On Thursday, January 23rd, the Council for Quality Growth and the DeKalb Chamber of Commerce co-hosted the 2014 DeKalb State of the County Business Lunch. Interim CEO Lee May delivered the DeKalb State of the County Address to a sold out crowd of over 250 people.
Interim CEO May recognized that DeKalb County must understand the strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats that it faces as a county, and reassured attendees that the County is working with key stakeholders to develop a blueprint for the first time in DeKalb that will guide the county as it moves forward. He also underscored the importance of investing in County employees to ensure that they have adequate training, fair compensation and promotional opportunities, and that the right leadership is guiding DeKalb County in these government positions.
The Interim CEO’s administration is built on four “strategic priority areas”, which not only guide the County’s work but are also reflected in the 2014 budget that Interim CEO May delivered to the Board of Commissioners:
1) Enhancing Public safety;
2) Spurring economic development and job creation;
3) Developing community beautification efforts; &
4) Ensuring efficiency and ethics in government
On all four fronts, DeKalb County is making progress, and Interim CEO outlined the plans that are being developed to restore DeKalb and to address the pressing challenges that the county faces.
In the area of public safety, the County has focused on ensuring that the leaders of DeKalb County’s fire and police departments are the right individuals for the job. The County has struggled, as it was losing public safety officers faster than the rate of replacement. Interim CEO May has announced several initiatives to resolve DeKalb’s public safety issues, including a 3% one-time bonus for sworn personnel, the reinstatement of the promotional pay increase for Police and Fire & Rescue and the hiring of 100 firefighters and 160 new police officers every year for the next 3 years, among other procedures.
The County is also focusing on three particular areas in their efforts to spur economic development and job creation: restructuring the County’s permitting and business licensing process; developing an Economic Development Strategic Plan for the first time in DeKalb County’s history; and pursuing an intergovernmental agreement with the Development Authority of DeKalb County to designate the Authority as DeKalb County’s economic development agency.
In the area of community beautification, the County has launched a comprehensive beautification initiative called Operation Fresh Start through collaboration between DeKalb’s Code Enforcement departments and Keep DeKalb Beautiful.
The County is also working to reorganize government functions in order to make DeKalb County government more efficient by adopting “Best Management Practices” that have proven successful in other communities throughout the United States. These include modifications within the Department of Watershed Management and the launch of a new sanitation pilot program, among other initiatives. The County is also making great strides to develop a partnership with the DeKalb County School District through the Progress DeKalb initiative. Due to the efforts of the School Superintendent and the elected and appointed school board members, DeKalb County’s school system is now officially off probation and making strides forward.
Finally, Interim CEO underscored his commitment to restoring the ethics and integrity of the government. He has recommended a 700% increase in funding for the DeKalb County Board of Ethics, and has appointed a blue-ribbon commission through executive order to conduct a comprehensive review of the County’s ethics policy and to compare its policies to those around Georgia and the nation. The CEO is also working to separate the functions of government operations from that of government audits.
Throughout his address, Interim CEO May highlighted the importance of collaboration and unity across sectors in propelling DeKalb forward to a more prosperous future. In his words:
“The prosperity of our County is one that will rest on the foundation of collaboration and unity. It will take the private sector and the public sector, the school system and the cities, the faith community and the business community to work for the overall good. We must seize the opportunity.”