Retired businessman Larry Savage of east Cobb gave a fiery speech calling for fiscal restraint as he announced he was running for chairman of the Cobb Board of Commissioners during the Cobb GOP’s monthly breakfast meeting.
Until now, there have only been two announced candidates in the race: Republican Chairman Mike Boyce and Democrat Commissioner Lisa Cupid.
Savage told the party faithful if there were a credible conservative in the chairman’s race, he’d likely make a campaign contribution and retreat to his hobbies.
“I don’t see that,” he said. “As on this day there are two candidates for chairman of the Cobb County Commission. One is a liberal Democrat. The other is a liberal Republican who is perhaps even more liberal than the liberal Democrat,” Savage said, a comment that drew laughter from the audience.
Boyce and Savage have campaigned for chairman several times in the past.
The last time they squared off was in the 2016 Republican primary where Boyce received 49.06%, incumbent Tim Lee received 40.42% and Savage received 10.52%.
As no one received more than 50% of the vote, it triggered a runoff between Boyce and Lee, which Boyce won with 63.9% of the vote.
During that race, Boyce campaigned on fiscal restraint, a position he’s changed now that he’s been elected, Savage said.
“He’s given more millions of dollars to the Braves with no explanation,” Savage said. “He’s agreed to take on the cost of managing the police activities around special events … He’s conducted illegal meetings under the Open Meetings Act. And there have been new hurdles erected for people who seek information from the county government through Open Records.”
More importantly, Savage said, is the lapse of fiscal restraint.
“Our spending has surged despite the fact that we had a historic runup in property values that increased the county tax digest enormously. That wasn’t good enough. We then had to accept a 25% increase in the millage rate for the county’s general operating fund.”
An understanding of the future is needed, he said, and knowledge that certain pressures are on their way.
“There are already additional tax increases teed up for metro Atlanta and Cobb County potentially, and we have to get a grip on how we run our business here in Cobb County, how we manage our resources and how we make things happen without having to turn to the taxpayers over and over again. Every problem does not cry out for throwing money at it, and we have to learn to solve our problems using our resources more intelligently.”
That’s when Savage announced he has entered the race, a statement that caused the crowd to break out in cheers and applause.
Qualifying for the chairman’s race is March 2- 6 with the primary on May 19 and the general election on Nov. 3.
SCHOOL DAZE: At the same meeting Savage announced for chairman, IT project manager Matt Harper threw his hat in the ring for the Post 5 Cobb school board seat held by David Banks. Harper lives in east Cobb with his wife and their two daughters, who are in third and sixth grade in the Cobb School District He works IT for Cobb-based Advanced Open Systems.
He told the crowd he grew up going to Cobb schools, and his mother was a Cobb County teacher. His credentials include serving on the Murdock Elementary school council, where he was also a science lab instructor for three years.
“During that time, I used the school garden to really make hands-on science a priority. The Cobb County master gardeners recognized that effort and invited Murdock to be on the Cobb County garden tour in 2018,” he said.
Harper said he supports “responsible use” of the 1% Special Purpose Local Option Sales Tax for education and hopes to help usher in a time of continued growth in the county.
“Cobb is great, and people know it. The secret’s out,” he said. “There is nothing that, in my mindset, from a planning background, (suggests) that people are going to leave this area. There’s only going to be an increase (in population) in this area. That means there’s going to be an increase in the school population, so every decision the school board makes, I believe needs to be with that focus in mind, that the school population is going to increase.”
The seven-member school board had a quorum at the breakfast, with five current members in the audience listening to a keynote speech delivered by Superintendent Chris Ragsdale. (Only Jaha Howard and David Morgan were absent.)
Banks, who has given no indication he plans to step down, was among that number, though he did not speak.
Brad Wheeler, who represents the district’s Post 7 with Harrison, Hillgrove and McEachern High Schools, briefly took the lectern to announce he is running again.
CHRISTMAS TRUCE? Last month, Cobb school board member Randy Scamihorn, a conservative Republican, made a surprise appearance at the Cobb Democratic Party’s monthly Donuts for Democrats meeting.
What’s soup for the goose is apparently soup for the gander. Charisse Davis, a school board member who is most certainly not a member of the Cobb County Republican Party, took time out of her morning to join the GOP for breakfast. Democrat Tre Hutchins, a candidate for the school board’s Post 3 currently occupied by fellow Democrat David Morgan was there, too.
GOP Chairman Jason Shepherd told the crowd to make the wayfaring Dems feel welcome.
“We may disagree on some things, but we’re a big body, and any time you want to come in, it takes a lot to come in to another political party, and we may go back and forth a little bit, but we love you and we’re glad you’re here,” Shepherd said.
THE JOHN LOUD SHOW: At the final Cobb Chamber of Commerce First Monday Breakfast meeting this week, outgoing Chamber Chairman Mitch Rhoden gave the chairman’s club a brief recap on the year and welcomed incoming 2020 Chairman John Loud.
“This year has gone by so quickly, and it’s been great,” Rhoden said, addressing the crowd. “Our new brand ... we have the unveil today, which we’re really excited to show you. Our new building — 1100 Circle 75 — we’re going to be moving in. We’re in the process of that build-out, and we’re going to be moving in in January. That’s going to be a really neat change for the chamber, and we’re looking forward to showing you all of that.”
Rhoden said the chamber also focused on welcoming international companies and recognizing the companies that have been in Cobb for “many years,” as well as urged members of the organization to continue networking with the county’s young professionals who are constantly looking for ways to connect.
Rhodes gave Gary Bottoms, head of the chamber’s transportation and mobility committee and former chamber chairman, a shoutout, saying Bottoms and his colleagues had educated chamber members on the “complicated nature of transportation and mobility, as we look to 2022 when we’re going to vote to see if we can fund some of these priorities.”
In that year, Cobb residents could vote on whether to authorize a special sales tax, the revenues from which would be used for regional transportation projects.
The 2019 chairman also poked a little fun at his successor:
“I also want to thank John Loud. We’re gonna hear more from John Loud — we’re gonna hear a lot from John Loud coming up,” Rhoden said, smiling and prompting laughter from the crowd. “The John Loud Show will begin soon. And as Dave Cole, with Freeman Mathis & Gary, who’s our in-house counsel said … the other day, we’ve hired a team of lawyers to make sure we’re well covered for the John Loud Show in 2020. It’s going to be great.”
The incoming chairman took the jokes in stride, laughing along and grinning back at the many chuckling faces who turned to see his reaction.
Rhoden said he hoped the chamber would continue focusing much of its attention on economic development and inclusion of the whole county, specifically naming Cobb Commissioner Lisa Cupid and her district in south Cobb.
“We have work to do, so I want to continue that work, and I would encourage you all to do the same,” he said.