MARIETTA — East Cobb Commissioner Bob Ott announced Tuesday morning he would not seek reelection in November but would be stepping down from the Board of Commissioners at the end of the year when his term ends.
Ott also said he would not seek the role of board chairman, another position that’s up for election this year.
The announcement came at the Board of Commissioners’ first meeting of 2020.
“I’m not running for anything,” Ott, a Delta Air Lines pilot, said. “I’m going to go fly airplanes.”
At least two people have already made clear their intentions to pursue his seat: Andy Smith, whom Ott appointed to the county’s Planning Commission, a recommending body that reviews zoning cases before they go to the Board of Commissioners for approval or rejection.
The other is Democrat Jerica Richardson, an Equifax employee who’s managed several political campaigns.
Qualifying is March 2-6 with the primary on May 19 and the general election on Nov. 3.
District 2 encompasses most of east Cobb and includes Cumberland, Vinings, Smyrna, the Mabry Park area and the Terrell Mill/Powers Ferry area. Ott was first elected to represent the area in 2008.
In the 12 years since, he has earned the nickname “Commissioner Not” for his consistent opposition to tax-and-spend proposals put forward by other commissioners.
“His accomplishments are many — from fighting tax increases, streamlining processes and reducing costs, crafting community-enhancing master plans for key corridors, and ensuring that the stadium project was a positive for the citizens,” former U.S. Rep. Karen Handel, R-Roswell, said in a statement. “Bob’s leadership on the commission will be greatly missed, but his heart for and commitment to Cobb County continues.”
Speaking to the MDJ after his announcement, Ott said his intention when he first ran was to serve only two terms on the Board of Commissioners, but ran for a third term “because of the (Atlanta Braves) stadium.”
“I think it’s the right time (to step down),” Ott said. “A lot of the things that I wanted to get done we’ve gotten done, and I just think it’s time to move on. … Your family puts up with a lot when you’re a commissioner. A lot of late-night phone calls and emails and time away from home.”
In the lead-up to his announcement, Ott ran through a list of the board’s accomplishments during his tenure as District 2 commissioner, including the creation of a Citizen’s Oversight Committee in the wake of the Great Recession, the deal that lured the Braves from their longtime home within the perimeter to Cumberland and, in 2011, the passage of a penny sales tax “that was not the usual six years of questionable spending”; “with the help of Commissioner (Thea) Powell,” he said, “we cut the SPLOST to a four-year list of projects saving over $200 million.”
This fall, Cobb voters are expected to vote on renewing a penny sales tax passed in 2016; Chairman Mike Boyce has made clear he would like a six-year tax.
But Ott is most proud of the revitalization of his district, he said.
“There (were) so many areas (where) we had empty shopping centers and neighborhoods where houses weren’t selling,” he said. “I think there’s a greater sense of community. When I have town halls, I have anywhere from 150 to 200 people show up. … I think the people feel like they have a voice, and we kind of rebuilt the community.”
Smith, meanwhile, said he has long wanted to serve on the Board of Commissioners.
“I honestly don’t have it all figured out,” Smith said when asked the theme of his campaign-to-be. “I can’t imagine changing a lot from what Bob Ott laid out.
“I haven’t run for anything since (high school),” he continued. “I’ve known Bob since back then. I don’t know whether he voted for me. I always voted for him,” he said, laughing.