Cobb's District 1 Commissioner Helen Goreham says ‘We have righted the ship’
by Jon Gillooly
December 24, 2012 12:44 AM | 3882 views | 5 5 comments | 10 10 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Cobb County District One Commissioner Helen Goreham stands at the Cobb County Airport-McCollum Field in Kennesaw, which she says is one of her accomplishments because of its growth this year. <br> Photo by Laura Moon
Cobb County District One Commissioner Helen Goreham stands at the Cobb County Airport-McCollum Field in Kennesaw, which she says is one of her accomplishments because of its growth this year.
Photo by Laura Moon
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WEST COBB — Of the four districts in Cobb County, when it comes to growth District 1 Commissioner Helen Goreham refers to her district as the teenager.

“My district was only going through its growth spurt, it’s huge growth spurt, in the early 2000s, and was growing unbelievably,” she said.

In the early 2000s, businesses began to transfer to the area and residents moved in to enjoy the quality of life, Goreham said.

“Taxes were lower, home prices were lower, and you could get a lot for your money as far as the size of home and size of property. ... People moved from other areas of Cobb County to come out to west Cobb because we afforded a kind of semi-rural type of living.”

District 1’s boundaries are bordered by the Cherokee and Bartow county lines to the north, the Paulding County line to the west, MacLand Road to the South and I-75 to the east.

“It is and has been highly Republican,” Goreham said. “This is merely a guess, I would say 80 to 90 percent Republican, however we’re becoming more diverse as Cobb County is. I do believe the African-American population is somewhere near 18 percent.”

Goreham describes the average District 1 resident as white, upper-middle-class, Republican, which is how she describes herself.

First elected in 2002, Goreham is in her third, four-year term. She is next up for election in 2014 and plans to run again for a fourth term. Goreham said she is the first female board member to serve more than one term.

“So I broke the glass ceiling on that,” she said. “We’re ready to set history again when (Commissioner-elect Lisa Cupid) comes on board because then we’ll have the first female majority Board of Commissioners in the history of Cobb County.”

Goreham said her proudest achievement over the last year is working with fellow board members to ensure the county is headed in the right direction financially.

“That we have righted the ship, that I think we’re in a very good position to progress in the next few years,” she said. “The board and myself, the entire board has to deal with financial issues, employment issues, and I think we weathered the storm well. I’m most proud of that — that we can come out the other side, and I think will be in really great shape for a very bright future.”

The economic engine of her district is the area encompassing Cobb County McCollum Field, Town Center Mall and Kennesaw State University. In 2007, Goreham said one of her goals was to create an airport advisory board, which commissioners formed in 2008.

“I felt that it would be of benefit to Cobb County to have a board which could assist in visioning and planning, assist our very good manager here at the airport, Karl Von Hagel, but to get community leaders, business leaders, pilots, (Kennesaw Mayor Mark Mathews) up there since it’s very close to Kennesaw to come together and put their collective heads together and do some visioning and some planning,” she said.

One improvement is the new 100,000 square feet of hangar space under construction known as Corporate Row, which is being built by the airport’s fixed-based operators.

“It’s dedicated to corporations and will hopefully get corporations to house their aircraft here and perhaps do some of their operations here in corporate row,” Goreham said.

The fixed-based operator leases the land from the county, paying the county rent and a percentage of the fuel sales.

The $7 million project will have space to house about 25 midsize corporate jets, county spokesman Robert Quigley said.

On Thursday, commissioners issued a request for qualifications for a firm to build a new, $2.5 million control tower at McCollum Field, with an anticipated completion date of fall 2014.

The county is also opening a U.S. Customs and Border Protection office at the airport next fall.

“We will be having customs here so aircraft can fly in here and go through customs rather than going down to Atlanta Hartsfield,” Goreham said.

There are preliminary talks between the county and Kennesaw State about creating an aviation management program.

“So the ground work is being laid hopefully for a degree in that,” Goreham said.

Kennesaw Mayor Mark Mathews gives Goreham high marks.

“I think she’s very easy to work with and seems to care for everybody in the county,” Mathews said. “We’ve had a pretty good working relationship with her now for the last few years. I’d say it’s much better than it was prior to me becoming mayor. I think the relationship was a little strained back then, but it’s been good for the last five years. We try to keep her informed on what’s going on in the city, and she’s been involved in a lot of stuff that we do. She keeps us informed on what’s going on in the county as well.”

District 1 saw in uptick in single family residential construction this year, which tells Goreham that perhaps the economy is beginning to recover.

“I think in February I’m going to have a request for a rezoning for 53 acres in my district for a brand new subdivision, so that’s indicating to me a little bit of motion in the right direction,” she said.

The $2.7 million Senior Wellness Center on Power Springs Street, which opened this summer, is a particular point of pride. The center includes a gym facility for seniors, a cafeteria and food production for Meals on Wheels, and offers classes for seniors to learn how to cook healthy meals.

“There is a clinic with a partnership with WellStar that will be able to provide checkups and hearing tests and some medical applications for those of a certain income level, seniors,” Goreham said.

The $5.2 million Cobb County Safety Village, built on a 8 acre site off Al Bishop Drive, is a project Goreham’s been involved with for six years. The village is a comprehensive safety training environment where residents gain knowledge through hands on experiences.

“I can tell you that looking at the number of structure fires that we have here in Cobb County has decreased in the past 10 years and also the number of fatalities has decreased as a population has increased, so to me, that’s proof right there,” she said.

Goreham, who did not take a public position on the TSPLOST referendum which failed in July, said one of the challenges in her district is traffic.

Goreham said she is a fan of the recommendation made by a $1.8 million Northwest Corridor Alternatives Analysis study spearheaded by Croy Engineering to build a proposed $1.1 billion KSU-Midtown bus system that uses both Interstate 75 and Cobb Parkway.

“I believe it will (help ease traffic congestion), not only from a people moving side, but also from an economic development side,” Goreham said. “What’s the next thing for Cobb County? It’s not going to be single family development or strip centers. I believe we’re reaching the maximum in both of those areas. So if we can have some transit-oriented development along with a functional effective transit line, we get the benefit of both.”

The proposal is still in draft form while the county waits for Kimley-Horn & Associates to finish a $3 million environmental study of the project, which will be done in about 18 months.

Goreham believes the proposal can be paid for through a combination of federal, state and SPLOST dollars.

Moving into the coming year, Goreham said one project she wants to tackle are the foreclosures in her and Commissioner-elect Lisa Cupid’s districts.

“Not buying up the homes, but seeing as if they’re any kind of incentives from a development standpoint where we could really address those,” Goreham said. “How we can trigger development of those foreclosed properties. If we have foreclosed subdivisions how can we assist and see if those subdivisions are completed in a timely fashion and in a quality fashion.”

The proposal may involve some form of financial incentive, she said.

Looking ahead to a new Board of Commissioners in January, Goreham said it’s hard to say whether things will be different.

“I just hoped that we continue to work together as a board,” she said. “We’re obviously not all going to agree on the issues, but the main thing is you don’t take it personally. … Sometimes it gets through the thick skin and you’ve got to dust yourself off and pick yourself up and put it into perspective and also realize that on the Board of Commissioners it’s going to be rolling coalitions. … You have to take every issue on its face value, but that doesn’t mean that you as a commissioner change your standards and your beliefs and your guidelines, and I pride myself on being very consistent on my standards and my guidelines and my beliefs and I don’t waiver.”
Comments
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Betsey Ross
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December 24, 2012
I would like to hear how Ms. Goreham feels about increasing taxes on her constituents through increasing their water bills and then taking the money for the general fund? Do you truly believe your Republican values are reflected here? If so, you fool yourself. Justifying big government "solutions" and then claiming to stay true to your beliefs is what's got Republicans in trouble today. I like you Ms. Goreham, but will likely not be able to vote for you as you continue to support Tim Lee's RINO philosophy.
Concerned Again
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January 27, 2013
I agree with Betsey. I wonder what pet project she has in mind to fund.
The Truth
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December 24, 2012
Commissioner Goreham proved that she listens and decides and moves on. Her decisions are not for political gain; she votes for the good of the County. She is the only commissioner who really understands all of the issues required to run the County. Ott sells his votes for political gain. Thompson drank the Ott coolaid but found finally found out too late how evil Ott is. Birrell just doesn't understand most issues and votes how her husband tells her to vote. Commissioner Goreham, keep it up! We are proud of you
Also True
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December 24, 2012
That Lee for sure doesn't drink that O Koolaid! That's2 votes! Now how quickly can the new commish figure out the "Dangers of O"?
Whoa there...
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December 25, 2012
Goreham is one of the most political members of the commission! In addition;, her naive understanding of how the economy works, liberal tax raising views and misinformed decisions is not reflective of the West Cobb community. Bottom line, should a credible candidate run against her - she is gone.
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