Joan Garner, the only openly LGBT member of the Fulton County Commission, was honored Wednesday by commissioners as she again fights the cancer she's battled for two years.
Garner, who has missed some commission meetings this year due to her cancer treatments, joined the meeting on Wednesday through a video link as she was celebrated by colleagues. A conference room at the county’s new health center will be named in her honor and a scholarship in her name will help students. Via AJC:
“We want to show her the love she so richly deserves,” Fulton commission chairman John Eaves said, before Garner was given a proclamation and received news that a conference room at the county’s new health building was being named after her. She will also have a scholarship named after her that helps students interested in county government and health and human services.
Also Wednesday, Garner – often dubbed “the health commissioner” – was honored by the Fulton County Task Force on HIV/AIDS, who applauded Garner for her work on “ending the social inequities and injustices, stigma and discrimination that propel” the HIV epidemic. In 2016, Garner helped launch an ambitious effort to eradicate HIV in the county.
Garner said she was touched by the recognition. Via AJC:
Garner said she was “deeply touched” by the gestures, which usually come “after our life has ended.”
“It really fills my heart and I will carry this with me forever,” she said. “I’m just overwhelmed with joy.”
In October 2015, the commission honored Garner by proclaiming “Joan P. Garner Appreciation Day in Fulton County.” The resolution also called Garner "a leader and advocate for health" who serves as a "pillar of hope" for women fighting breast cancer. The honor came as Garner rejoined the board after cancer treatment.
Garner was diagnosed with breast cancer in May 2015 and talked about it publicly that summer as she discussed her treatment with the Georgia Voice.
“I feel that it’s something that really does not change my role at all,” Garner told the media outlet. “I plan to attend all of my board of commissioners meetings, my staff is still 100 percent available. I am attending some meetings by phone. I don’t plan on stopping while I’m in treatment.”
In June 2015, Garner rushed from a treatment to join a public celebration of the U.S Supreme Court decision legalizing gay marriage.
Garner also discussed how her cancer diagnosis provided insight for an issue she campaigned on. Via Georgia Voice:
Garner says the diagnosis gives her a unique lens through which to address an issue important to her during her 2010 campaign and throughout her tenure on the county commission—health care.
“It’s funny. I look at this like, I deemed myself the ‘health commissioner’ right? So I’m getting firsthand experience on what it’s like navigating through the medical system,” she says. “I am definitely aware of how people are treated and I hope through this experience it will also help my role moving forward as a commissioner who is focusing on the health and well-being of all citizens.”
Garner became the first-ever openly gay member of the commission when she won election in 2010. She coasted to re-election in 2014 and faced no opposition in November when she won a third term to the District 4 post on the commission.
On Jan. 4, commissioners named Garner the board’s new vice chair. Via Patch:
"I am honored to serve as vice chair of the Fulton County Board of Commissioners,” Garner said.
“During the past six years on the Commission, I have enjoyed bringing people together to find shared solutions. I value the fact that Fulton County is home to many diverse people and communities. I look forward to serving them all,” Garner added.
Garner's partner, Fulton State Court Judge Jane Morrison, won election in 2012 to become a state court judge. Morrison won a second term in 2016.