Ott said he asked Powell, a former commissioner and an east Cobb resident, to accept the role after his former assistant, Renee Nichols, decided to retire.
“The fact of the matter is Renee did a tremendous job over the 20-plus years and left some pretty big shoes to fill, so I needed someone that could come in and kind of hit the ground running and be able to fill in that experience level that Renee provided, and somebody that has a knowledge of what the job entails, and Thea seemed like a natural fit for that,” Ott said.
Powell served as a commissioner from 1987 to 1991 and as an interim commissioner in 2010.
Two years ago Ott appointed her to the board of directors of the Cobb Development Authority, which is staffed by the Chamber of Commerce. She has criticized the Chamber’s management of the Development Authority’s dollars ever since.
County employees cannot simultaneously serve on the Development Authority board, so Powell resigned her unpaid post on that board to serve as Ott’s assistant.
Speaking of the Development Authority, Powell said, “Until the membership changes where there isn’t a strong affiliation with the Chamber, nothing is going to really move forward.”
Powell explained why she accepted the position as Ott’s assistant.
“When I’m here working with Commissioner Ott, I know that I can help the citizens and I can make a difference and that certainly wasn’t the case on the Development Authority. I like to be proactive, I like to make positive changes, and this is the opportunity that affords me to do that,” she said.
Powell and her husband, George Powell, have a daughter who lives in Atlanta who is expecting to give birth to their first grandchild in June.
Some assistants make $60K
Lee said the salaries for commissioner assistants are set by each commissioner based on a classification chart provided by the county’s human resources department.
Ott has not yet settled on Powell’s salary. Her predecessor, Nichols, received $60,278. Commissioner Helen Goreham’s assistant, Annette Friant, is also paid $60,278. Commissioner Lisa Cupid’s assistant, Saleemah Johnson, receives $50,413, Commissioner JoAnn Birrell’s assistant, Inger Eberhart, earns $46,350, and Lee’s assistant, Millie Rogers, who is part time, is paid $24.29 an hour.
With Powell resigning from the Development Authority, that board now has two empty seats.
Lee had planned on asking the Board of Commissioners to appoint former Chamber of Commerce Chairman and Bank of North Georgia President Rob Garcia to the Development Authority in January, but he tabled that vote after Cupid objected.
“I’m evaluating my options even as we speak and will bring forth a recommendation in the next couple of days,” Lee said of the empty seats on the authority’s board.
Lee said Ott has the right to name whomever he wants as his assistant.
“One of the perks of being a district commissioner is that you get to select your own assistant, and they serve at the will of that specific commissioner, so pending a successful background check and application process, I welcome her aboard,” Lee said.
And what does Lee think about Powell stepping off the Development Authority board?
“No comment,” Lee said.