In Focus Atlanta: Dekalb County Interim CEO Lee May
Atlanta (WVEE) — In light of immoral, unethical, and criminal conduct in numerous positions of power within Dekalb County, Lee May has made it his duty to “be forward thinking and…look out into the future so that we are operating responsibly to ensure that we have a great county.” With over 700,000 tax paying residents and a billion dollar budget, CEO May is hard at work to ensure that the things of the past do not hinder the future of Dekalb County. “I am charged with maintaining a high quality of life for our citizens. Regardless of what may be swirling around us, we have to tend to the day-to-day issues of our county.”
Lee May was appointed to the position of Interim Chief Executive Officer of Dekalb County by the Governor of Georgia Nathan Deal on July 17, 2013 after the previous CEO, Burrell Ellis, was forced to vacate the position amidst being charged with 14 federal counts of bribery and corruption. With Ellis now suspended, May, who served as the presiding officer of the Dekalb Board of Commissioners and is also the youngest person to ever be elected to serve on the BOC, is primed to make the hauntings of the past irrelevant to the future of Dekalb County. May has stated that he has a “strategic plan” in place to provide the best public safety network in the metro area as well as give the county an economic advantage. “Aggressively hiring police and firefighters and… retaining our employees so that we can have safe streets,” is one of his top priorities. In addition, he says that by creating more jobs within the county and advancing a structure that is competitive will make Dekalb an “attractive place for companies to make their home and create jobs in our county.”
Many residents of not only Dekalb County, but other counties nationwide that have elected commissioners to run their county government have no clue what the duties of county CEO are. According to May, the job is responsible for taking the tax-payer dollars and making sure services are delivered. His goal is to make sure that Dekalb is a beautiful county that is “visually aesthetic” for tax-payers to “live, work, and play”. From maintaining a clean water supply to making sure roads are paved, trash is collected, and providing police and court services, Lee May is responsible for all day-to-day operations of the county and ensuring that the quality of life for residents in the third largest county in metro Atlanta is at its highest level. With so much money, so many people, and so many services that May is entrusted to sustain, even with the checking of his budgetary choices by the Board of Commissioners, which is the Legislative branch of the county government, many local leaders are not thrilled with the power that the CEO holds in the decision making process. May feels that being a “Man of faith” will give him an advantage in re-building the trust communities trust in the county.
May is the son of a pastor and holds a Master’s Degree in Divinity from Emory University and he calls faith the “fabric” of his life. “Every aspect of my life is God-involved” and these principles that he has learned through his faith give him an ethical and moral advantage to do what is right. May has written a book entitled “My God, My Politics: A discussion on Faith and Politics” and states that “even in this political world I include every aspect of my faith in everything that I do.” May is clear that he does not attempt to make his faith the faith of others, however “in terms of operating in integrity and transparency” he maintains ethics of hard-work that the tax-paying residents can believe in. “I use my faith as a unifying force. What I seek to do…is bring people together,” says CEO May. Bringing people who do not look or talk like him or have the same background that he does is something that drives him. “My faiths call’s me to bring people together, to live, work, and play together.” Even with his faith and the positive impact that it has on his decision making as an elected official, many people do not believe that a county CEO is needed, and May slightly agrees with this notion. He steadfastly believes that there must be a deliberate conversation about the structure of the government in Dekalb county, stating that “personally I believe that a change in our form of government in needed.” If the structure is to stay the same then the looming question is how to fix the broken areas within the government. “If we stay the same, what do we fix? But if we change, what do we change to? Change for change sake is not good.” CEO Lee May feels that elected officials should not have a full say in whether the county government changes and including tax-payers into the discussion “to have that open dialogue about how they would like to be governed as a county.”
Written By Sherman H Smith Jr. (WAOK/ Intern)