politics since the 1980s. In 1994, he ran the campaign for the late U.S. Rep. Charlie Norwood of Augusta, who defeated incumbent Don Johnson in a massive upset. Sterling was a member of the committee that helped form the city of Sandy Springs. As a political consultant, he worked directly on the cityhood movements of Brookhaven and Johns Creek.
The Fulton chairman special election is yet to be scheduled and is dependent on Eaves formally resigning, which isn’t required until this summer. But the special election likely will be Nov. 7, the same day as the area’s regular municipal elections.