Donna Edler, warrior for all of DeKalb County’s children
Jennifer Ffrench-Parker | , Ken Watts | 11/1/2013, 6:02 a.m.
Donna Gail Edler, who fought cancer while running for the DeKalb School Board District 7 seat in 2010, succumbed to the disease on Oct. 29.
Edler, 52, was on the School Board for only two years and a month, but in that short time, colleagues, constituents and friends said her passion for children shone through.
Sarah Copelin-Wood, who served on the School Board with Edler, said she was a hard worker who served her district well.
“She captured the hearts of a lot of people,” Copelin-Wood said.
Edler’s husband of 25 years, Darryl, said she fought cancer to the end.
“We gave this disease a good fight,” he said. “She looks so peaceful now.”
Edler passed away at her Stone Mountain home surrounded by family and friends.
Her homegoing service was scheduled for Nov. 2 at 11 a.m. at Covenant Church, 1700 Corey Blvd. in Decatur.
Edler, a certified public accountant, was born March 13, 1961, in Detroit to Wendell James and Ida M. Smitherman.
A month after she was diagnosed with cancer in May 2010, friends Dr. Kathryn Rice and Donata Renfrow approached her about running for the District 7 seat.
Rice, who was her neighbor and served with her on the Hidden Hills Civic Association’s board where she was treasurer, said that despite her illness, Edler considered their request and qualified for the race.
Days later, the doctor removed her cancerous right breast.
She won the seat with 72 percent of the vote in a November 2010 runoff with longtime incumbent Zepora Roberts. She was still undergoing chemotherapy on Jan. 3, 2011, when she took the oath of office and her seat on the DeKalb School Board and quickly became a warrior for children.
On the School Board, Edler was a fierce debater, a consensus builder and an advocate for common-sense approaches to resolving issues.
Rice said she cared about all the children and her compassion permeated everything she did.
“She tried to be a moderate voice, and a respectful voice,” Rice said. “She not only put the kids first, she was very professional, and she tried to do the right thing.”
Former DeKalb School Board Chair Eugene Walker called Edler a great individual and a consummate public servant.
“She was dedicated to her family and the people she served and was a great role model,” he said.
Edler was one of six board members removed from office by Gov. Nathan Deal in February after the district was placed on accreditation probation by its accrediting agency.
She fought and appealed her removal and was scheduled to appear at a Nov. 19 hearing in Fulton County Superior Court to challenge Deal’s decision.
Her pastor of 15 years, the Rev. Mark Lomax, said Edler felt she was wrongfully removed from the board.
“For her, it was a voting rights issue,” said Lomax, pastor of First Afrikan Presbyterian Church in Lithonia.
“She felt that the governor subverted the rights of the voters.”
In December 2012, Edler told the community at an Environmental Protection Division hearing that her cancer had returned, metastasizing in her spine.