About Us

Benita Coakley Ransom

Benita Coakley Ransom joined DeKalb County in 2011 as the Human Resources and Merit System director. She leads the recruitment, talent management, compensation, employee relations, organizational and employee development, human resources information system, and occupational health functions for a workforce of nearly 7,000.

Prior to joining DeKalb County, Ransom served as human resources commissioner for the City of Atlanta for nearly 16 years. There her responsibilities were similar to those at the county and included the administration of benefits for employees in a union/non-union environment. Benita has also served as deputy chief of staff for the City of Atlanta Office of the Mayor and as a financial analyst at Lockheed Corporation. Ransom's extensive public sector background is indicative of her belief that public service is among the noblest professions and offers a wonderful opportunity to make a major difference in the quality of life of others.

Ransom is the recipient of several professional and community awards, and serves on various boards and committees.

She received a Bachelor of Arts degree in Economics from Fisk University graduating cum laude; and a Masters in Business Administration (Management) from Boston University. She is bilingual in Spanish and English, and nationally certified as a Senior Professional in Human Resources (SPHR), and SHRM Senior Certified Professional (SHRM-SCP).

Departmental Summary - Human Resources and Merit System Department

The Human Resources director oversees the development, implementation and coordination of policies and programs covering: recruitment and employment; training and employee development; classification and compensation; human resources information systems; employee relations; and skills testing. In addition, the director manages employee services and maintenance of the official centralized personnel records system, drug and alcohol testing policies and certain occupational health services. The Human Resources director also administers the county's disciplinary action appeal process in accordance with the DeKalb County code administrative procedures and county ordinances.


Margaret Richwagen, Assistant Director

Generalist Division:  Developed in 2011 when the department transitioned staff from a specialist model to a generalist/consultant model, serving as a “one-stop-shop” for staffing, onboarding, classification and compensation, employee retention, succession planning, etc.


Catrina Rives, HR Operations Administrator

Business Division:   The Business Unit oversees the day-to-day operations of the Human Resources and Merit System Department (HR), and is responsible for the supervision and management of business, financial and support service activities.  This unit also focuses on improving efficiency and effectiveness by optimizing systems, policies and technology in order to provide better customer service.


Janet Essix, HR Manager 

Employee Relations Division:  Responsible for promoting a more harmonious work environment by: providing training for both management and employees on the proper administration of progressive discipline; ensuring discipline is fairly and equitably administered; implementing training initiatives that promote understanding of county policies in order to reduce grievances and disciplinary actions; overseeing the hearing officer and Merit System Council processes; and interfacing with EEOC and the Department of Labor as necessary.


Katherine Furlong, HR Manager

HR Information Systems (HRIS):  Maintains and manages HR databases, i.e., PeopleSoft, Kronos. This includes planning, designing, delivering and coordinating all changes impacting employee data; generating HR reports and entering, analyzing and validating personnel data; administering leave plans, i.e., FMLA, donation of leave, annual leave, etc.; and maintaining the official personnel records of county employees.


Linda Gildersleeve-Blackwell, HR Manager

Strategic Planning and Policy Development:  Reviews existing policies for their effectiveness; develops and recommends best practice solutions and modifications due to legal changes; coordinates HR Policy Council which provides feedback on the effectiveness of HR polices and services; and ensures fair and consistent application of policies, procedures and practices.


Fabienne A. Niles, HR Manager

Organization and Employee Development (Training):  Responsible for comprehensive employee development to be manifested in capable and productive employees delivering quality services to internal and external customers.  The division is responsible for performance management, employee development, computer and soft skills training, leadership, management and supervisory development, team building, customer service enhancements, new employee orientation and e-learning.


Stephen Moody, Occupational Compliance Administrator

Occupational Health:  Coordinates generalized health screening and services for all applicants and employees.  Provides overall management and administrative guidance in the operation of the Occupational Health Unit, assesses educational and programmatic needs, develops operational procedures and policies, and collaborates with other service providers.