Robb Pitts cultivated a reputation for keeping close watch over budgetary and financial matters while serving two decades on the Atlanta City Council and has continued that work as a member of the Fulton County Board of Commissioners, which he now chairs. He’s championed such things as adding new revenue streams for government and tax relief for the elderly. 

Rob Pitts

But he’s not solely identified with finances and budget spreadsheets and projections. He’s proud of such projects as a renovation of the county library system and improvement of the county’s animal control services and considers improving the county’s transportation infrastructure to be a crucial job moving forward. To that end, he wants to see the county become a leader in alternative vehicle programs. 

Pitts is a broker and business consultant. He has also earned degrees from Ohio University and other institutions, including an MBA from Emory University.

Q. What first got you interested in public service?

I was in Cleveland Ohio. When I moved back to Georgia, my home state and living for my first time in Atlanta, I got to know several prominent elected officials. I worked with them — going to meetings and listening. In those days, it was pretty much all males and after hours they would go to a couple of watering holes and I would be listening as they talked and responded.

After a while I made a decision, I could just do it better than they were doing it and I decided I wanted to become involved myself in their campaigns and getting to know a lot of neighborhood and community people.

Q. How has politics changed since you got involved with it some 30 years ago?

I would say there were more business types going back a few years in office. They were pretty much males. That’s changed and more females are getting elected and more diverse interests and neighborhood interests and so forth. The other thing that I have seen is once a person wins an office, they become an expert overnight. It’s like an instantaneous transformation. Going back a few years when you got elected you listened and learned. You did your homework.

Q. You were a member of Atlanta City Council in the 80s and 90s. What was that like?

There was a group of us — seven at the time. We all came in as new council members. I sponsored legislation on minority/female-owned businesses. food programs for seniors. I was known as a fiscal conservative which was sort unusual for a young black guy compared to the issues of the day because I’ve always been interested in watching money. All programs are good, but the question is how are you going to pay for them? That’s a question I was always going to ask, so I became known as the taxpayers’ watchdog.

In addition to the general areas I just mentioned, one of the issues I’m really proud of was setting up the auditor position for the city of Atlanta.  More important, I put the coalition of votes together that led to the tremendous opposition to the Presidential Parkway. They were going to go through those neighborhoods, and I came up with a compromise. I also put the votes together and the strategy that led to Ga. 400 being completed,

Q. What are the biggest issues now facing Fulton County government and what’s next for you on that front? 

[The creation of the “new cities” across the county]. It started with Sandy Springs and the latest was South Fulton, so we’re talking 99 percent [of the county is] incorporated [into cities] now. We’re at a point that we at the county can focus on what I refer to as the constitutionally mandated services for county government, Fulton County in particular: health and human services, the criminal justice system, the library system, animal control. In addition to that we collect taxes, we conduct elections. And going forward, transportation.

Q. What needs to be done regarding transportation?

No matter how important you are or how well you’re doing, if you have difficulty getting from point A to point B, we have a problem. In particular it’s a whole change in mindset, because we have been dependent in the South in particular on the automobile. So that’s going to require some new thinking. One of my goals is to make Fulton County the autonomous and electric vehicle capital of the world. We are making some progress. I intend to introduce legislation in coming weeks to ensure that Fulton County’s fleet of non-emergency vehicles is 100 percent electric by the year 2030, and I hope that will set an example for the public.

Q. What do you think about the effort in the Legislature to take control of elections in Fulton County?

Fulton County continues to oppose the state’s attempt to conduct a hostile takeover of our elections. Just recently, we carried out successful municipal races across the county — showing that this attempted takeover isn’t about the quality of our elections, but is more partisan politics that our residents are tired of seeing.

Q. What do you do when county matters aren’t occupying your time?

I spend a lot of time with my wife. I like to support our local sports teams, particularly high school. I love high school basketball and football. It’s fun to me when we know we have a superstar kid and go to his or her high school games and watch them when they go onto college and then you get excited for them on draft day.

Q Which ones do you follow?

All the teams in Fulton County, in particular Westlake, Woodward Academy. Pace Academy and Milton.

Mark Woolsey

Mark Woolsey is a freelance writer based in Atlanta.