Questionnaire with Andy Yeoman for DeKalb County Commissioner

What is the neighborhood you call home? Tilly Mill NeighborhoodDecaturish Blog

Can you tell us anything about yourself or your life that you think is important for voters to know?

Andy Yeoman: Raised in Iowa as the child of a dedicated union tradesman and laborer, I experienced first-hand the realities of working-class life. I broke new ground in my family by pursuing higher education, attending both college and graduate school. This journey deepened my understanding and connection to the struggles faced by the working-class individuals in my district — struggles I’ve lived through and understand intimately. In 2019, I made a commitment: my public service efforts would always be rooted in championing the values and unwavering work ethic of individuals like my parents.

This promise has guided my every action as a member of the Doraville City Council. Now, as I seek to serve as the next commissioner for District 1, I pledge to continue advocating for our community with the same relentless dedication and integrity.

Why are you running for this position? 

Andy Yeoman: I am running for the District 1 Commissioner position to restore action and trust to the District 1 Commissioner’s office.

Why are you a better candidate than your opponents?

Andy Yeoman: For the past four years, my opponent has traversed our district, offering only promises and studies as solutions to our issues. Recently, he proposed yet another “study” to address the need for a sidewalk in an impoverished census block—a suggestion that, like many before, has yet to materialize into action as residents walk in mud to public transportation. Meanwhile, after selling his home on the PDK flight path and moving to within several hundred feet of Fulton County, he advocated for the expansion of the PDK airport, despite strong community opposition reflected in 3,200 signatures and a well-attended town hall meeting, which he refused to attend. The deteriorating relationship with local cities have underscored the lack of genuine commitment to our district’s needs. In contrast, as your Commissioner, I commit to fostering community engagement and ensuring transparency in all decisions.

The upcoming changes, including the retirement of the leader at the DeKalb Municipal Association and the arrival of new commissioners, present an unprecedented opportunity to rejuvenate our community efforts and collaboratively address critical issues. I pledge to be a Commissioner who not only listens but acts in the best interest of all our residents.

If elected, what are your top two or three priorities?

Andy Yeoman: My campaign focuses on addressing three critical issues: 1. Improving Public Safety and EMS Response: Despite large tax increases to the police millage rate in 2023, our police and EMS departments suffer from high vacancy rates and slow response times. There is currently over $10-million in vacancy in the police budget. EMS response times routinely exceed 45 minutes. I propose partnering with the DeKalb Board of Education to establish career pathways programs in public safety and EMS within local high schools. This initiative would provide students with essential training and secure job opportunities at graduation where they would rotate to different positions in the department until certification at 18 and 21. 2. Restoring Trust with residents and cities: My opponent’s neglect of community concerns has eroded public trust. His relationship with cities has deteriorated as he has grifted on a number of issues in the last four years.

As a member of the BOC, I will prioritize community engagement and transparency. 3. Focus on all living things: We have to fix the crisis with animal services and the crisis center. The county faces significant challenges with the underfunded animal services department and a mostly empty crisis center because there is not enough staff to run it. There is also a new crisis brewing as Atlanta clears the camps and an influx of unhoused individuals migrate toward the county. I will work with the CEO and BOC to make sure that proper attention is being made, develop comprehensive strategies to support the incoming unhoused population, and get people mental health solutions outside of the jail. By addressing these issues, I aim to bring effective change and renewed trust to DeKalb County’s governance.

In your opinion, what is the role of the DeKalb County Commissioner?

Andy Yeoman: A DeKalb County commissioner is part of the county’s governing authority, which involves creating, passing, and amending local legislation. This includes ordinances and resolutions that govern various aspects of county operations, from zoning laws to public health policies. The Commissioner is a critical link between the county residents and the government, addressing constituent concerns, fielding questions, and ensuring that public feedback is considered in their decision-making processes.

What is your experience in managing budgets, and what is the largest budget you have personally managed? 

Andy Yeoman: As a candidate for the DeKalb County Commission District 1, I bring a unique blend of experience from both the private sector and local government, highlighting my commitment to fiscal responsibility, strategic planning, and community engagement. In my past, I was a business owner, personally responsible for making weekly payroll and managing a team that depended on me for their livelihood. This role instilled in me the importance of financial prudence, strategic decision-making, and the profound impact leadership can have on people’s lives. Currently, I hold a senior leadership position in a $5-billion packaging company, where I’m responsible for overseeing a business unit with a budget exceeding $31 million. Moreover, during my tenure as a city council member in Doraville, I served on the budget committee, contributing to the management of the city’s $28 million budget. This experience gave me deep insights into the complexities of government budgeting, fiscal responsibility, and the necessity of transparent and accountable governance. My combined experiences in leading both a private enterprise and contributing significantly to municipal governance equip me with a balanced perspective, ensuring that I understand the intricacies of managing large budgets, the importance of strategic long-term planning, and the value of listening to and serving the community.

Cities in DeKalb County and surrounding areas are taking steps to address affordable housing and housing diversity. In what ways should DeKalb County address issues related to housing and affordability?

Andy Yeoman: I believe that granting tax abatements to out of state developers for properties they don’t yet own, such as those on Druid Hills Rd, is not an effective solution to creating affordable housing. In contrast, in Doraville, we’ve adopted measures like density bonuses which reward developers for building near MARTA stations, constructing micro units, including public art, or setting aside units for those earning 60% of the Area Median Income (AMI). We’ve also encouraged the development of single-family housing by implementing inclusive zoning changes, eliminating minimum square footage requirements, removing the necessity for garages, and reducing setback requirements. These initiatives have resulted in naturally occurring more affordable housing options. Furthermore, the Assembly district mandates a 20% affordable housing set-aside for all multi-family projects, a standard that surpasses the Atlanta Beltline’s requirement of only 10%. My record speaks to a committed and effective approach to promoting affordable housing solutions, and I am eager to contribute this experience and dedication to DeKalb County.

In what ways could the county work to address the challenges the unhoused population faces and provide services? How can the county work better with the cities to address this issue?

Andy Yeoman: Addressing the issue of homelessness requires a multifaceted approach, particularly when considering the intertwined nature of homelessness and mental health. Presently, service delivery strategies designate responsibility only to DeKalb County. However, the complexities associated with homelessness transcend the boundaries of traditional jurisdictional frameworks, necessitating a broader, more integrated strategy. There has to be regional collaboration that extends beyond the conventional city and county borders. An individual at a camp near Lenox and 85 does not know they are crossing into Fulton county. As they move, their essential wrap-around services—encompassing shelter, healthcare, and mental health support—should remain consistent and uninterrupted, regardless of jurisdictional changes.

What are your thoughts on the effort to review and update the county’s charter? What changes would you like to see made to the charter, if any?

Andy Yeoman: The Charter Review Commission has performed admirably, producing a final draft that, in my view, merited immediate approval and inclusion on the November ballot. It is disappointing that the Board of Commissioners, and my opponent, refused to progress this forward at the March meeting.

How would you like to see the county spend its SPLOST funding?

Andy Yeoman: The allocation of SPLOST funds among cities is determined in a fair manner, based on population size of smaller geographic areas. However, the Board of Commissioners faces the challenging responsibility of prioritizing various projects and establishing a fair distribution method for the vast unincorporated, and highly fractured, areas. I was disheartened with the removal of the previous framework from SPLOST I concerning the expenditure guidelines. In my role as a Doraville City Council Member, I successfully advocated for an amendment to allocate 60% of our SPLOST request to capital outlays, 15% to public safety, and another 15% to matching funds for grant projects. This strategic distribution significantly amplifies the impact of our projects, especially in areas such as greenway development and highway safety initiatives.

As a commissioner, I am committed to strongly advocating for the county to allocate a substantial portion of SPLOST proceeds towards essential infrastructure improvements, specifically road and sidewalk repairs. Ensuring effective use of these funds is crucial for the development and safety of our community.

What is your opinion of current CEO Mike Thurmond?

Andy Yeoman: Mike Thurmond has demonstrated significant leadership and commitment throughout his career. As he prepares to step down as CEO in January 2025, his influence and achievements will undoubtedly continue to impact the organization’s future direction and success. I voted for him twice, but I am very excited for the potential impact of a new CEO and as many as four new commissioners on the BOC.

Who do you intend to vote for in the county CEO race?

Andy Yeoman: This question from an editorial board is disappointing. The political landscape of DeKalb County should rise above the tactics akin to those seen in “Survivor,” where alliances are forged, and individuals are ousted based on loyalty or the lack thereof. Throughout my tenure on the Doraville City Council, I never endorsing candidates in council or mayor races. I firmly believe in the principle that elected officials should embody transparency and openness, functioning solely for the public good. Our government should not resemble an exclusive circle primarily focused on mutual re-elections and the selection of successors.

What is your opinion about the current state of the county’s animal shelter?

Andy Yeoman: To address the challenges at DeKalb County’s animal shelter, more space is needed to meet the area’s needs, there needs to be an evaluation staffing requirements, and the county needs to be providing more resources for pet families. I would also support introducing new enforcement legislation that is described below.

Would you use your role as commissioner to advance legislation to stop or significantly reduce the number of dogs held for court cases, especially when they will not be used as evidence?

Andy Yeoman: The finger-pointing can absolutely stop. It’s important to note that the BOC is responsible for passing an annual budget, which encompasses funding for both the solicitor’s office and the magistrate court. Notably, the magistrate court predominantly operates with part-time contract judges.

It seems plausible to halt the current cycle of blame and adopt a more collaborative approach. In my perspective, a constructive step would be to coordinate with the solicitor’s office and the chief magistrate to prepare a funding proposal to the BOC. This would be aimed at increasing the number of contract days for judges, allowing for the creation of additional dockets specifically dedicated to animal cases. Such an approach would ensure that these matters are addressed efficiently without reallocating resources meant for human-related cases. The proposed funding should also incorporate a Standard Operating Procedure agreed upon by both departments, mandating that arraignments be scheduled within 30 days. This would ensure swift resolution efforts on the arraignment date. Should a defendant fail to appear or request a postponement, the imposition of a bond payable to the court’s registry should be required. This bond would be utilized for the care of the involved animal.

I believe that this would expedite the surrender process of animals, ultimately leading to a resolution that is both timely and effective.

What is your opinion about water billing in DeKalb County, and what changes would you make?

Andy Yeoman: I have 15 years of experience in technology and software implementations. A first for me was witnessing the new utility billing software implementation that occurred in the last few months, which forced customers to re-enter their billing information. To me, this raises serious concerns regarding the capabilities of the vendor who was seemingly not capable of importing simple tables into databases. I am concerned there may be other data mismatches. I would request a comprehensive debrief on the new utility billing system implementation. Additionally, I plan to arrange a meeting with the Water Billing Advisory Board to discuss and identify any necessary improvements.

Would you support increasing pay for police officers and firefighters to help attract and retain qualified employees?

Andy Yeoman: As a member of the Doraville City Council in 2023, I sponsored a resolution that increased entry-level police officer salaries to $55,000, provided a 7% raise for other officers, and guaranteed an additional 3% increase in October 2024. This demonstrates my commitment to supporting our law enforcement personnel. However, as DeKalb considers further salary adjustments than the large increase last year, I must emphasize the importance of acquiring comprehensive information from the county. While I recognize the widespread concerns regarding the recruitment of officers, it’s noteworthy that most city police departments, including Doraville’s, are currently fully staffed. We need to know from applicants why they don’t want to work at DeKalb PD.

Additionally, there exists a significant $10 million surplus in the police budget due to vacancies, alongside $23 million in department reserves. These funds, derived from the taxes of unincorporated residents, remain unutilized in our battle against crime within DeKalb County. I believe that enhancing public safety and backing our police force involves more than just the allocation of additional funds. As we look forward to 2025, ensuring the effective and responsible use of resources should remain our utmost priority in truly advancing our public safety objectives.

What is your opinion of efforts to annex unincorporated parts of DeKalb County into existing cities?

Andy Yeoman: I believe that the question of annexation of unincorporated areas into adjacent cities should be approached with careful consideration, ensuring that all stakeholders are heard and that there is clear, accurate, and accessible information available to all affected parties. This has not been the case in the last twelve months. I strongly advocate for the principle of letting the people vote on annexation issues, and that it should emerge from the grassroots level, reflecting the genuine wishes and needs of the community members themselves . The residents of both the unincorporated areas and the adjacent cities should have the right to decide their future based on a full understanding of the facts and potential outcomes. This democratic process ensures that the will of the community guides the development and growth of our county.

However, the right to vote must be underpinned by access to clear and accurate information. It is imperative that citizens are not only informed about the immediate effects of annexation but also about the long-term implications for their communities. As such, if elected, I would work to establish transparent, accessible, and comprehensive educational initiatives to ensure that all voters have the knowledge they need to make an informed decision when they go to the polls.

Do you support the creation of new cities in DeKalb County?

Andy Yeoman: My stance on this issue is straightforward but nuanced: I believe that any further creation of new cities in DeKalb County must be fundamentally community-driven. I want to spend more time fixing the issues that people are upset about and want to leave. I recognize the potential benefits of having more localized governance structures for addressing local issues. Local leaders who live in and deeply understand their communities are often better positioned to address specific local concerns and priorities. This localized approach can lead to more effective and tailored solutions, enhancing community well-being and satisfaction. I personally believe that the delivery of county-wide services and utilities would improve greatly if more time and focus was spent on them and residents were served by a local city, but this decision needs to be made individually by all voters.

What can be done to bolster economic development in the county, particularly in South DeKalb?

Andy Yeoman: The landfill and Georgia’s two busiest airports contribute to a form of environmental injustice, where less wealthy or marginalized communities might find themselves living in these less desirable areas due to lower property costs, leading to a cycle where economic development is stifled because the area becomes less attractive for further investment. It comes as no surprise that the lowest income census blocks are located along Buford Highway near PDK, as well as in Atlanta and South DeKalb near the ATL airport. It is imperative that we concentrate our efforts on introducing new housing options and developing job centers in South DeKalb. The transformation observed in areas such as West Midtown in Atlanta and Scottdale in DeKalb County serves as a testament to the positive changes that can occur with appropriate investment.

I am committed, in my capacity on the BOC, to ensuring that South DeKalb stops being a dumping ground. The decisions I make will reflect this commitment to progress and development.

What is your opinion of the county’s current licensing and permitting processes? What changes would you support?

Andy Yeoman: I routinely heard from developers working on projects in Doraville frustrated with long delays and the need to hire permit expeditors to work with DeKalb County. Specifically, requesting a new street name with GIS can take nine months or more. Although the oversight of these departments falls primarily under the CEO’s jurisdiction, I am dedicated to adopting a cooperative stance with the administration to facilitate the necessary reforms.

If elected, do you promise to conduct yourself in an ethical and transparent manner? What will you do to promote ethics and transparency in government?

Andy Yeoman: If elected, I do indeed promise to conduct myself in an ethical and transparent manner. Upholding ethical standards and maintaining transparency are crucial to fostering trust and accountability between government officials and the public.

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