Sandy Springs City Councilmember Gabriel Sterling is considering a run for the Fulton County chairman seat and will announce his decision soon.

Gabriel Sterling

Sterling, a Republican, already announced last year that he will not run for re-election to the council seat he has held since 2011. His original intent was to run for the state House District 51 seat that Wendell Willard is retiring from in 2018. But Fulton Chairman John Eaves’ recent decision to run for Atlanta mayor opened up a new possibility.

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 said he may still run for the state rep. seat, explaining that he also likes the idea of affecting such statewide issues as transportation funding and the fallout of national healthcare funding uncertainty on regional hospitals. The seat includes Sandy Springs’ panhandle area, along with parts of Johns Creek and Roswell.

Sterling technically has months to decide, as Eaves has yet to resign for his mayoral run and the special election likely will be called for November. But he said he will make his intentions known soon.

“You’re going to get an announcement sooner rather than later,” he said.

It is likely possible for Sterling, or anyone else, to run for both seats due to their elections coming months apart.

Both the Fulton chairmanship and the District 51 seat are of high political importance in Sandy Springs, whose leaders fear losing strong incumbents with good city relationships. In District 51, Willard, a 15-year incumbent, is also the Sandy Springs city attorney and was involved in the city’s landmark 2005 incorporation that set off a wave of metro Atlanta cityhood movements.

In Fulton, Eaves, a Democrat, is among the officials credited with dramatically improved county-city relations that, among other things, produced last year’s successfully transportation-focused special local option sales tax initiative.

Sterling said a post-Eaves Fulton County is among his motives for considering a chairmanship run. “I’m concerned that if the wrong person, someone from the past who was on the commission at the time it was [divisive], we could fall backwards,” Sterling said.

Maintaining good relations in Fulton is key on issues like mass transit expansion, Sterling said, adding that “we have to build on that to go county to county.” He said he especially wants to see a transit line connecting Doraville and SunTrust Park in Cobb County.

But Sterling also credited a Republican-driven redistricting of Fulton’s board districts with getting a more cooperative system in place. He 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.

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