Burrell Ellis, ACLU of Georgia Political Director

Title/Position

Political Director

Burrell Ellis, former DeKalb County CEO, joined the ACLU of Georgia as its first Political Director, in December 2017. The new role shapes and leads the affiliate’s public policy advocacy and political strategy to build a more expansive advocacy infrastructure to increase the organization’s effectiveness in achieving its public policy objectives. 

Ellis has made a career out of public service. His political expertise as well as his level of understanding of the criminal justice system has deepened his commitment to a fairer, more just system. Ellis was elected as Chief Executive Office of DeKalb County, Georgia in 2008, and then re-elected in 2012. Prior to becoming CEO, Burrell also served two terms as a DeKalb County Commissioner.

“Burrell brings a wealth of professional experience and unique perspective to our work for civil liberties and especially criminal justice reform,” stated Andrea Young, Executive Director of the ACLU of Georgia. “His extensive experience with campaigns, government, and civic engagement, and motivating people and managing complex systems will be invaluable assets to our work for social justice.”

Ellis has personally experienced the harsh reality of injustice. During his second term in office, he was wrongfully accused and convicted of committing a crime. As a result, he was suspended from public office, denied an appeal bond, and sentenced to prison. After serving the entirety of the custodial portion of his sentence in prison, the Georgia Supreme Court reversed the conviction. 

In its unanimous ruling, the Georgia Supreme Court stated that the lower court had denied Ellis the most basic of Constitutional rights – a fair trial and the opportunity to defend himself. Ellis returned to office at the end of 2016 and completed his term. Leading the Georgia affiliate’s political and public policy arm continues his lifelong career of service to the greater community.

When DeKalb County faced an unprecedented flood during his first term in office, Ellis brought together local, state and federal officials to help provide food and shelter to hundreds of displaced citizens. During that first year, he also addressed the economic recession that was deeply hurting the county by organizing a delegation of civic, business, and government officials to meet with rating agencies on Wall Street in order to restore the county’s borrowing capacity.

His many notable accomplishments include creation of the Office of Neighborhood Empowerment (ONE DeKalb) as a best practices model to promote civic engagement and neighborhood unity.  One of his signature initiatives in that regard was ONE DeKalb Works, a job stimulus program, in partnership with the National Urban League, Georgia Piedmont Technical College, and labor unions.

Ellis is a member in good standing of the State Bar of Georgia. He is a graduate of The Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania, and The University of Texas School of Law. Ellis and his wife, Philippa, are the proud parents of two children and reside in Stone Mountain, Georgia. 

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