In the still-unofficial race for Fulton County chairman, candidate and former commissioner Robb Pitts is promising to be the sort of “strong leader” that he says is long overdue. Really long overdue.
“I’ll be very honest and candid with you,” Pitts said in a recent phone interview. “Fulton County is the largest of 159 counties in the state of Georgia and is going to continue to grow. … And the truth of the matter is, Fulton County has not had a visionary, dynamic chairman since Michael Lomax [who left the seat in 1989]…No disrespect to those who have served since then.”
One person who has served since then is current Chairman John Eaves, who has opened up a potential race with his own campaign for mayor of Atlanta. A special election to replace Eaves is dependent on his formal resignation, which isn’t required until this summer. Pitts is one of two currently announced candidates for the chairman’s seat, along with Sandy Springs City Councilmember Gabriel Sterling.
Pitts positioned himself as the experienced candidate. He served as a Fulton commissioner from 2002 to 2014, and served on the Atlanta City Council for 20 years before that, including as council president.
He suggests his “advice and counsel” could be valuable to not only Fulton, but Atlanta’s forthcoming leaders.
“You’re going to have a brand new mayor with no experience,” Pitts said. “You’re going to have a brand new City Council president with no experience. And you’re going to have a City Council – probably half that council is going to be new.”
City-county relations are shaping up as a key issue for the next chairman. Sandy Springs is concerned about losing a relationship that improved under Eaves and the current board. In Atlanta, Eaves has a notably rocky relationship with current Mayor Kasim Reed.
Pitts boasted of his reputation as both an independent thinker and an aisle-crosser. He said an old joke was that the Fulton commission had “three blacks, three whites and Robb Pitts,” or in another version, “three Democrats, three Republicans and Robb Pitts.”
“I have been able to work with every demographic in our county. …That’s basically been a hallmark of my career, my ability to get along with everyone,” he said.
“It would be a very good, positive relationship,” he said of Fulton’s relationships with Atlanta and Sandy Springs under his chairmanship. “The future is absolutely bright for a relationship … with all of the cities.”
As for his own vision for Fulton, “number one, and this is really critical,” is transportation investments. That includes better east-west connections, including “public transportation, and that means MARTA.”
His number two priority is modernizing the county’s criminal justice system, he said, and he praised Gov. Nathan Deal’s efforts in that arena. Number three, he said, is beefing up capital investments in a new animal control facility, the library system’s master plan, senior facilities and Grady Hospital.