Councilman-elect Church ready to re-enter city politics
by Hannah Morgan
January 04, 2014 11:37 PM | 3180 views | 1 1 comments | 8 8 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Councilman-elect Leonard Church and his wife, Karen Church, enjoy traveling. Most recently, they flew to Switzerland for Thanksgiving. Yet of all the places he’s visited, Church said his favorite is Kennesaw. ‘This is what I call home,’ he said. ‘It’s a great city to live in.’ <br> Special to the MDJ
Councilman-elect Leonard Church and his wife, Karen Church, enjoy traveling. Most recently, they flew to Switzerland for Thanksgiving. Yet of all the places he’s visited, Church said his favorite is Kennesaw. ‘This is what I call home,’ he said. ‘It’s a great city to live in.’
Special to the MDJ
KENNESAW — Leonard Church has traveled the world, but says home will always be Kennesaw.

The former two-time Kennesaw mayor has been in politics for almost 15 years and hasn’t looked back. Church enjoys seeing his city grow, interacting with the city’s residents and making changes.

He re-entered city politics after narrowly ousting Councilman Bruce Jenkins and will be sworn in as a councilman Monday.

Longtime Cobb resident

Church, 65, was born to Ed and Mildred Church in DeLand, Fla., but moved to Cobb County when he was 2 years old. His father worked for Lockheed Martin as a tool planner, designing tools to make airplanes.

The family lived off of Canton Highway, and Church attended Elizabeth Elementary School, which no longer exists, but was on Church Street across from what is now WellStar Kennestone Hospital.

He remembers driving through Kennesaw as a child and how little there was to the city back then.

“Coming through Kennesaw, if you yawned or sneezed, you missed it,” he said. “It’s now become a destination place. We’ve mushroomed, become family-oriented.”

Church graduated from Sprayberry High School in 1966 before attending the Dental Technology School.

Since his graduation, Church has been making the tools dentists need to clean teeth — dentures, brushes and cleaning instruments.

Church worked at two dental technology labs, one in Griffin, and another in Marietta, before opening up his own business, Church Dental Prosthetics, in 1987.

For someone who has worked in the dental field for 45 years, Church said that he has excellent teeth.

In 1994, Church moved to Kennesaw and fell in love with the city.

Church was living and raising a family in Kennesaw when the city’s politics and expansion weren’t going as well as he wanted them to, so he put his name in the hat to run for mayor.

His grandfather had taught him a maxim — if you are going to fuss about something, be prepared to do something about it.

“I got mad, and I ran,” Church said.

The experience of running and then winning the mayor’s seat was so wonderful, Church said he got hooked on city politics and “never looked back.”

Since he was sworn in as mayor in January 2000, he has seen the city grow and expand from a spot on the map to a destination city with a family friendly vibe.

Church has watched the city add the Southern Museum of Civil War and Locomotive History, a new community center, Swift-Cantrell Park and the Smith-Gilbert Gardens.

“I loved being mayor, I had a great time,” he said.

Ousted by Mathews

Then Councilman Mark Mathews ousted Church from office in November 2007. Elections officials later realized some residents of the Ridenour senior-living complex had not been properly classified in the elections system as eligible to vote in the city. A new election took place, and Mathews beat Church

again in January 2008. Church came back to challenge Mathews in November 2011 and lost a third time. But that didn’t stop Church from challenging and beating Councilman Bruce Jenkins in November. With his new spot on the council seat, Church hopes to see continued expansion in the city, especially downtown.

One of his top priorities is the completion of the Cherokee Street project, which will add a turn lane onto the road to make it three lanes.

Church also wants to see a turn lane added at the QuikTrip Station at the intersection of Pine Mountain Court and Highway 41.

The Kennesaw Police Department is also a priority for Church, who wants to make sure it has the upgrades it needs.

Church also hopes to bring back a zeal for recycling to the city, as he feels residents are not recycling as much as they should.

Big family, enjoys travel

Church has two children, Pam Vandergriff of Tennessee, and Angie Church of New York, with a former wife.

He married Karen Church in March 2013, and, between the two of them, they have six children and nine grandchildren.

The couple met while Church was mayor after a mutual friend introduced them at one of the city’s Pigs and Peaches Festivals, he said.

They were married by Cobb Superior Court Judge Adele Grubbs, who will swear Church into office Monday just as she did for his terms as mayor.

Church and his wife enjoy traveling and can be hard to find on the weekends, as they have been known to fly off to Europe for last-minute weekend getaways.

They’ve been to Prague, Amsterdam and Brazil, and most recently flew to Switzerland for Thanksgiving.

If they don’t leave the country on a weekend, the couple will go on car trips to Florida, or take weekend jaunts to Las Vegas, he said.

Yet of all the places he’s visited, Church said his favorite is Kennesaw.

“This is what I call home,” he said. “It’s a great city to live in.”

Comments-icon Post a Comment
January 05, 2014
It has been clear since the original Church announcement for the position that, if elected, this was to be a stepping stone for another run for Mayor in 2015.

Mathews and Church are get along like cats and dogs and 'if' Mathews runs again (and he may not) then it will be another contentious election.

If you have been keeping up with the Mayor then you know he has some issues which won't be forgotten in two years, but then Church isn't exactly a popular ex-Mayor and just squeaked in to get the Council seat.

Mathews getting Ms Washington into that Council race should have been enough to lessen the Church vote and keep the seat with Mr Jenkins but the last minute MDJ 'expense' article pretty much took Jenkins out of, what even I considered, a sure win for him.

So consider that in 2 years it may well be a Mathews v. Church race for Mayor.

Unless there comes a third party with no baggage to lug around.

A relative newcomer may well ask the 16,000 Kennesaw voters if they really want to continue with either a Mathews or Church regime. After 16 years of less than sterling leadership from the Mayors office, will Kennesaw voters want to put back in office either flawed Mayoral candidate or would they rather continue with their efforts to bring new and better candidates into City leadership.

The next 2 years should show some interesting clashes between the Mayor and Church.

Will this help or hurt either or will it just show voters that it is time for the 'Old Guard' to move along and bring in a new mayor?

*We welcome your comments on the stories and issues of the day and seek to provide a forum for the community to voice opinions. All comments are subject to moderator approval before being made visible on the website but are not edited. The use of profanity, obscene and vulgar language, hate speech, and racial slurs is strictly prohibited. Advertisements, promotions, and spam will also be rejected. Please read our terms of service for full guides