Thursday, December 27, 2007

Ellis fires shot across bow in CEO race

Posted By on Thu, Dec 27, 2007 at 10:48 PM

It’s hard to imagine a bigger ho-hum of a press release than when DeKalb Commissioner Burrell Ellis announced, the week before Christmas, that he wouldn’t seek re-election as the board’s presiding officer in 2008.

Anyone not boning up for Local Government Team Trivia could be excused for failing to care. After all, the sole responsibility of presiding officer is taking over the Commission gavel after CEO Vernon Jones wanders away from a long, boring meeting.

But to Ellis’ potential rivals, the announcement served notice that he is serious about running in 2008 to replace Jones as CEO. Although he has filed paperwork to seek campaign contributions, and has told interviewers he would run for CEO, the two-term commissioner has yet to publicly announce his candidacy.

When he does throw his hat into the ring, Ellis will join what is essentially a two-man race against state Rep. Stan Watson. Other serious candidates have been rumored – Sheriff Tom Brown, Commissioner Connie Stokes and state Rep. Steen Miles, for starters – but with the Democratic primary scheduled for July 15, time is running out for anyone else to come forward.

Watson and Ellis represent the old guard vs. the new guard. An 11-year veteran of the Statehouse, Watson has been careful to cultivate Jones’ south DeKalb base, but he also commands enough respect from his north DeKalb peers to win support as a leader of the county House delegation.

“The maturity factor will help me” in getting votes, predicts Watson, 53, in what could be an oblique reference to the exasperation many DeKalbites feel with their impulsive, hard-partying current CEO.

But at a youthful 50, Ellis is no babe in the wood. And his clean-cut, well-tailored appearance and job with a top law firm will undoubtedly give him crossover appeal in the cul-de-sacs of north DeKalb. He’s already worked to cement a bond with the northern end of the county by splitting with Jones on several recent issues, voting in favor of earlier bar hours and against TAD financing around a proposed Sembler development.

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