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County Chief of Staff appointed to Development Authority in split vote
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The first disagreement of 2015 among the Rockdale Board of Commissioners was about who should be the next person to sit on the Rockdale County Development Authority.

In a 2-1 vote during the board's Tuesday meeting, the board appointed Rockdale County Chief of Staff Gerald Sanders to the Development Authority, which is a funding source for the Conyers-Rockdale Economic Development Council. He will replace Gerald Rakestraw, who resigned because he moved for job related reasons.

Post 1 County Commissioner Oz Nesbitt, the lone dissenter, felt as though the board should have appointed someone from the general population to sit on the volunteer board versus someone who already works for the local government.

The only other applicant for the position, according to Sanders, was former Rockdale County Commissioner JaNice Van Ness.

"Not discounting anything coming from our chief of staff, who does have an extensive background in economic development," said Nesbitt. "I just feel like from an internal standpoint... it would do us better to have him serving internally through the board of commissioners in his capacity as chief of staff while commissioner Van Ness, as a member of our community and former commissioner, could serve the greater good in terms of what we're trying to do to move the county forward."

Nesbitt added that with Van Ness' experience in local government and expertise in business would've been a good asset to the authority board.

He also views the appointment of Sanders as a way for the County Chairman to have a say about decisions made by the Development Authority.

"I think it was clearly by design," said Nesbitt after the meeting. "I'm not sure from a grassroots perspective here in Rockdale County that he was the best selection. I got a feeling that he is going to be the point man for the chairman versus having someone who is going to serve in the capacity and (fulfils) the need of the total community."

Nesbitt also couldn't understand why Sanders would volunteer for the Development Authority when a year ago he had requested an assistant to help with his duties.

"Now we're giving him another layer of responsibility? So, it really contradicts his judgment, his leadership as well as the chairman," he said. "If anything I would caution commissioner Williams as she proceeds forward with making these decisions based on the things that she recognized during her campaign season."

Newly elected Post 2 County Commissioner Doreen Williams made the motion to appoint Sanders, with County Chairman and CEO Richard Oden seconding her motion.

Oden says that Sanders has at least 15 to 20 years of experience working in the economic development and financial sectors and has built relationships with people at the local and state level which could prove useful for the Development Authority.

"He has an extensive reach, not only here locally as a resident but also as also as contacts in the entire state of Georgia which is going to tremendously impact us as we move Rockdale county into the future," said Oden during the meeting. "I think this appointment here will serve the county to the best interest of every citizen of Rockdale County and the expertise this gentleman brings, I saw him in action as we dealt with a situation a couple of months ago and they respect him highly and I support him."

Sanders will serve on the board until April of this year. He is filling in for Gerald Rakestraw, who resigned because he moved for job related reasons. 

Oden said that the four other positions on the Development Authority could become available later this year.

Van Ness says that she will continue to try to get on the authority board and that she wishes Sanders all the best.

"If he has the time outside of his daily work that's great," said Van Ness.

The Development Authority had balked last year at the terms for a tax abatement incentive package for the expansion of Acuity Brands, saying that the members had not been fully informed about the terms of the package. The negotiations had been carried out with the County Commission Chairman, city Mayor, and Conyers-Rockdale Economic Development Council Director, through the state's economic development arm.


In other county business, the county board unanimously approved appointed Oden to the Conyers Rockdale Economic Development Council, a separate entity from the Development Authority. The Development Authority is a financial vehicle for offering incentives to businesses and companies for economic development projects in Rockdale. The CREDC is a joint economic development board between the county and city.

Oden will replace Nesbitt, who served as vice-chairman before his term ended at this year.The board also approved the Rockdale County Sheriff's Office receiving federal money to purchase in-car and body cameras for its vehicles and deputies. The amount approved was for $332,650.