Andre Powell gets DeKalb council OK to serve 5th Ward

Appointment to fill 5th Ward vacancy remains contingent upon Powell’s resignation from DeKalb school board

DeKalb resident Andre Powell was appointed Aug. 15, 2023 during a DeKalb School District 428 School Board meeting  to fill a vacant four-year seat.

DeKALB – The DeKalb City Council this week threw its support behind the mayor’s pick for the city’s next 5th Ward alderman, Andre Powell, although his appointment remains contingent on his resignation from the DeKalb School District 428 board.

Powell, former chairman of the Human Relations Commission and a former member of the Citizen Police Review Board, said he has yet to formally accept the alderman position. He told Shaw Local News Network that he is considering the alderman role and is excited at the prospect of getting to work.

“I want to be part of change,” Powell said. “I want to impact change. I want to bring a fresh mind to [the] City Council, a different perspective.”

Powell is expected to be sworn in as the city’s next 5th Ward alderman during the council’s May 28 meeting. He will replace Scott McAdams, who resigned from his second term in office March 15, citing “reasons of health.” Powell is expected to serve through spring 2025, at which point a special election would occur to select someone to serve the remaining two years of McAdams’ unexpired term until spring 2027.

Powell said that if he accepts the position, he imagines his first six months in office will be busy.

“I would say most importantly community engagement, especially in my ward; the understanding of the budgets; and policy review,” Powell said. “I would say transparency and accountability. I know there’s a lot of chatter, I’ll say, going around about different things. So I want to be as transparent and accountable as I can as a 5th Ward alderman.”

I want to be part of change. I want to impact change. I want to bring a fresh mind to [the] City Council, a different perspective.”

—  Andre Powell, DeKalb 5th Ward alderman nominee

Mayor Cohen Barnes – who told Shaw Local News Network that he did not interview any of the eight candidates who applied for the vacant seat – said the decision to appoint Powell was simple.

“He’s a lifelong resident, business owner, graduate from DeKalb High School and a community steward,” Barnes said. “He’s served in the community in a variety of different roles and really shows how much he cares and how much he’s willing to dedicate time in service of the residents of the city of DeKalb. He has a proven track of doing just that.”

According to city records, eight candidates submitted resumes, emails and letters of interest to the mayor vying for the vacant 5th Ward seat. No application materials for Powell were included in a public records request filed by Shaw Local News Network.

Although members of the City Council expressed support for Powell’s appointment this week, some said they did not agree with the way the process was handled.

First Ward Alderwoman Carolyn Zasada said she did not become aware that Powell had not applied for the position until the Tuesday after the council’s Monday vote, and she expressed disappointment in the mayor’s process.

“Ultimately, what it comes down to is the mayor has the right to appoint whomever he likes because there’s no process written into law, and he can do this,” Zasada said. “Now, of course, he can only do it with the support of [the] council, and it puts [the] council in a really tough spot because I think that – and I don’t want to speak for all of [the] council – but I get the impression that none of us want to vote down a candidate who seems like a decent candidate.

“But at the same time, even though the mayor is not obligated by law to use a more transparent process, one would think that as a business owner and a business person he would follow best practices and interview candidates and not presuppose who ought to be the candidate before he even knows who the candidates are.”

Seventh Ward Alderman John Walker said he stands behind the mayor’s pick, but he believes the mayor tainted the process by failing to give all the candidates a fair shake.

“I believe every candidate should have had a sit-down interview with the mayor,” Walker said. “I also believe that the mayor should have leaned on [the] City Council one on one to ask for guidance. … I voted Andre in because I knew that he wanted to make a difference.”

Barnes said he thought Powell was “the best candidate for the position that presented itself.”

Powell said he believes his work in public service qualifies him for the job.

“I believe I’ve got a clean track record in public service, a reputable one, and I think I’ve showed my ability to be an independent thinker and make decisions without bias,” he said.

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