Fulton County state of county address

From left, Fulton County Commissioner Bob Ellis, Chairman John Eaves, and commissioners Joan Garner, Emma Darnell and Marvin Arrington Jr. enjoy a moment after the Jan. 19 state of the county address at the Georgia World Congress Center.

The Fulton County Board of Commissioners is mourning the loss of one of its own.

District 4 Commissioner Joan P. Garner, 65, who also served as the board’s vice chair, died the morning of April 18 after a long battle with triple-negative breast cancer, according to a county news release.

“On behalf of the Board of Commissioners, we are heartbroken by the loss of our colleague and friend,” board chair John Eaves said in a statement. “We will miss her thoughtful service, her passion for equity and, especially, her smile and her warmth. Our thoughts and prayers are with her spouse and our friend, (Fulton County State Court) Judge Jane Morrison, as well as the rest of her family.”

After winning an election in 2010, Garner, a Democrat, joined the board the following January. She was reelected twice, both in 2014 when the districts were redrawn and again last year. Garner participated in the board's April 12 meeting remotely from her hospital bed, including voting on agenda items.

"She put her heart and soul into her service to residents, with a particular focus on health,” Eaves said. “She worked tirelessly to fight against health disparities and became our executive sponsor of the All People Are Healthy priority area. She also joined me in co-founding the Fulton County Task Force on HIV/AIDS and championed numerous other health initiatives. She also sponsored numerous programs for young people. Even within the last month she greeted students at the annual Don’t Touch the Fire conference for at-risk youth.

“Commissioner Garner was also committed to service on a statewide and national scale. She was currently serving as third vice president of (the Association County Commissioners of Georgia). … She was also very actively engaged with the National Association of Counties, serving as past chair of the National Association of Counties’ Healthy Counties Initiative advisory board, chair of (its) Medicaid and Indigent Care Subcommittee, and as chair of the Health Policy Committee.”

At its April 19 recess meeting, the board paid tribute to Garner by having a moment of silent reflection in her honor and placing flowers in her seat. MARTA General Manager and CEO Keith Parker expressed his condolences to the board.

In a news release, members of the Atlanta City Council issued statements with their condolences, praising Garner's service to the district, which is inside the city.

Mayor Kasim Reed said he is deeply saddened.

“Joan was respected by all who had the privilege to work with her,” he said in a statement. “She was a true community leader, fighting for the rights of LGBT women and men, including pushing for domestic partner benefits for city of Atlanta employees. The people of Fulton County have lost a treasured voice, but her impact and legacy will not be forgotten.”

In lieu of flowers, the family respectfully requests donations to the  Joan P. Garner Health & Human Services Internship Program, care of Association of County Commissioners of Georgia Civic Affairs Foundation, 191 Peachtree St. NE, Suite 700, Atlanta, Ga. 30303.  For more information, email Beth Brown at bbrown@accg.org.

A memorial service will be held May 6 at 3 p.m. at Ebenezer Baptist Church, 101 Jackson St. in Atlanta, and two visitations are set for April 21 from 4 to 7 p.m. at the Commerce Club, 191 Peachtree St. in Atlanta, and April 23 from 3 to 5 p.m. at the Hammonds House Museum, 503 Peeples St. in Atlanta.

- Staff Writer Bill Baldowski contributed to this report.

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