Michael L. Thurmond
Michael L. Thurmond has served as chief executive officer of DeKalb County, one of the largest and most diverse counties in the Southeast, since January 2017. As CEO, Thurmond’s primary mission is restoring trust in county government.
During the past three years, Thurmond has been able to:
• Eliminate $24.7 million budget deficit and build a $50.1 million “rainy-day” reserve fund
• Create a 10-year, $1.3 billion plan for improving the wastewater treatment system that had been neglected for more than 50 years
• Spend $301 million in sewer improvements
• Implement programs for dealing with inaccurate water billing, blight and unemployment
• Provide residential property tax relief
• Pass a $1.2 billion SPLOST referendum, the first in county history
• Improve public safety with fully funded pay raises, additional police and fire rescue positions and new equipment
Thurmond is widely regarded as a “turnaround expert” after fundamentally transforming the culture and enhancing operations of complex organizations such as the Georgia Division of Family and Children Services, the Georgia Department of Labor and the DeKalb County School District.
Thurmond, a sharecropper’s son, holds a Bachelor of Arts in philosophy and religion from Paine College and a Juris Doctor degree from the University of South Carolina’s School of Law. He also completed the Political Executives program at the John F. Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University.
In 1986, he became the first African-American elected to the Georgia General Assembly from Clarke County since Reconstruction.
Thurmond received a gubernatorial appointment to lead the state Division of Family and Children Services and directed Georgia’s historic transition from welfare to work.
In 1998, Thurmond was elected Georgia labor commissioner, where he served for three terms.
Thurmond’s latest book, Freedom: Georgia’s Antislavery Heritage, 1733-1865, was awarded the Georgia Historical Society’s Lilla Hawes Award. In 2019, the fortieth anniversary edition of his first book, A Story Untold: Black Men & Women in Athens (GA) History, was published.
He is married to Zola Fletcher Thurmond, and they have one daughter, Mikaya.