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The Dunwoody Homeowners’ Association and The Crier welcomed the candidates to replace Elaine Boyer on the DeKalb County Commission Sunday night. Shown (L-R) Wendy Butler, Larry Danese, Nancy Jester, Tom Owens and Holmes Pyles.Crier photo: Dick Williams

A polite and mostly thoughtful forum for candidates for DeKalb County’s vacant District One commission slot was almost overshadowed by a confrontation afterwards between a candidate and a blogger outside the Kingsley clubhouse.

The event was part of the monthly meeting of the Dunwoody Homeowners’ Association board.

Three well-qualified candidates emerged in the five-person field and addressed issues such as integrity, the budget, land use and the shortage of manpower in the DeKalb fire department.

Wendy Butler of Brookhaven touted her role on the MARTA board and turning around an agency with a $6 billion budget. She also cited her service on the DeKalb Planning Commission and her law degree and a master’s in community planning.

She sees DeKalb service delivery changing with the addition of new cities.

“Land use to me,” she said, “is your neighborhood, parks and the infrastructure – water, roads and bridges.”

To accomplish that, she said, will require partnerships with community improvement districts and state, federal and city governments.

Dunwoody’s Nancy Jester stressed her work as an actuarial consultant and her service on the DeKalb school board.

“I’m the only Dunwoody candidate,” she said, “and I will work to restore integrity on the commission.”

She favors more disclosures and an on-line checkbook in real time for all commission expenses.

“We need a strong watchdog,” she said, referring to the county’s watershed management department and the corruption charges growing out of it that snared suspended chief executive Burrell Ellis.

Both Davis and Jester focused on watershed and the fire department personnel losses.

A third candidate, Larry Danese, has been active in the county for years and lives in Brookhaven. He is a retired engineer. He said his focus would be on delivery of services and infrastructure.

Danese has run for county office as both a Democrat and a Republican but this campaign to fill the unexpired term of Elaine Boyer, is non-partisan. Boyer pleaded guilty in federal court to charges of mail and wire fraud.

Holmes Pyles is an 86-year-old former Dunwoody resident who is retired from the crime lab of the Georgia Bureau of Investigation.

“Ethics seems to be the big issue,” he said, citing the use of technology to spotlight it.

He also called for spurring development by changing the Occupational Health and Safety laws and would like to see DNA testing for all children born to unmarried mothers to allow the state to track down absent fathers.

Rounding out the field was Tom Owens of Doraville, a DeKalb resident since 1960 and a Vietnam veteran. He took credit for filing two ethics complaints in DeKalb against Boyer after the AJC’s lengthy investigation of his spending. One of his solutions to the ethics problems is to change the form of government.

After the forum, as the DHA board convened for its regular meeting, a row developed outside the meeting room.

Owens and a friend, Joe Newton of Gwinnett County, got into a shouting match with George Chidi, a blogger for Peach Pundit.

Chidi has published a blog post investigation of Owens’ background, discovering stalking charges, restraining orders, harassment of candidates and a lingering feud with the imam of a mosque behind his home. Owens didn’t appear to like it.

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