DeKalb County CEO Michael Thurmond

DeKalb County CEO Michael Thurmond joins Political Rewind for our first profile of Georgia's leaders.

Credit: DeKalb County Government

The panel

Michael Thurmond, @dekalblikesmike, CEO, DeKalb County

Patricia Murphy, @MurphyAJC, politics reporter, The Atlanta Journal-Constitution


The breakdown

Michael Thurmond was born in rural Sandy Creek, north of Athens-Clarke County. His great-grandfather was enslaved on an Oconee County plantation owned by Harris Thurmond, and three members of his family were sharecroppers in the area. He attended segregated schools, and Clark Central High School wasn't integrated until his senior year.

LISTEN: Michael Thurmond on segregation and poverty in his childhood.

After high school, Thurmond earned a juris doctorate from the University of South Carolina's School of Law. In 1986, he became the first Black legislator from Clarke County since Reconstruction, winning in a 66% white district.

LISTEN: Michael Thurmond on his proudest accomplishment.

Thurmond served in Georgia's Division of Family and Child Services, helping launch the Work First program. As labor commissioner, he helped overhaul the state's unemployment program, adding to his reputation as a "turnaround expert."

LISTEN: Michael Thurmond says he's optimistic for the future.

Tuesday on Political Rewind: The AJC's Tamar Hallerman joins the panel.