At the Cobb Chamber of Commerce 72nd Annual Dinner, MDJ publisher Otis A. Brumby III honored Lee with the Citizen of the Year award late Saturday night.
“There are certain news events in life, good and bad, that we remember where we were when we heard the news,” Brumby said, suggesting the move will be such an event in Cobb.
The Braves announced their decision to move to Cobb on Nov. 11. The Cobb County Board of Commissioners voted 4-1 Nov. 26 to approve the move and give the team $300 million in public funding for a new $672 million stadium.
Lee was the key player who worked quietly with county government officials and the Cobb Chamber of Commerce to ensure the Braves moving to Cobb was a solid deal.
“Lee was criticized by some for keeping the public in the dark too long,” Brumby said.
But Brumby added it was needed to ensure the move, which will bring prestige, jobs and millions of dollars in tax revenue to Cobb.
Brumby said Lee was this year’s obvious choice.
However, after receiving the award, Lee said, “I really am at a loss for words. … This is way beyond what I deserve.”
Lee told the crowd Saturday night he would work tirelessly to “bring the stadium out of the ground.”
A great responsibility
Lee was first elected to the Cobb County Board of Commissioners in November 2002, serving the residents of northeast Cobb. He was elected as chairman in July 2010.
In July 2012, Lee was asked, “Does Cobb offer too little, too much or the right amount of financial incentives to lure new jobs?”
“There is no one size fits all approach to economic development. Incentives, if they are offered at all, should be tied to the number and quality of jobs created. That should be handled on a case by case basis,” Lee told the MDJ at the time.
After the awards ceremony Saturday night, Lee said he has a responsibility to the community to keep the residents informed about the progress of the new stadium.
“We will do it the Cobb way, on time and on budget,” Lee said. “I want to make sure Cobb is proud of us.”
Lee and his wife, Annette, have been married for 23 years and have three children and six grandchildren. He is a member of the First United Methodist Church in Marietta.
Lee has worked in advertising and marketing for more than 35 years and owns a marketing consulting firm, Summit View Marketing Inc.
Lee is a former board member of MUST Ministries and a past chairman of the Cobb Symphony Orchestra.
In 2011, Lee was named by the Atlanta Business Chronicle magazine as one of “The 100 Most Influential Altantans.”
Black ties and the ‘Tomahawk Chop’
Nearly 1,000 guests in tuxedos and glittering gowns joined together Saturday night to practice the Braves ‘Tomahawk Chop’ and chant in unison.
The black-tie affair at the Cobb Galleria Centre included a reception, dinner and awards ceremony. The large networking and social event is hosted by the Cobb Chamber of Commerce every year.
The band, Yacht Rock Schooner, finished out the evening.
Past recipients of the Citizen of the Year award, dating back to 1963, include Howard Atherton in 1969. Atherton was a former Marietta mayor and owner of the Atherton Drug Store that once stood on the Square.
Joe Mack Wilson was awarded the honor in 1980. Wilson served in the Georgia House of Representatives from 1961 to 1988. He was mayor of Marietta from 1990 to 1993 and died in office at 73.
Besides leaders who have died after helping to shape Cobb, some honorees are still active in state and national politics.
Isakson was honored in 1988. In 1993, Newt Gingrich got the award right before becoming Speaker of the House.
While Chairman of the Cobb County Board of Commissioners, Sam Olens received the Citizen of the Year award. He now serves as Georgia’s attorney general.