Thursday, February 27, 2020

Priscilla Smith’s mugshot

Priscilla Smith says her Donald Trump act grew out of a Halloween party in 2016, fueled by her background in acting and activism.

“I made Donald Trump into Donna Trump,” Smith explains. “I wear a skirt-suit, and I tie my red tie very long, and you know, I’m an actor, so I do a lot of impersonating anyway. I’m afraid it was altogether too easy for me to look like Donald Trump.”

If you spent any time down at the Capitol last year, you may have seen her.

She said residents in the Marietta-Kennesaw House District 34 represented by state Rep. Bert Reeves, R-Marietta, can expect to see more of her. She is running to unseat Reeves on the Democratic ticket in November.

“In some measure I’m the USO for the resistance,” Smith said. “When we’re standing in front of David Perdue’s office reminding him that his job is to represent the citizens of Georgia, Donna Trump is often there. I’ve been to the Capitol a lot. People at the Capitol got really used to seeing Donna.”

Priscilla Smith

Including the Capitol Police.

Smith said she, state Sen. Nikema Williams, D-Atlanta, and others were part of a group arrested while protesting the gubernatorial election at the Capitol last November. When police went to take her mugshot, she remained in character as Donna Trump. The charges were ultimately dropped, she said.

“I’ve been a professional artist and actor and teacher for many, many, many years, and sometimes you have an idea of something you want to do, and you produce it, and it is commercially or artistically successful, and sometimes, something just presents itself, and this is just one of those times that it just presents itself, and I would be a fool to say no,” Smith said of her Trump act.

Born in Emory Hospital, Smith moved to Marietta at age 6 and is a member of the Marietta High School Class of 1974, later earning a degree in speech and drama from Trinity University, San Antonio. She said she produced the first play to ever debut at what is now the Jennie T. Anderson Theatre. The mother of a grown daughter, Smith, 63, describes herself as an “all-purpose artist,” having taught high school for 18 years, elementary for three and drama for children at summer camp. This is her first run for elected office. This race was uncontested and, she argues, no race should go unopposed. As for what makes her the better candidate than Reeves: “My understanding, my experience of Mr. Reeves: I’ve never met him. I’ve been in the district a good while, and have never encountered him anywhere outside of the Capitol. You know, I think he was handpicked by the Republican Party, and so I’m actually really interested in being present for the constituency and answering telephone calls, and fielding the problems for them, and answering their needs in a more direct and present way.”

For his part, Reeves said he’s run in four contested campaigns in the last six years “and in each instance ‘House District 34’ has handpicked me to represent them!,” he emailed AT.

“It has been a tremendous honor and it is something that I take very seriously,” Reeves wrote. “I have worked tirelessly over the last 6 years on issues that I know are important to District 34, Cobb County, and Georgia, including significant reform to foster care and adoption law, and a continuous and relentless fight to pass tough legislation to crack down on gang violence and defeat human trafficking. While balancing the busy schedule of being a father and husband, legislator and lawyer, nothing has stopped me from my engagement in numerous community activities, ranging from the Kennesaw Business Association to serving as the head coach of a T-ball team at Oregon Park. I’m not hard to find, never have been, never will be! I look forward to a hard fought campaign this year.”

Rep. Bert Reeves, R–Marietta

Transit is one issue Smith wants to tackle.

“There’s no public transportation in my district to speak of, there’s a little bit, and I think that’s something that can be addressed,” she said.

Smith recalls living in Marietta when the MARTA referendum was voted down in the 1970s.

“And it was horrendous, it was absolutely horrendous that that happened, and we knew it at the time, and we knew it was because of racism,” Smith said. “We were in the middle of white flight at that time.”

Smith acknowledges that it’s an uphill battle against Reeves, floor leader for Gov. Brian Kemp.

“He’s got a huge war chest and he’s a formidable opponent,” she said. “How can I beat him? By wearing out my tennis shoes.”

To learn more about Smith, visit her Facebook page: Priscilla Smith for Georgia.

LADY JUSTICE: Diana Simmons, an attorney in the Cobb Solicitor General’s Office, is the latest candidate to announce her candidacy for Division One, Post Six judge in the State Court of Cobb County. The seat is currently held by Tony Prodgers.

Diana Simmons

Prodgers, who has been a Cobb State Court judge since 1995, announced in September 2019 that he wouldn’t be seeking reelection after 25 years on the bench. He’s in the last year of his current four-year term.

Simmons is the deputy chief assistant at the solicitor general’s office. She also serves as a member of the Marietta Housing Authority’s governing board. A member of First Presbyterian Church of Marietta, she lives in Marietta with her husband Stirling and their three sons.

There are 12 elected judges on the State Court bench, tasked with handling criminal misdemeanors, traffic cases and all but the most serious civil actions.

In 2020 the Cobb State Court has eight judge positions up for election, all with a four-year term.

According to the Cobb elections website, voting for general primary nonpartisan elections is scheduled for May 19.

VOTING MACHINES: Cobb County hasn’t yet received all of the voting machines it has been promised ahead of the March presidential primaries. That’s what Janine Eveler, director of Cobb County Elections and Voter Registration, told lawmakers this week. Eveler said the county is still about 190 machines short for its number of registered voters, but that the shortage won’t cause a problem on Election Day, March 24.

“We have more that are coming, but they won’t be here until the May election,” she said.

Eveler said the 190 additional machines to be delivered between the presidential primary and the local primary were part of a second order from the state.

She said when the state signed its deal last year with a new voting machine provider, the county was allotted 2,039 machines.

“And we have those,” Eveler said.

But an increase in voter registrations since then means the county will receive the additional 190.

The additional machines will ensure the county stays in alignment with state code, which requires one voting machine per 250 registered voters who vote at a given precinct.

But Eveler also said an edit to that state code is working its way toward approval from the state Board of Elections.

She said that approval will mean the required number of machines on Election Day will subtract the number of voters who voted early from the county’s total number of registered voters.

SPEAKER CIRCUIT: U.S. Sen. Kelly Loeffler, R-Georgia, is the speaker at the next Cobb Chamber of Commerce breakfast on March 9. Coffee and networking is at 7 a.m., the breakfast is at 7:30 a.m. at the Coca Cola Roxy Theatre, at The Battery Atlanta in Cumberland.

Bestselling author Ben Shapiro, author of such books as “Bullies: How The Left’s Culture of Fear and Intimidation Silences America,” and host of the The Ben Shapiro Show, is speaking at Kennesaw State University, guest of the university’s Young Americans for Freedom chapter.

The event is 7 to 9 p.m. Tuesday March 24. Admission is open to the public. Ticketing information to be released in the near future.

Ben Shapiro

PASS THAT DUTCH: The Georgia Access to Medical Cannabis Commission meets from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. on Saturday in Austell to hear from cannabis consultants and representatives of patient safety groups. The meeting will be at the City of Austell Threadmill Complex, 5000 Austell-Powder Springs Rd. 30106.

Storied football player and coach Bill Curry amused, entertained, informed and inspired a crowd of 250 at a Vinings Bank Luncheon series event Thursday.

Legendary football coach, Georgia Tech star and 10-season NFL veteran Bill Curry admitted Thursday that when he set goals for life at an early age, playing football wasn’t among them.

Curry, featured speaker at a Vinings Bank-hosted luncheon Thursday, said he set two goals at the age of 12.

“No. 1, marry Carolyn Newton … the most beautiful girl in the world, smartest kid in College Park, Georgia.”

To achieve this first ambition, persistence paid off. Curry said he didn’t even show up on his unrequited sweetheart’s radar until six years later when they started dating his senior year.

“When I went home and told my dad, I'm going to marry Carolyn Newton. He said, ‘that is the best idea you ever had … is she aware of your plan?’” The couple celebrated their 57th wedding anniversary in December.

Curry’s other aspiration did not have nearly as successful results. “My second goal was to pitch for the Yankees ... There's only one thing that kept me out of the majors in baseball: talent."

One sport’s loss was another’s gain.

Curry played football at Georgia Tech and was drafted by the Green Bay Packers and legendary coach Vince Lombardi. He would ply his talent over 10 seasons with the Packers (1965–1966), the Baltimore Colts (1967–1972), the Houston Oilers (1973), and the Los Angeles Rams (1974).

Despite a professional career, he is best known as “coach.” He coached his alma mater Tech (1980-1986), the University of Alabama (1987–1989) and the University of Kentucky (1990–1996). After his stint with the Wildcats, he worked as a football analyst for ESPN before being recalled to coaching when Georgia State University launched its football program.

In retrospect, Curry said, playing center was likely the only position that would have given him a professional career, and it was fate or happenstance that put him in the middle of the offensive line. It happened in high school.

“There were only 11 good players. It was a very small program,” Curry told the crowd of 250 that included several former Georgia Tech players.

When it came time to assign positions … “Well, all good athletes got all the good positions, naturally. And again, there are 11 of us standing there. And after he had placed 10 players — Tommy got to play quarterback because he had a good arm, Richard was a fullback because he was big and fast — there were 10 positions filled and only one left. And it was the one that nobody wanted to play and there was only one player left — the future New York Yankees star. (Coach) said this brilliant thing: ‘Well, Bill ... I guess you're going to be the center.”

“Well, four years later I learned to hike that ball to Billy Lothridge and Stanley Gann at the Georgia Institute of Technology. And at the end of my senior year in the Senior Bowl, I learned to hike that ball to Joe Willie Namath. And a few months later I learned to hike that ball to Roger Staubach and John Huarte and Bob Timberlake and Craig Morton. And the next week I learned to hike that ball to Bart Starr and Zeke Bratkowski and a couple of years later I learned to hike that ball to Johnny Unitas and ... in various games on various teams I learned to hike that ball in subsequent years to Bob Griese and James Harris, Len Dawson and Francis Tarkenton, Dan Pastorini … the greatest quarterbacks, the greatest leaders... in the history of the game, and I had the privilege of stepping in the huddle and being their personal protection.”

Curry shared his lesson learned, something like turning a sow’s ear into a silk purse.

“As it turns out, in God's wisdom, there was only one position in all of sports that would've allowed Bill Curry to have a career … and (center) was that position.

“So, if you're stuck in a spot that you think maybe is unfair, maybe you could do better, try doing it really well … and see what happens.”

Cock-a-doodle-doo: Early this week, the Franklin Roundtable put on a forum featuring Cobb Chairman Mike Boyce and Larry Savage, one of his two challengers to the county throne.

Mike Boyce

Between questions from libertarians riled over Boyce’s property tax hike and jabs from Savage, there were a few moments of levity. Two came toward the end of Boyce’s allotted hour.

Worried about the effect that high-density development would have on county roads and traffic, one man asked Boyce about the effect it was having on his quality of life.

“Well, here’s the question that I’m going to ask you,” Boyce said. “We’re gonna get another 250,000 people here in 30 years. Where are you gonna put ‘em?”

“In Mableton,” the man replied. The crowd loved it.

Two minutes later, another man chimed in.

“Regarding the growth in population in Cobb County, there’s a simple solution to that: Build the wall.”

The crowd loved it.

“I appreciate that comment,” Boyce said. “That was good. That was funny.”

Savage spoke after Boyce. He painted the chairman as a foe of low taxes liberty.

Larry Savage

Despite the fact that “Boyce prevailed in the (2016) campaign primarily on the strength of not being Tim Lee,” Savage said, the chairman campaigned as a staunch conservative. But he hasn’t governed as one, Savage continued.

“Mr. Boyce wants to run on his record, and I want to run on his record, too,” he said. He hammered Boyce for having raised the millage rate. He also attacked the chairman’s State of the County address.

“I listened to all the story about economic growth, new businesses, expanding this, expanding that,” he said, “but it reminds me of the story of the rooster.

“The rooster,” he continued, “crows every morning and it takes credit for the sun.”

The barbs likely didn’t bother Boyce. He didn’t hear most of them, having left shortly after he gave his comments.

SPEAKING OF his State of the County address earlier this month, Boyce might do well to take a cue from Donald J. Trump.

The president’s State of the Union address delivered earlier this month was repeatedly interrupted by applause — a lot of Republican hands clapping ... not so much among stoic-faced Democrats.

Boyce didn’t fare as well, at one point having to wheedle the crowd at the Cobb Chamber’s Marquee Monday breakfast meeting to make some noise.

After touting that the county millage rate will remain at 8.46 mills, he didn’t get the response expected.

“You’re supposed to applaud. C’mon, c’mon. No taxes. You should be happy about this,” Boyce admonished. With that order from the former Marine colonel, the audience obliged.

There was another line later in his address made to order to prompt applause.

“But look where we are now,” Boyce exclaimed. The audience didn’t bite, leaving an awkward silence.

In all, the Boyce address lasted just under 25 minutes and was applauded 21 times. 

President Trump averages 110 moments of hand-clapping over his last three SOTU addresses. The 2020 version lasted 78 minutes, 26 of which were dedicated to applause.

POLITICAL PLATTER: Fitz Johnson, Republican candidate for Cobb County Board of Commissioners District 2, announced his campaign kickoff event. The event will take place Tuesday from 5:30 to 7:30 p.m. at InfoMart, 1582 Terrell Mill Road SE, Marietta, GA 30067.

Fitz Johnson

“People in Cobb County want low taxes, they want to feel safe in their community, and they want to be able to get around without sitting in traffic,” Johnson said. “In the weeks since announcing my candidacy I have heard from so many people in District 2 who just want effective, efficient county government. They want a commissioner who will listen and represent their priorities,” Johnson said. “That is why I am running for Cobb County Commission, to give voice to these citizen concerns.”

SPEAKER CIRCUIT: Rebecca Keaton, clerk of Superior Court of Cobb County, will speak to the Metro Marietta Kiwanis Club on Monday about the duties and responsibilities of her office. The club meets at noon at the First United Methodist Church, 56 Whitlock Ave., Marietta 30064.

The following Monday, March 2, will be Metro Marietta Kiwanis’ Star Student Banquet at 774 Roswell Street Baptist Church, starting at 6 p.m. The guest speaker is former Gov. Roy Barnes. For more information or to make a reservation for either event, please email

RECOGNITION: Congratulations to Marietta High School seniors Kailyn Askins, Oscar Baglivio and Rebecca Goodwin for being named 2020 National Merit Scholarship finalists.

State Reps. Mary Frances Williams, D-Marietta and Erick Allen, D-Smyrna, and candidate Luisa Wakeman, who is running for state Rep. Sharon Cooper’s seat, at the Cobb Democratic Party’s monthly “Donuts with Democrats” meeting at the Smyrna Community Center.

The only reason the Sterigenics plant near Smyrna is not up and running is the Cobb County government, state Rep. Erick Allen, D-Smyrna, said during Saturday’s Cobb Donuts with Democrats meeting, which was packed to the rafters at the Smyrna Community Center.

“If you follow the issue in Illinois, the only thing that got that plant shut down was the permitting, was the county and codes. The only way this one is going to reopen — I’m going to say it one more time — is if the county allows it, so the pressure should not just be on state legislators. Hold us accountable. We’re doing our part, but also be in touch with your county commissioners. Because they are the ones that will keep this closed, and also make sure you’re supporting candidates who are committed to making sure this plant doesn’t reopen.”

Allen and state Rep. Mary Frances Williams, D-Marietta, were the keynote speakers at the lively meeting, giving the party faithful an update on what’s going on under the Gold Dome. Williams gave a shoutout to Allen and Sen. Jen Jordan, D-Sandy Springs, for their work on the Sterigenics issue.

“They really had to push hard. Now it seems like everybody is kind of on board in some degree, but it wasn’t that way at all from the beginning, but that also demonstrates that we’re not going to get anywhere on issues like ethylene oxide and coal ash without strong public outcry, so please help us with coal ash as well.”

Last year, Williams said she introduced a House resolution which urged Georgia Power to take the coal ash from its coal ponds that have been dewatered at Plant McDonough “which is on the banks of the Chattahoochee, 700 feet from the Chattahoochee, and move them to lined pits. Nothing has happened with that,” she reported.

Meanwhile, she and Allen have sponsored a bill that requires all of the coal ash to be put in lined pits as she said is done with regular trash.

“So we’re working really hard on this. It’s a heavy lift. But I will say, we all want clean drinking water. That’s the bottom line, right? We all want clean drinking water. Maybe our drinking water isn’t threatened this moment, but with coal ash sitting in groundwater at McDonough and so close to the river, it is a long-term threat and in other areas of this state people have wells that are poisoned and have relatives and folks that are dying, so this is not anything not to take very seriously.”

Added Allen: “This is not a hysteria issue. There have been catastrophic events that have happened in Tennessee and North Carolina. Just Google ‘Duke Energy.’ It actually cost the governor of North Carolina his job, and we’d be doing well to remind Brian Kemp of that as often as possible as this legislation moves forward.”

On the subject of ethylene oxide, Allen said he’s presented three bills that he hopes will get a hearing in the next two weeks. One creates a study committee to look at the issue for regulatory requirements. A second requires the accidental release of any ethylene oxide to be reported. A third he described as more robust, requiring 24/7 monitoring from the emission stack, with biannual reporting of the total of everything released, among other things.

BUDGET WOES: Turning to other topics, Allen and Williams were particularly critical of Gov. Kemp’s proposed budget.

In 2018, Republicans lowered the income tax rate from 6% to 5.75% with the goal of revisiting it this year and lowering it again to 5.5%. That 5.5% vote has yet to occur, but Allen argues the first income tax cut is the reason Kemp is now having to cut the state budget, this year by 4% and next year by 6% despite a sunny economy.

“We’re basically cutting the budget to fund the income tax cut that even Gov. (Nathan) Deal said was not a good idea back in 2018. That bad idea Republicans voted for in 2018 is now being asked to be paid for on the backs of our safety net, and I would say most constituents’ programs,” Allen said. “Just know that this is an extremely dangerous budget as it currently is constructed.”

In other news, expect some type of gambling legislation to be dropped this session, Allen said, in addition to a strong push to adopt Religious Freedom Restoration Act legislation.

“They are looking for a vehicle for RFRA ... so we have to be extremely vigilant as well,” he said, prompting a question from the audience.

“Can you speak about Ginny Ehrhart‘s hateful bill about mental care for (transgender) people?” one audience member asked.

“No, because it won’t go anywhere,” Allen replied.

“Won’t go anywhere? Great to hear. Fantastic. Good work,” the questioner said.

Ehrhart recently said statewide polling on her bill shows 80% support.

JUDICIAL JOCKEYING CONTINUES: With a State Court judge and two Superior Court judges announcing they won’t seek another term, candidates are crawling out of the courtroom woodwork. The latest to contact Around Town is attorney Joe Atkins, who boasts a broad-based legal career for 33 years. He will seek the bench of State Court Post 6.

WILD BLUE YONDER: Around 150 military personnel and associates gathered in Marietta recently for the latest graduation ceremony of the Cobb County Veterans Court and, as is often the case, the rivalry between the services was on full display.

Shouts and cheers from generations of veterans, active duty personnel and their family members punctuated speeches during the graduation ceremony, which was attended by Gov. Brian Kemp and U.S. Rep. Barry Loudermilk, R-Cassville.

Loudermilk, who served in the Air Force for eight years, acknowledged the inter-service rivalry in his speech, saying it was something he loved about the military.

U.S. Rep. Barry Loudermilk

“It reminds me of something that happened a few years ago … ,” Loudermilk said, launching into his own anecdote about the flak commonly doled out to Air Force personnel regarding their athleticism.

“The first year I was in Congress, I kind of let myself go, I was about 50 pounds heavier, I wasn’t in the best shape ever,” Loudermilk said.

A staff member introduced him to Shepherd’s Men, who were raising money and awareness to treat PTSD and traumatic brain injuries for veterans.

“They were literally running across country from Boston to Atlanta, wearing 22 pounds of body armor representing the 22 veterans a day that commit suicide,” Loudermilk said. “It was inspirational. I don’t know about you, have you ever had anything, like, come out of your mouth and you’re trying to stop it? Some people tweet that way, you know.”

The reference to President Donald Trump elicited a loud response from the crowd, before Loudermilk continued.

“I speak that way sometimes,” he said. “So I looked at Travis (Ellis), the guy who was leading it, and he said ‘look we’re running through Washington D.C.,’ and the words came out of my mouth ... I couldn’t stop ... ‘good, let me know, I’ll run with you.’”

“As soon as I said that I thought that was a big mistake ... they’ll forget about it,” Loudermilk said. “They didn’t.”

He said the part of the run through Washington he participated in was just a few miles, starting from the Iwo Jima memorial in Arlington. Loudermilk was at the back of the group of around 20 Shepherd’s Men, alongside three who were keeping his slower pace.

“I was moved, I was motivated, a little bit nervous,” he said.

Loudermilk said he started chatting with each of the men running at the back with him, and learned two were Army medics and the other was a corpsman in the Navy, also a medic.

“I was like ‘Hey, that’s cool, my dad was a medic in the Army during World War II,’” Loudermilk said. “I said, ‘So the medics are running with me because I’m a 50-something-year-old congressman?’ and they said, ‘No sir, we knew you were Air Force, we figured this is the first time you’ve ever ran.’”

Judging from the laughter, it was the best joke of the veterans court graduation ceremony. Even Cobb Superior Court Chief Judge Reuben Green, who presides over the veterans court, took a dig at the Air Force, in kind, during his speech.

“It’s good that the Air Force occasionally jogs,” said Green, a retired Marine. “We want to encourage that.”

After 30-plus years in law enforcement that included stints at the Marietta and Cobb County police departments, Ricci Mason has seen a thing or two. And he doesn’t like what he’s seen.

Ricci Mason

Mason kicked off his campaign for chairman of Cobb County this week. He will take on incumbent Mike Boyce and challenger Larry Savage in the Republican primaries. If he succeeds, he will likely face south Cobb Commissioner Lisa Cupid in the general election.

“Working in the cocoon of government, especially with the county, you see a lot of things that aren't necessarily good,” he told AT. “You see a lot of misdirection, a lot of things that aren’t ethical as far as spending and the way people are being treated and the way the county’s being driven.”

AT asked Mason to address four issues he would likely have to deal with should he assume chairmanship of the county. The Q&A has been edited for length and clarity.

Q: Do you believe east Cobb should become a city?

A: Typically I think it would be up to the citizens to vote on that. East Cobb, I lived in east Cobb for awhile, the resources the county can provide I think are adequate. I really don’t see anything that’s missing from the east Cobb area. Let me preface it by (saying) this: One of the points (for) the city of East Cobb … is increasing public safety, increasing officers on the street. … If we had the officers on the street that we are lacking right now — it can be up to 100 officers that we’re short in the police department — it would discredit that talking point, because if we have enough officers on the street we have a complete, full precinct that pretty much services east Cobb. … I don’t know if that's a viable city.

Q: Do you support MARTA rail coming into Cobb County?

A: That’s something that I’ve really really never even considered. … You might have a criminal element involved in that. The gang activity in metro Atlanta is pretty bad, whether you want to acknowledge that or not. … Mass transit, I think it could be a good thing, but I don’t think it’s the answer. You could look at both sides of the coin, there’s good and bad in each aspect of it. But I think you’re going to deal with a lot more issues than in the present status.

Q: Chairman Boyce has indicated he will bring a transit referendum after the county SPLOST referendum is voted on this fall, which could raise the sales tax from 6% to 7%. Is this a good idea?

A: With the SPLOST specific to transit, I don’t think that's a good idea. Because you have other issues in the county that you need to address before transportation (or) transit. The infrastructure in this county is suffering. ... We're building roads but we’re not maintaining them.

Q: Should the Sterigenics plant remain closed?

A: I think there should be an in-depth investigation and the EPA should be involved in it. I think the federal government should step up. … If (ethylene oxide) is a carcinogen, that's going to affect the whole community. … There has to be some serious critiquing done of the facility.

SPEAKER CIRCUIT: State Reps. Erick Allen and Mary Frances Williams are scheduled to give an update on the legislative session during Saturday’s "Donuts with Democrats” meeting.

The meeting begins at 10 a.m. at the Smyrna Community Center. ... Cobb Superior Court Judges Ann Harris and Mary Staley Clark will speak on the accountability courts in a program moderated by Cobb State Court Clerk Angie Davis at the next Cobb County Republican Women’s Club luncheon on Friday, Feb. 21.

The meeting begins at 11:30 a.m. at the Marietta Hilton Conference Center, 500 Powder Springs St., in Marietta. For more information, visit the organization's website at

TRIBUTE: Cobb schools Superintendent Chris Ragsdale paid tribute on Thursday to the late Betty Siegel, the beloved president emeritus of Kennesaw State University who took the school from a small college with 3,500 students and 15 degrees in 1981 to a university with 18,000 students and 55 degrees when she retired in 2006.

Dr. Betty Siegel

Siegel died Tuesday at the age of 89.

Ragsdale recalled shaking Siegel’s hand as he walked across the graduation stage at KSU to receive his first degree in 1992.

“I remember a business and professional speaking class, she actually came into the class to watch us when we were doing presentations that day,” he said. “I think that everybody that attended KSU while she was president there knew how much she truly cared about that university, those students and this county, and she will be greatly missed. Again, I can’t say enough about the positive effect and impact she had on that university, and I think she’s world-renowned.”

REGULATIONS: Marietta Councilman Joseph Goldstein is pushing the city to rally against a pair of bills that would prohibit local governments from regulating building design elements on homes.

House Bill 302, sponsored by Rep. Vance Smith, R-Pine Mountain, and Senate Bill 172, sponsored by Sen. John Wilkinson, R-Toccoa, would forbid cities and counties from setting their own rules about what kinds of building materials they can use.

Goldstein is calling for the City Council to officially oppose the bills, as numerous other cities have done since they were introduced last legislative session.

Goldstein said the city developed its building standards in response to developments that became blighted years after they were built.

“Without (building standards), the same problems we had prior to putting the standards in place may resurface,” he said. “The standards help our community look nice and maintain value. Additionally, it is important to have local input in our community rather than a one-size-fits-all approach.”

Mayor Steve Tumlin said he supports Goldstein in this. He said the bills would negate the city’s ordinances for home components such as windows and home siding.

“Most of our cities are not very happy with the Legislature,” Tumlin said. “It’s an important part of providing good housing, attractive housing, what’s good for your city. I’m sure developers got to them and said ‘We can’t build as cheap a house as we want to,’ so they’re cutting it. … It’s that old battle of local rule versus the Legislature.”

Goldstein said he thinks the time is right for Marietta to speak out.

“While the bills are both currently in committee, because of the adverse impact these bills would have on our communities, I believe now would be an appropriate time for Marietta to state a position on the bills and to let our delegation know that position.”

SPEAKING OF THE _OLDSTEINS: AT aficionados will recall from a couple years ago a sidewalk restoration project that brought down trees lining South Park Square, thus revealing that the Goldstein name on the face of downtown magnate Philip Goldstein’s office building was vanishing. Missing a D, N and S, the nameplate read GOL STEI ’ . The old willow oaks had been obscuring the alphabetical omissions for years, but once replaced by young saplings, the missing letters were bared for all to see. Eventually Goldstein, who sat on the Marietta City Council for a record 37 years and whose son Joseph followed him as Ward 7 councilman, eventually acquired the three missing consonants. Order, it seemed, had been restored. All good things, they say, must come to an end and if you look up while facing South Park Square today, you’ll notice the sign is once again missing a letter, leaving the unenlightened to swear they are standing before the “Oldstein” building. So, once again, the elder Oldstein is in the market for a letter — this time the missing “G.” Oldstein assured AT the lost letter is on order and his name should soon be restored.

It only stands to reason that Oldstein, who owns most of downtown, benefits greatly when the Square looks its best. Now, if he can just turn his attention to the Goldstein Gap (that big hole in the ground) on the north side of the Square.

Cobb County is facing “unprecedented change,” said Kevin Nicholas, the latest candidate to announce for the seat held by retiring Cobb Commissioner Bob Ott.

Kevin Nicholas

Appointed to the Development Authority of Cobb County by Cobb Chairman Mike Boyce, Nicholas is the fourth candidate and third Republican to run for the District 2 seat.

In the 2014 Republican primary, Nicholas lost to then-Cobb school board member Scott Sweeney, who received 51.65 percent of the vote.

Nicholas advocates addressing “modern challenges with modern solutions,” a phrase that appears in a news release he shared about his candidacy and which he used in conversation with AT.

The former chairman of House District 43 for the Cobb County Republican Party has held a number of senior product management and marketing positions, including at Sprint and AT&T. He is the cofounder of the nonprofit Atlanta Technology Professionals.

Nicholas, whose three children attended Cobb County schools, has lived in District 2 for more than 20 years with his wife Denise, a Delta Air Lines flight attendant.

AT asked him about a few topics facing the east Cobb community.

Q: Do you believe east Cobb should become a city?

Nicholas: I am concerned about and don’t support any additional layers of government that have the potential to add more taxes. I also have read the Georgia State study ... and I believe that some of the assumptions need work. Further, the house bill for cityhood that Rep. (Matt) Dollar was carrying was pushed off from this year and will need to address these concerns from the residents if it comes back. I guess, at the end of the day, I’m really in favor of local control, but we have to decide at what level. Ultimately, if this goes to a referendum, it is the voters who will decide.

Q: Do you support MARTA rail coming into Cobb County?

A: That’s a very good question. I studied that it would cost Cobb County north of $300 million to expand rail to the county, depending on the plan, and my first reaction is, that’s a lot of money. And my second is, we have a lot to do just to bring our roads up to grade before we start connecting expensive rail to downtown Atlanta. While transit is a huge issue in Cobb, part of our problem is moving from one side of Cobb to the other, not just getting out of Cobb. As a technology business executive, I would like to see more cost-effective newer transit options, not just old and massively expensive solutions that are outdated.

Q: Chairman Boyce has indicated he will bring a transit referendum after the county SPLOST referendum is voted on this fall, which could raise the sales tax from 6% to 7%. Is this a good idea?

A: I believe we need a broader view of our transit problems and ideas beyond just throwing a lot of money at old ways such as rail. I also would like to see a plan for improving transit within the borders of Cobb. ... I’m generally not supportive of any spending, and a tax, unless I see compelling benefit – a cost benefit analysis, a business way of looking at it.

Q: Should the Sterigenics plant remain closed?

A: Any threat to the health of our citizens must be the first concern, period, and I understand why the plant was shut down. There have been inspections in I believe over 20 locations, with multiple samples taken, of the EO emissions around the plant and further away, and the levels have been monitored. Sterigenics has been in the community for a long time and employs workers in Cobb. However, until confirmation that EO levels are below what is acceptable and safe, and the plant has the right equipment and on-going monitoring in place, only then should the conversation start.

Other candidates for District 2 commissioner: Republicans Andy Smith, Fitz Johnson, and Lloyd “Shane” Deyo and Democrat Jerica Richardson.

FORUM FLAP: One might say Jimmy Herndon, one of three Democrats running for Cobb County sheriff in the May primary, has a propensity to be banned from Facebook pages. MDJ readers know of Herndon’s tussle after he was cut off from Cobb Sheriff Neil Warren’s Facebook page, a court battle that eventually fell in his favor.

Jimmy Herndon

Now, Herndon says he’s been blocked from another Facebook account — this time by those within his own Democrat party. And the candidate is crying foul over a candidate forum the Cobb Democratic Women’s Club is hosting this week.

The forum is advertised as the Cobb County Democratic Sheriff Campaign Forum, scheduled for 6:30 p.m. Thursday at the Golden Corral, 2211 Cobb Pkwy SW Smyrna.

“Come out and hear from our Cobb County Democratic Sheriff Candidates: Craig Owens, Jimmy Herndon and Gregory Gilstrap (awaiting confirmation). Moderated by Matthew Southwell, … Caucus and First Vice Chair of the Cobb Democrats. Come with your questions and suggestions!” the event advertises.

Herndon took to Facebook to accuse the Cobb Democratic Women’s group of bias, writing that after being invited to attend last week, he had some questions about the event. When his questions went unanswered, “I then attempted to contact the president of the organization and found I, my campaign manager and even my wife were blocked on Facebook from all contact,” he wrote.

AT reached out to club President Chinita Allen, but did not connect by press time.

Chinita Allen

“It is clear that several organizers of this event have been working with and for one of my opponents,” Herndon went on to write. “I expect the officers of an organization representing all Democratic women in the county to refrain from bias but have found that has not been the case in my race. For this reason, I am declining to attend this event ...”

Southwell commented on Herndon’s post, remarking that he was withdrawing as moderator “out of concern for the neutrality of the forum.”

ONE TOKE OVER THE LINE:♦ A Marietta school board member and attorney says it’s “hightime” that prohibition of marijuana use by adults be abolished.

“My position? Too many productive, otherwise law abiding citizens are being caught up in an expensive war on a plant the use of which two-thirds of Americans want legalized,” Marietta school board member Alan Levine posted on his personal Facebook page.

The post featured Snoop Dogg holding a smoking, let’s just say “hand-rolled cigarette.”

Alan Levine

Levine referenced a bill in the Georgia House that would ax jail time for possession of two ounces or less of marijuana and reduce fines to a maximum of $300, and encouraged Georgia residents to contact their representative and “make your opinion known.”

JUDICIAL JOCKEYING: Judge races are usually down-ballot, unopposed and stir little interest. But with judicial retirements abounding, campaigns for the bench are getting a lot of candidates — and attention.

Cobb State Court Judge Toby Prodgers and two Superior Court judges, Lark Ingram and Steve Schuster, say they’ll hang up their full-time robes.

Five candidates announced for Prodgers’ seat and more are eyeing the superior bench openings.

On Tuesday, AT heard from three who will seek Schuster’s seat: attorney Greg Shenton, Senior District Attorney Jason Marbutt and attorney John Greco. More to come on these and other candidates.

RIP IT GOOD: Monday’s monthly chamber breakfast took a Pelosi-esque turn when John Loud returned to the stage following Cobb Chairman Mike Boyce’s State of the County address.

Following Boyce’s lauding of county accomplishments, Loud, this year’s chamber chief honcho, invited Boyce to take a seat on the sofa for a more informal chat among chairmen. After a discussion of workforce development and the SPLOST tax, Loud again thanked Boyce, returned to the podium, picked up a copy of the chairman’s speech and began ripping it in half … but stopped short of actually tearing any pages.

The parody of House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s stunt at the end of President Donald Trump’s State of the Union address last week was not lost on the audience, which erupted in laughter.

“No, no, no …. This is good. I’m keeping this. I am, I’m saving this,” Loud asserted while addressing the chairman.

A fifth candidate hoping to unseat Republican Cobb school board member David Banks has announced their intention to run.

Democrat Tammy Andress, a mother of three and unit marketing specialist for the Zaxby’s on Sandy Plains Road, has announced her candidacy for the east Cobb school board seat

Andress has two daughters at Lassiter High School, and one who graduated from the school in 2018 and works for the U.S. Secret Service while attending college in Washington. Andress uses her oldest daughter as an example of the school district’s potential.

“She is incredibly successful at a young age, and she is a product of the Cobb County public education system, which is why I know that when our children are given what they need to be properly educated, they can succeed at whatever they want,” she said, adding that her daughters are also why she chose to enter the school board race.

On her campaign website, Andress doesn’t shy away from the issues.

Presumably the most costly of her suggestions for the district is the construction of a college and career academy in east Cobb, like the one under construction on the campus of Osborne High School.

She said the south Cobb career academy, slated to open this year, is a great start for providing students who don’t want to go to college and would rather learn a trade or sharpen technology skills do so. But, she said Smyrna is quite a drive from east Cobb, and many students who would benefit from the academy are too young to drive themselves.

“They are providing options for those kids that, for whatever reason, are not on the college track, and I would like to see that happen on our side of town. Everybody thinks that Lassiter and Pope and the schools out of Post 5 are supposed to be high-achieving and that our 100% goal is to put every kid in college, and I think that puts an undue stress on many of the children … who go to these schools,” she said. “Osborne is down there off Windy Hill, it’s a ways to go for our kids.”

(Superintendent Chris Ragsdale told AT the district will provide transportation to students interested in attending the career academy who don’t live in the Osborne attendance zone, but it will be from designated pickup locations, just like what’s already in place for magnet programs.)

Andress said a feasibility study would be needed to determine the cost of, as well as demand for the facility.

Turning to the topic of equity, Andress generally sides with sitting Democrat board members Dr. Jaha Howard and Charisse Davis. She told Around Town that the hiring of a chief equity officer, someone who would ensure equitable treatment and distribution of resources across communities and demographics in the district, would be valuable. But, she adds, “we need to talk about also what we mean when you talk about equitable distribution of tax dollars. How do you define equitable distribution? How do you protect that position from lobbyists, who might want to advocate for things in their post?”

She also said transparency on the school board is vital, and believes board comments, which were banned by a partisan vote in September, should be reinstated.

“Any time you put a barrier between the representative and those who he or she is representing, then you take away transparency,” she said. “People want to hear from their representatives. That is why they are elected.”

At the same time, she said that doesn’t mean board members should be able to get on a soapbox on issues that don’t pertain to Cobb students.

“I do not believe that that platform needs to be used for partisan political issues or things that are not part of education in the district,” she said. “I am a lifelong Democrat … but I 100% truly do not believe that partisan politics has any place in education.”

Andress’ website also calls for a review of incident records to ensure accurate reports of “bullying and aggression” are being released to the community, and for local school control over protected teacher planning periods, an issue she said is imperative.

“It is not fair to ask our teachers to take away from their home life and their recreation time to have to further plan for student curriculum,” she said. “I believe that every school can find a way to protect that time.”

Other candidates to have announced for Banks’ Post 5 include Dr. Julia Hurtado, a Democrat and physical therapist with the nonprofit Shepherd Center in Atlanta, and three Republicans: IT project manager Matt Harper; Robert Madayag, an east Cobb resident and attorney with Atlanta firm Lee & Hayes; and Shelley O’Malley, a Delta Air Lines pilot and Navy veteran.

Qualifying for office is March 2 to 6 with the primary on May 19 and the general election on Nov. 3.

THE STATE OF THE COUNTY IS … County Chairman Mike Boyce is scheduled to give his State of the County Address at the Cobb Chamber of Commerce’s Marquee Monday breakfast this Monday. Doors open at the Coca-Cola Roxy at 7 a.m., with the program starting at 8 a.m. Parking is available at the Red Deck at the Battery Atlanta, and is free for up to four hours. As Boyce is up for election this year, expect an everything’s-coming-up-roses speech.

APPOINTMENTS: Councilman Joseph Goldstein will reprise his role as City Council Liaison for the Marietta Welcome Center and Visitors Bureau, the body tasked with promoting tourism in the city.

The city’s Personnel and Insurance Committee voted unanimously at its latest meeting to keep Goldstein on the bureau’s board. Personnel Committee Chair Councilwoman Cheryl Richardson asked if any council members would be opposed to putting the reappointment on the next meeting’s consent agenda, a list of items approved en masse at the beginning of the meeting.

“Just show me abstaining,” Goldstein said.

“Don’t you have to walk off the dais to do that?” Richardson asked with a good-natured laugh.

Richardson was ribbing Goldstein over the so-called Goldstein gallop, a family tradition started by previous Councilman Philip Goldstein, the current councilman’s father.

Often, rather than simply not voting on matters of which they have a vested interest, Goldstein men have a habit of descending from the dais to watch the proceedings from the public viewing area.

The sight is not an uncommon one at Marietta meetings as the Goldsteins own a great deal of property around the city.

The younger Goldstein demonstrated later at the same meeting that he’s not giving up on the tradition, marching down from the dais when the Economic and Community Development Committee – of which Goldstein is not a member – began a discussion of the city’s two tax allocation districts.

THE BENCH: With this week’s announcement that one-of-a-kind Cobb Superior Court Judge Lark Ingram is retiring at year’s end, candidates are lining up to run for her seat.

Attorney Daniele Johnson, of Daniele Johnson & Associates, has practiced family law for the last 21 years. Johnson said she and her husband, a Pope High School graduate, have been part of the west Cobb community for the last 18 years where they are raising their three children. Johnson enrolled in Widener University School of Law in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, on a full academic scholarship, earning her law degree in 1997 before becoming an assistant district attorney in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania.

Cobb Magistrate Court Judge Kellie Hill, is also throwing her hat into the ring. Hill, you may recall, was among a crowded field of five candidates campaigning to be the next Division One, Post Six judge in the State Court of Cobb County.

With Ingram stepping down, Hill told AT she’ll pull out of the State Court contest and launch a campaign for the Superior spot. Her Honor Hill is a native of Jersey City, New Jersey. She attended the University of Pennsylvania where she obtained her Bachelor’s of Art degree in International Relations and her law degree from the Rutgers University School of Law.

The nonpartisan election is May 19.

SPEAKER CIRCUIT: Cobb Superior Court Chief Judge Reuben Green is the speaker at the Metro Marietta Kiwanis Club on Monday. Green will be speaking on the county’s accountability courts. The event, which begins at noon, takes place at First United Methodist Church, 56 Whitlock Avenue, Marietta.

RECOGNITION: Among those who received awards by the Cobb County Republican Women’s Club at its recent annual awards lunch were Johnell Woody, who received the Millie Rogers Leadership Award; Rosan Hall, who received the Woman of the Year Award; Sheriff Neil Warren, who received the Trumpet Award (the Elected Official of the Year); and Commissioner JoAnn Birrell; who received the Barbara Hickey Exemplary Service Award.

State Rep. Matt Dollar, R-east Cobb, gives an update on his city of East Cobb bill during the Cobb GOP breakfast Saturday.

State Rep. Matt Dollar, R-east Cobb, who has filed a bill that would create the city of East Cobb, spoke on the topic during the Cobb GOP’s monthly breakfast over the weekend. Dollar said the subject, while hopefully of interest to everyone, really only applied to a small portion of them. He also said a vote wouldn’t occur this year.

“It won’t be happening this year and that is the city of East Cobb,” he said.

Dollar said he was brought into the cityhood movement a little late and at first wasn’t fully on board.

“I didn’t understand why we needed it. I just wasn’t for more government. So I talked to the organizers, and I wanted to know what they were thinking, and after I heard their argument, I was OK, if the feasibility study comes back and it doesn’t raise taxes, I really like your argument. And if it doesn’t raise taxes, I’m on board. The feasibility study came back. It showed that taxes would not go up. In fact, there was a strong possibility they would go down, and I agreed to carry the bill so the people could vote to decide on cityhood.”

His job was to see the bill through the long process of passage through the General Assembly.

“And the organizers, it was their job to work to educate the folks and to sell the idea back home.”

As this was the first time they were involved in creating a city, Dollar believes they were a little overwhelmed with the amount of work required.

“So when I saw that there were some unhappy people out there about it, and really, I think it was more confusion than anything else, I, along with some other people, suggested they pull back and give the idea more time to go out there and teach the community about what it was. I will tell you though I do think it’s a good idea, and I’m not for more government, and I have a very strong voting record that would back that up. But I see this as not another layer of government, but as a shift of certain services. And if we can get more services without paying more taxes, I’m fully supportive.”

Dollar said for every one commissioner representing constituents in Cobb there are several legislators representing them under the Gold Dome.

“For every one Bob Ott, you have a Matt Dollar, a Sharon Cooper, and a Kay Kirkpatrick, so for those of us that don’t live in Kennesaw or Marietta or Powder Springs or Acworth, that’s the only voice we have. So I felt that locally we deserve more representation, and it mostly came down to the issue of zoning for me, was my personal most important, because it’s no secret that most people move to east Cobb, and you have to talk about east Cobb abstractly because it’s really not even a place, but most people move there for the schools, and I felt that it was very important that locally we be able to control zoning.”

From left: state Sen. Kay Kirkpatrick, R-east Cobb, and state Reps. Ginny Ehrhart, R-Powder Springs, and Sharon Cooper, R-east Cobb, give a legislative update at the Cobb GOP breakfast with GOP Chair Jason Shepherd at the lectern.

CONSERVATIVES ON CAMPUS: Breakfast attendees also listened to a panel composed of state Sen. Kay Kirkpatrick, R-east Cobb, and state Reps. Ginny Ehrhart, R-Powder Springs, and Sharon Cooper, R-east Cobb. One of the questions asked of them was about conservatives being mistreated on campus.

“What can be done about the anti-conservative movement at Kennesaw State and other universities where there’s been a real clamp down on the right of conservative groups to have access to free speech?” asked Cobb GOP Chairman Jason Shepherd, fielding the written questions from the audience.

Ehrhart said there is a bill in play to shore up the free speech rights of students on college campuses.

“I saw a sheet of information on that just yesterday. Looks like a good, solid bill to me kind of shoring that up,” she said. “I do believe that conservative speech is under attack on college campuses and sadly KSU is no exception. But that’s right here in our backyard where we can all kind of keep an eye on that. I say sometimes it just takes the right kind of person to shine a light. The previous representative in my house did a good job of shining a light, but I’m happy to take up that mantle,” she said to applause, referring to her husband, former state Rep. Earl Ehrhart, R-Powder Springs, who sat in the audience.

Cooper said the chancellor of the University System of Georgia has been discussing the concern. 

“But I don’t think we probably need to wait for them to make any kind of great changes, so I’m going to be looking at that bill,” Cooper said.

Kirkpatrick said the Senate has a bill of its own on the subject, SB 318, authored by Sen. William Ligon, R-Brunswick.

“My understanding is that some campuses currently have ‘free speech zones’ confining student groups to certain areas and this bill does away with that,” she said. “It is working its way through the committee process. … so stay tuned for that.”

UNDER THE GOLD DOME: The three Republican women shared other legislation percolating under the Gold Dome, listing more bills than this column has space for. One involves good news for MUST Ministries. Recall how MUST Ministries had a problem with its sandwich program last year when it got in a dispute with the Department of Health. Kirkpatrick said after working with the Department of Agriculture, Department of Public Health and Governor’s Office, she has a bill she expects will fix the problem this year.

Ehrhart referenced her Vulnerable Child Protection Act bill, which has made headlines ever since she announced it.

“Some of you may find it surprising that we would even need a piece of legislation like that,” Ehrhart said. “Essentially what it says is that in the state of Georgia, we will not administer puberty blocking drugs, cross sex hormones or perform cross sex surgery … (at this point she was drowned out with a roar of applause from the audience).”

“We polled this issue statewide two weeks ago and it has 80% support. That was a bipartisan poll,” Ehrhart said.

With reports of senior abuse occurring in senior living facilities, Cooper said she’s working on a comprehensive bill tightening up the state’s oversight of such facilities to try and put a stop to such abuse.

She also shared a source of irritation that occurred when she recently met with lobbyists from Walmart.

“There were eight people from Benton, Arkansas, waiting to meet with me,” she said, noting they had come down because Walmart has put in a policy that says it will decide whether your physician is writing the correct pain medication for you or not.

“And they’re not going to tell you what their perimeters are on that. What they consider to be correct pain medication,” Cooper said. “Now I have worked very hard against our opioid crisis. I was on it before it became a well-known issue, and I am still working on it, but there are people who need pain medications: cancer patients, people with severe arthritis, there are valid reasons to have pain medication, and when a business decides that they’re going to decide what you can have, I consider that they are practicing medicine without a license.”

What was particularly galling, Cooper said, was that they followed up with a letter asking her to file a bill that would exempt Walmart pharmacists for being liable for practicing medicine without a license.

“I mean, it was like they weren’t even in the meeting. I would suggest that maybe if you use Walmart for your medications you might consider if you ever need pain medication you might not get it,” she said, noting unfortunately there are places where the only pharmacy within 40 miles is Walmart.


Four candidates have now announced they’d like to unseat Cobb school board member David Banks in this year’s election.

Banks, a Republican first elected in 2008, would like to be elected to a fourth term on the board.

The latest is Dr. Julia Hurtado, an east Cobb resident, who works as a physical therapist with the nonprofit Shepherd Center in Atlanta, treating adolescent athletes and others with mild to moderate traumatic brain injury. Hurtado, who plans to run as a Democrat, called Cobb schools “the very best of our community” and said she’s running for Banks’ seat because she wants to be as involved in the system as she can be. While she said she’s largely happy with how Banks has served, especially regarding his emphasis on the science, technology, engineering and mathematics fields, she also said it’s time for a change.


“Where my daughter goes to school, it’s very culturally and economically diverse, and I think that the way that our school system is set up, I think there’s great opportunity for most students to be very successful. But there are some populations, like kids with special needs or kids who maybe speak a different language at home, where our system isn’t set up as well for them to achieve as much as everybody else,” Hurtado said.

She also pointed out that Banks has been on the school board for the longest of any sitting board member.

“I like the idea of having some new, fresh voices involved to help better represent our changing community.”

Other candidates to have announced for Banks’ Post 5 seat intend to run as Republicans. They include IT project manager Matt Harper; Robert Madayag, an east Cobb resident and attorney with Atlanta firm Lee & Hayes and Shelley O’Malley, a Delta Air Lines pilot and U.S. Navy veteran.

Where does Hurtado stand on some of the issues of the day?

She’s sided with Democrat board member Charisse Davis on the call for a study on the district’s senior school tax exemption, saying she was disappointed to see Davis’ recommendation fail last year for lack of support on the board.

Homeowners ages 62 and older in Cobb County do not have to pay school tax under the exemption. It’s estimated the school district missed out on $122 million in revenue last year because of the exemption.

“One of our district’s goals is to make decisions based on data,” Hurtado said. “Scientific data informs my clinical decision-making so I can get my patients what they need, and I wouldn’t be effective in treating them if I didn’t understand what was bothering them. It concerns me that our current board can’t have a conversation about issues affecting our community.”

What of her thoughts on the board’s decision last year to ban board member comments at the end of each board meeting? She believes that ban, spearheaded by board member David Chastain, amounted to “silencing voices in the name of politics.”

“Board member comments should be reinstated,” she said. “School board members are elected to represent the families and school employees in their districts; when we silence them, we take away the voices of the people of Cobb County. Our citizens deserve to know what the board is doing, and, more importantly, why they are doing it.”


Another topic under debate is whether the school district needs a chief equity officer, a position the board’s sitting Democrats have supported and say would ensure equality of resources and fairness across all demographics in the district.

Hurtado said she was undecided about that position.

“Cobb has historically been a place where some students are more likely to succeed than others, and not solely because of how they perform on tests. This is just one reason why we need a fresh set of eyes on the board,” she said. “I’m not certain that we need an equity officer to provide equitable opportunities; if we can all get behind diversity and inclusion, we can more efficiently and effectively use the resources we already have.”

Hurtado said she isn’t sure whether running as Democrat will help or hinder her (or whether it will have any effect at all), but Cobb County residents deserve a choice.

“Regardless of whether I run unopposed (in the primaries) or whether there are other Democrats entering the field, the important thing is that we haven’t had Democrats running in this position previously. And I think it’s important for Cobb residents to know they have options. They don’t have to vote for one party or one idea — that there are lots of other ideas that we need to entertain,” she said. “The more different ideas we have contributing to the conversation, the more we can best examine and evaluate these different issues that are facing our community so that we can come up with the best compromises and best solutions.”

Qualifying for office is March 2 to 6 with the primary on May 19 and the general election on November 3.

RECOGNITION: Newly retired U.S. Sen. Johnny Isakson received an unannounced award at the annual Cobb County Chamber of Commerce dinner gala. The east Cobb native retired at the end of 2019 after 45 years of public service, the only Georgian ever to serve in the state House of Representatives, state Senate, the U.S. House and the U.S. Senate.

Before running for office, he was in the real estate business in east Cobb.

To honor his accomplishments, the chamber named Isakson the first recipient of the Senator Johnny H. Isakson Leadership Award, formerly known as the Leadership Award. Previous honorees include Kessel Stelling of Synovus Bank in 1988 and Marietta Mayor Steve “Thunder” Tumlin in 2014.

The chamber also dedicated its 10th floor at its headquarters at 1100 Circle 75 Parkway to Isakson. Isakson stood on the dance floor in front of the stage to accept the honors. He was flanked by a retinue of businessmen and other supporters.

In his brief remarks, Isakson said he considers himself lucky to have lived in Cobb County and to have had the opportunity to have worked with many of its citizens.

“Let’s hold hands together, hope together and reach high. … There is room for us all to succeed, and let’s succeed together,” he said. “To me, life is about friends and the future. You are my friends and my future.” ... Meanwhile, Cobb Galleria Centre honored Isakson with a game ball presentation at the Georgia Tech-Morehouse basketball game. Cobb-Marietta Coliseum and Exhibit Hall Authority member and former Yellow Jacket football standout Johnny Gresham, a longtime east Cobb resident, made the presentation to Isakson. Among his many accomplishments, Isakson was instrumental in the development of the Cobb Galleria Centre.


SPEAKER CIRCUIT: State Reps. Ginny Ehrhart, R-west Cobb, and Sharon Cooper, R-east Cobb, and Sen. Kay Kirkpatrick, R-east Cobb, will give a legislative update at Saturday’s Cobb GOP breakfast. The event is from 8 to 10 a.m. at the Cobb GOP headquarters. ... Speakers at Monday’s Metro Marietta Kiwanis Club meeting are Angie Davis, clerk of State Court of Cobb County, and Penny Warren, wife of Sheriff Neil Warren. They will be speaking about 10 Women of Hope, a nonprofit that provides one-time financial support to stable single-parent families in Cobb County who are experiencing a critical need. The meeting, which begins at noon, takes place at the First United Methodist Church in Marietta.

Businessman Fitz Johnson of Smyrna says he’s been a public servant all his life, so when the opportunity to run for a seat on the Cobb Board of Commissioners came open, he viewed it as an extension of what he’s already been doing.

Johnson said he will run in the May 19 Republican primary for the seat held by retiring east Cobb Commissioner Bob Ott. Three others are known candidates for the post.

“The work that the commissioner does is closest to the people, and that’s where I want to be,” Johnson said. “I want to continue to make Cobb County the best county in the state to do business, to educate our children, to make sure we have the best services that the state has to offer, have intelligent growth as we move forward as a county, and our constituents deserve it. And I’m willing to work, I have a passion for it and along with a passion, I have the time to put forth to do it, to do this job and to do it right.”

A retired businessman, Johnson has experience in leading companies and nonprofits. He also served 21 years in the Army and is an active member in the community, having served on several boards, including the Kennesaw State University Foundation Board of Trustees, the Cobb Hospital Authority, the Town Center Community Improvement District and the WellStar Health System Board of Trustees. He is an active member of the Cobb County Chamber of Commerce.

In 2014, he ran for state school superintendent.

As with other candidates, Around Town asked him about some hot button issues concerning east Cobb.

Q: Do you believe east Cobb should become a city?

A: Well, you know when we look at east Cobb, there’s so much to be heard. First of all, they’ve moved that to the 2021 agenda, so I’m anxious to learn on both sides: those that are opposed and those that are for it. I’m anxious to learn more about what’s going to happen on both sides. But I understand, too, that the residents of east Cobb are the ones that are going to make that decision, and I want to be, as the commissioner of District 2, I’m going to support whatever decision they make. I will still be the district commissioner, and I will do everything to support them, but I do understand that seems to be one of the issues that the constituents of District 2 are going to have to deal with.

Q: Do you support MARTA rail coming into Cobb County?

A: When you look at MARTA, that is a hot topic for our whole region. There are associated costs that are tied to that. We want to make sure that we are fiscally responsible. Whatever we do, one of the first things I’m going to look at is us being fiscally responsible as a county. That means keeping our taxes low in the region. That means making sure Cobb County has the best services in the state and that comes along when you talk about MARTA, that comes into that. That’s one of the things we have to study because it is expensive. We have to understand that MARTA right now, the closest rail to District 2 is seven or eight miles away from Cumberland, and there is a cost to build that up to us from Cobb County. And that cost, I’ve looked at some of the reports, is close to a billion dollars with a B. So we’ve got to make sure that’s going to be online, and we would have to work with the city of Atlanta, the ARC very feasibly to make sure that would happen. So you’ve got a lot of work and a lot of study to do that, to look at that.

Q: Should the Sterigenics plant remain closed?

A: That’s another hot topic down here and I live, as you know, down in Smyrna. I’ve been watching that closely and I want to give some kudos to Bob Ott for jumping right into that. ... We have to make sure we’re educated and understand what it is they are emitting and what it is that’s happening down there and take that education in learning more about it. And I think they did the right thing in saying let’s shut it down and make sure we’re doing the right thing.

Q: Chairman Mike Boyce has indicated he will bring a transit referendum after the county SPLOST referendum is voted on this fall, which could raise the sales tax from 6% to 7%. Is that a good idea?

A: The discussion around the 1% sales tax is a 2022 issue. We’re going to have — what? — two new commissioners by then? Hopefully I’m one of them. God willing. And so what we have to do is I would like to say we’re going to make sure we get the 2020 SPLOST passed, and as we look out that far, and that’s what we need to do as commissioners, look out into the future, and make sure we can show what the SPLOST has done in the past. Has it been successful? And as we go forward we can look at the successes, hopefully not the failures, look at the successes of the SPLOST, and if that becomes an idea that the constituents of District 2 want to do, then we move forward with it. If it’s not ... again, as a commissioner, I’m representing the people, and I want to make sure that they are represented, I want to make sure the priorities in our district are aligned with the entire district as the safest place to raise your family, to do business, educate your kids, and to live and work and play.”

Johnson is a graduate of The Citadel and holds a master’s in education from Troy University, and a J.D. from the University of Kentucky College of Law. Johnson, 56, and his wife, Suzann Wilcox, have four children and three grandchildren. They are members of Cumberland Community Church. A former owner of the Atlanta Beat, Johnson serves as a community football, soccer, and wrestling coach.

Other candidates who have announced their intentions to run for District 2 commissioner include Republicans Andy Smith, whom Ott appointed to the Cobb Planning Commission and Lloyd “Shane” Deyo, a veteran and software consultant for Graphic Packaging International in Sandy Springs. On the left side of the aisle is Democrat Jerica Richardson, an Equifax employee who’s managed several political campaigns.

GOP activist Pamela Reardon told the MDJ on Friday she was running, but over the weekend changed her mind, citing her recent bout with cancer and her concern about the stress of the position on her health.

Qualifying for office is March 2 to 6. The general election is November 3.

Smyrna at the White House: Smyrna Mayor Derek Norton was one of 150 city leaders across the country who met at the White House on Friday as part of an event called “Discussion with the Nation’s Mayors on Transforming America’s Communities.”

The mayors heard from members of President Donald Trump’s cabinet in remarks that covered topics including economic development, opportunity zones, support for small business, mental health services and combating homelessness.

Norton said he plans to implement some of the discussion points into city policy, where applicable.

Speakers included Counselor to the President Kellyanne Conway, U.S. Secretary of Housing and Urban Development Ben Carson and U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar, as well as President Donald Trump himself.

Though he said he wasn’t close to star-struck — his work as a lobbyist for the Medical Association of Georgia has taken him to the White House before — Norton said he thoroughly enjoyed his trip.

“I don’t get too impressed with stuff like this, but that was a pretty cool (event),” Norton said. “To have that direct interaction with high-level administration officials, you know, it was really great to have that access. And just being with the other mayors and networking and talking about best practices on different issues across the country was very helpful.”

The mayor also said Smyrna’s inclusion in the event shows the city of around 60,000 residents is an up-and-comer that continues to gain national recognition.

“I think it shows that Smyrna’s on the map as a vibrant, growing city,” he said.


The latest candidate to announce for the seat held by retiring east Cobb Commissioner Bob Ott is Pamela Reardon, a Realtor who wants to take a magnifying glass to the county’s budget, “because every time I turn around there’s more spending and more spending.”

A Trump conservative active in GOP politics, Reardon is a strong supporter of Marjorie Greene, who was running in the Republican primary for the seat held by U.S. Rep. Lucy McBath, D-Marietta, before she opted to switch races and run for the 14th Congressional seat.

“She left for the 14th where her environment up there is a little bit more friendly to her staunch conservative stance,” Reardon said.

Reardon said she does not support the effort to turn east Cobb into a city.

“No. I have gone to all the meetings and I’ve researched it, and I’m against adding, No. 1, another layer of government for east Cobb. It will increase taxes. It won’t decrease taxes, and if that forms the rest of the county will have to bear the burden and all of our taxes will have to be increased, probably another 2 mills to cover that.”

Reardon said her philosophy is about less government and more enjoyment for the people. To that end, “I’m glad that we’re getting more parks. That’s something that we missed. I really don’t think east Cobb needs to be disturbed. I’m totally against high density. I’m running because I don’t want the people who are associated in some degree with the developers to run our county, and I don’t want the taxes to increase, and I don’t want to lose our neighborhoods. I live here. I’m definitely not a chamber person. I have gone in the past, but it’s not my cup of tea at all.”

How does she feel about bringing MARTA rail into Cobb?

“No, and it’s because of the incredible expense to build it and the length of time to build it,” she said.

Chairman Mike Boyce has indicated his desire to bring a transit tax referendum once the SPLOST referendum is voted on this fall, which could raise the county’s sales tax from 6% to 7%. Does she support that effort?

“I don’t support it outright because my stand is low taxes. It depends on what the projects are and how it’s structured,” she said.

Turning to the controversial Sterigenics plant in District 2, does she believe it should remain closed?

“I think it should be tested, and I’m not sure we’re getting all the correct information, so I believe, depending on what the test results are, and if they fixed the problem, it’s a business, they should be allowed to open if everything is safe, because I’m very concerned about the environment and obviously the people. I’m in real estate so I feel bad about that whole situation.”

Born and reared in Calgary, Canada, Reardon moved to New York to work in the computer software field in 1987 before moving to Atlanta in 1999. She is married to Tom Reardon and has two children.

Reardon is cofounder of the Metro Atlanta Republicans, serves as state committeewoman for the 6th District and precinct chair for the Cobb GOP’s Dodgen precinct.

Other Republican candidates in the race include Andy Smith, whom Ott appointed to the Cobb Planning Commission, Lloyd “Shane” Deyo, a veteran and software consultant for Graphic Packaging International in Sandy Springs, and retired veteran and businessman Fitz Johnson of Smyrna. Johnson ran as a Republican for state school superintendent in 2014.

The one Democrat in the race is Jerica Richardson, an Equifax employee who’s managed several political campaigns.

SPEAKER CIRCUIT: Former Congressman Bob Barr is the guest speaker at Saturday’s Madison Forum. Barr, who will be speaking on impeachment, has a firsthand perspective on the process as a GOP impeachment manager during the impeachment of former President Bill Clinton.

Breakfast begins at 8 a.m. with the program beginning at 8:30 a.m. at Come-N-Get It Family Restaurant, 1409 Church Street Extension, Suite E, Marietta. ...

Dr. John Knox, medical director of the WellStar Kennestone Emergency Department, will speak to the Metro Marietta Kiwanis Club on Monday about the new emergency room.

The meeting, which begins at noon, will be at First United Methodist Church, 56 Whitlock Avenue, Marietta.

YOUTH MOVEMENT: Amid discussion of the county’s struggle to recruit and hold onto public safety personnel — police officers, firefighters, sheriff’s deputies — the Marietta Police Department thrives. It is fully staffed despite paying starting officers as much as, or less than, neighboring departments.

Steve Gaynor, president of the closest thing that local police have to a union — the succinctly named Cobb County F.O.P. Kermit C. Sanders Lodge #13 — has long said the Cobb County Police Department’s solution is money. Pay police more and they’ll stick around.

When asked to explain the disjunction between the situations at the Marietta and Cobb PDs, he offered one possible explanation: the former is giving the newer recruits what they want.

“Nowadays, it’s all about how you treat the employees,” he said. “In the old days … if you treated them like cr — they were still dedicated to their job … The new generation is, everybody gets a trophy, everybody wants to get patted on the back.”

Gaynor was not suggesting officers at the CCPD are treated poorly. But Marietta Police Chief Dan Flynn “goes out of his way to make sure his troops know that he cares about them,” he said. “He’s always congratulating them.”

What else does the newest generation of officers want? Why, beards, tattoos and comfort, of course.


In the past three years, the Marietta PD has quietly changed its dress code and its policies regarding beards and tattoos. For example, officers are now allowed to wear their vests outside their shirts, PIO Chuck McPhilamy said in response to an inquiry from the MDJ. The change allows officers to carry many of their tools on the vest rather than a belt, reducing back strain.

“Cobb PD has always been the sharp dresser,” in the mold of the Georgia State Troopers, Gaynor said. “But that’s not the national trend.”

More comfortable, versatile clothing reflects the realities of policing today, he continued. Years ago, “you didn’t have as many foot chases, you didn’t have as much fighting … it’s more of a combat environment (than a) business environment.”

Marietta’s officers are also allowed to have visible tattoos — so long as they aren’t inflammatory or controversial and are approved by a deputy chief — and, as of a few weeks ago, beards.

Cobb Police Chief Tim Cox said his department is also in the process of modernizing its policies:

“We understand the need to update those policies and procedures to maintain not only the highest level of service but also to reflect the subtle changes to norms in society,” he said in a statement Friday. “To that end we have been evaluating our uniform standards and working to amend the current policy to better incorporate the more modern image of our officers while maintaining the professional image of a dedicated law enforcement agency.”

It doesn’t stop there.


“I implemented an operational change several months ago which expanded the tattoo policy to allow visible tattoos with no size restriction. I also made accommodations for beards for those with a medical exemption. These changes were made on an operational level via directive from my office, and they will be reflected in the next update to our official departmental policy.”

In a letter distributed among departments that have inquired about Marietta PD’s success in recruiting new officers, Chief Flynn wrote, “salary and benefits will not, by themselves, attract new applicants to apply, nor improve morale among existing members of a police department.

“In order to better attract today’s potential police applicants to want to join,” he continued, “police departments must modernize leadership and management styles to match the expectations of today’s 20-to-40-year-old group.”


Cobb Planning Commissioner Andy Smith’s relationship with the man who appointed him to the county board, District 2 Commissioner Bob Ott, goes back quite a ways.

The pair are members of the same 1975 high school class in Westfield, New Jersey.

“He was well known. I moved into town the start of my 10th grade year. We had different groups of friends, but I certainly knew who Bob was.”


What was Ott like in high school?

“I think you would imagine him as just a well-intentioned, very responsible good student, you know, just what you would expect of Bob if you knew him now,” Smith said.

The two reconnected at a zoning meeting about a decade ago, neither having any idea the other had moved here. They also go to the same church: Mt. Bethel United Methodist.

When Ott made his surprise announcement this month that he was retiring from the Board of Commissioners, Smith said he would run to succeed him in the Republican primary.

“I don’t think I ever had a long-range ambition to be a politician, but I have for a long time had a keen interest in community service,” Smith said. “Bob Ott told me that the elected office that means the most to you is the one that’s closest to you. This is a great place to start and if you want to have an impact in your community, which I’ve always tried to do, this is the place.”

Born in Charlottesville, Virginia, Smith, 62, grew up mostly in New York and New Jersey. He holds a degree in architecture from Georgia Tech and started his own commercial interior construction company, Smith Todd Company, in 1993. He and his wife, Ann, have two children, graduates of Walton High School who now attend Kennesaw State University.

He also serves as vice chair of the Neighborhood Safety Commission and on the county’s Transit Advisory Board

AT ASKED HIM a few questions to see where he stands on the issues of the day. One question being debated is whether east Cobb should become a city.

Would he support cityhood?

“I honestly would need more information. We don’t have boundaries set,” he said.

Without the known boundaries, Smith said some of the key fiscal information is subject to change. Cityhood advocates have said they are putting that matter on hold this year while they seek to nail down their proposal, so for now, Smith is keeping an open mind.

“I think you’ve got to keep an open mind on everything. I just wish everybody would keep an open mind until all the facts are out,” he said.

Turning to transportation, would he support MARTA rail coming into Cobb County?

“I’ve never really studied that, but I do not believe I would support what I know of it right now. I just don’t know that we need it. I don’t know how it would be paid for. There’s a lot of factors that I think I would need to know more about,” he said.

On a related note, Chairman Mike Boyce has indicated he will ask residents to vote on a transportation sales tax after this fall’s SPLOST referendum passes. That could raise the county’s sales tax from 6 cents to 7 cents on the dollar. Does Smith think such a referendum is a good idea and if so, what would he like to see on the project list?

“I haven’t developed a list myself. There are some projects in the works or have been contemplated by Cobb County for some time and those projects, I think the Cumberland Transfer Station, expanding of the maintenance facility on the South Loop and a new transfer station in Marietta certainly are projects that I think we ought to be looking at.”

As for raising the sales tax to 7%, is that something he would be supportive of?

“I can’t think that I would or wouldn’t until I learn more about it,” he said.

How would such a referendum be received in east Cobb?

“I don’t think transit has been a very high priority for a huge amount of people in east Cobb. Just for the reasons I think that led with doing away with many of the bus routes through east Cobb. It’s not used by a tremendous amount of people in east Cobb.”

One of the most challenging issues east Cobb faces, he believes, is public safety.

“I think public safety is an issue that needs to be addressed, and I think that that may be certainly one of the most challenging issues.”

Smith said he looks forward to learning more details of the county’s proposed step-and-grade salary changes for public safety employees, which will be considered at the commission’s meeting later this month.

There’s already a Democrat in the race for District 2. New Orleans native Jerica Richardson, an Equifax employee who’s managed several political campaigns, has announced her candidacy. Also announced is Lloyd “Shane” Deyo of east Cobb, who is running as a Republican. Deyo, who was a combat paratrooper serving two tours in Afghanistan in 2006 and 2008 until he was wounded and received a Purple Heart, owns a laundromat near the commission office and is a software consultant for Graphic Packaging International in Sandy Springs


Qualifying is March 2-6 with the primary on May 19 and the general election on Nov. 3.

APPOINTMENTS: The Cobb County Planning Commission will soon have a new member.

Chairman Mike Boyce appointed Alice Summerour to the seat vacated by Skip Gunther, who announced his retirement at the end of the commission’s Jan. 7 meeting. Her appointment was approved by the Board of Commissioners at their Dec. 16 meeting.

“Why not?” Boyce said when asked why he chose her. “She’s very active in the community, she’s well known, I think she’ll do a great job.”


Summerour chairs the SPLOST Citizens’ Oversight Committee, a body made up of county residents who monitor Cobb’s voter-approved penny sales tax to ensure the projects it funds are completed on-budget and on-time.

As for Gunther, Boyce said as early as last summer that he would likely leave the commission in early 2020. After his final commission meeting, Gunther said it was an honor to serve on the body.

“I’m leaving on my own volition because I’m retiring from everything,” Gunther said. “But I will miss this.”

TRANSITIONS: The head of Cobb County’s Economic Development division, Michael Hughes, is jumping ship in a few weeks to become the executive director of Paulding County’s economic development department.

The move was described as “their win, our loss,” by members of the Development Authority of Cobb County at their regular meeting in Cumberland on Tuesday morning, which Hughes attended.


“We appreciate your service,” said Clark Hungerford, authority chairman. “You’re not going far. Dana, you might have to watch him.”

Hungerford was referring to Dana Johnson, executive vice president of economic development for the Cobb Chamber of Commerce and executive director of Select Cobb, the organization’s economic development strategy.

Johnson is regularly at authority meetings, as is his boss, chamber president and CEO Sharon Mason. On Tuesday they were happily showing off their new chamber suite, on the 10th floor of a Circle 75 Parkway building overlooking Cumberland, to the development authority.

It was the authority’s first meeting in the new space, which boasts a “staff bistro” for refreshments.

Hughes told the development authority Tuesday that his new job starts Feb. 10, and was thanked by members for his service. They joked he was too young to retire, to which Hughes said having two children in college meant his retirement is still some way off.

He said his responsibilities as Cobb’s head of economic development will be absorbed by the county’s planning division manager, Jason Gaines.


Hughes has been the head of economic development for the county since October 1998, having started his planning career in California after graduating from college there.

His leaving the county was one of several things discussed during the authority’s meeting Tuesday, as was a change of date for the February meeting.

Hungerford asked if fellow members minded moving the meeting from the scheduled date of Feb. 18, which, he said, is when his grandchildren would very much like him to holiday with them in North Carolina for the winter break.

“When a 6-year-old and an 8-year-old ask …,” Hungerford said. “Would it work for y’all to move it to the 25th? Is that a problem?”

Feb. 25 didn’t work for Donna Rowe, the authority’s vice chair, who suggested the 11th, and that was agreed upon by all.

“I appreciate y’all doing that, it will make my grandkids happy,” Hungerford said.

In preparation for each year’s legislative session, the county chairman invites the Cobb Legislative Delegation for a breakfast meeting with the Cobb Board of Commissioners and the county’s department heads. It’s a chance for county leaders to share their concerns and desires with the legislators who represent the county and is usually held at the Cobb Safety Village.

(This is not to be confused with the annual December meeting in which the legislative delegation hosts various Cobb governments and groups to hear their wish lists for the coming session.)

So when no invitation went out about the commission’s annual breakfast, AT began asking around.

Board Chairman Mike Boyce said the meeting did, in fact, happen.

Mike Boyce

“We didn't have a breakfast, we just had a meeting,” Boyce said. “Because we spend all this money on it and then how many people show — half of them show up? … Every dime counts around here. So we … just didn't feel like it was the best use of taxpayer dollars to offer the breakfast.

“The commissioners all came and presented their points of view,” Boyce continued. “And then, you know, and (the delegation) had their breakfast or meeting. …”

That the commission hosted a meeting for the delegation is news to Commissioner Lisa Cupid. She said it never happened.

Lisa Cupid

“It’s my understanding that there was communication that said it was not worth the expense from the chair,” Cupid said, noting the lost opportunity.

“Any opportunity that we have to work with our partners is important, and I think it was a great opportunity missed, as well as others have been, where we have moments to get together.”

State Rep. David Wilkerson, D-Powder Springs, chair of the Cobb Legislative Delegation, confirmed what Cupid said.

"There was no meeting," Wilkerson said.

And as for a meeting being held that he and Cupid weren't invited to, Wilkerson said, "I think I would have known if a meeting happened. I keep in touch with the other commissioners, and they probably would have asked where I was. I feel pretty comfortable there wasn't a meeting. Plus you guys (the MDJ) would have known because if they had more than two commissioners there, by law they would have had to let you know."

David Wilkerson

Bacon Boulevard: Since being sworn in as Smyrna’s new mayor earlier this month, Derek Norton has made honoring his predecessor Max Bacon one of his first priorities.

Norton is hoping to make a lasting tribute to Bacon, Smyrna’s mayor from 1985 to 2019, by naming a street and City Hall after him.

West Springs Street, which connects Atlanta Road and King Street in Smyrna’s center, will be called Max Bacon Boulevard if Norton has his way, and Smyrna City Hall at the end of that street will be called A. Max Bacon City Hall, in a nod to Bacon’s full name of Arthur Max Bacon.

“I think it’s a good way to honor Max, he built this town, and that’s a street that goes right through it,” Norton said. “It’s to say thank you for all he’s done.”

Norton formally introduced the name change suggestion at the city’s committee of the whole work session on Thursday.

He said it will ultimately come down to a decision of the Smyrna City Council, but no county or state intervention or approval is needed.

Max Bacon

“It’s a city street, I researched that because I was thinking it would have to be done legislatively, but that’s not the case,” Norton said. “We have to get council to agree, then I’ve got to talk with the postal service and make our intentions known.”

Norton said he’ll also consult residents and business owners in the area about honoring Bacon’s mayoral legacy in this way, and the vote before the council will likely be in late February or early March.

“Somebody suggested Bacon Strip, and we thought that was clever, but not really what we wanted,” he said.

Bacon, who did not seek re-election in 2019, is aware of Norton’s plans.

“I told him,” Norton said. “He knows that we’re going to be talking about it. He was appreciative.”

A resolution honoring Bacon was read in the Georgia Senate on Tuesday, and another is to be read in the Georgia House at sometime during the current legislative session, Norton said, to which Bacon will be invited.

THIS & THAT: Attorney Nancy Ingram Jordan says it is with great enthusiasm and excitement that she announces her new position as counsel with the law firm of Kessler & Solomiany.

Randy (Kessler) and Marvin (Solomiany) are extraordinary leaders in family law and I am grateful to be a part of this firm. I will continue to focus on family law appeals. I look forward to not only providing appellate support to the firm, but also providing continued appellate support to family lawyers in the metro area and around the state,” Jordan said.

Founding partner Randy Kessler and Nancy Ingram Jordan on her first day at the office.

COACH: Most of us know what it’s like to fly coach. You’re usually stuck between a screaming baby and the communal toilet at the back of the airplane, the restless child behind you kicking the back of your seat.

It’s the price we pay to save money on flights so we can afford to travel in the first place.

Little surprise then, that Delta coach passengers get confused when they’re elbow-to-elbow with the airline’s CEO in the cheap seats.

What on Earth is Ed Bastian, the head of the most profitable airline in the world, doing flying economy class?

The answer is two-fold, as members of the Cobb Chamber of Commerce learned this week when hosting Bastian in their “Chairman’s Circle” — a prelude for VIPs to the chamber’s monthly members’ breakfast.

Bastian flies coach because that’s where his customers are. He likes to sit with them and better understand the experience of his company’s economy class offerings. In a way, it’s classic research and development.

“I’d rather see how the product is doing and I think it’s a great message to our team to put others first and to not take up the real estate from our heavy travelers who deserve that real estate,” Bastian told top chamber members Monday at the Coca-Cola Roxy concert venue in Cumberland. “It’s a lot more interesting back there. First class is kind of boring. It’s fine, we like it, it’s nice and quiet, but you get a better sense for what’s happening in the back.”

There’s also a less official incentive for Bastian to literally take a back seat. He gets a kick out of being recognized in the one place people least expect to see him.

“I get a lot of interesting looks back there,” he said. “Most people ask why I couldn’t afford a better seat, and I say for what I paid for this seat I’m lucky to have it.”

Bastian shared one such experience with chamber VIPs, recalling the time he flew Delta coach with his teenage daughter a couple of years back.

Bastian had an aisle seat, his daughter was in the middle and a woman was in the window seat, reading Delta’s in-flight publication.

“The lady was reading our magazine about me, she had my picture out and everything, and my daughter just could not contain herself, she thought it was so funny,” Bastian said. “She figured out how to get a picture of the lady reading about me and me sitting there trying to ignore her and pretend I didn’t know. It took a couple of minutes for the lady to figure out what was going on. We have fun with it.”

Speaking about his loss of anonymity after being appointed Delta CEO in May 2016, Bastian said it took a long time for him, a generally private person, to come to terms with being the face of such a huge brand.

“I’m not sure I was really prepared for that,” he said. “But it’s something you have to embrace.”

Cobb Democratic Party Chair Jacquelyn Bettadapur gave a fiery speech to a full house during the party’s monthly meeting, urging Democrats to turn out on Election Day not only to keep Cobb blue, but to turn it bluer.

“This democracy will not survive another four years with Putin’s puppet in the White House,” Bettadapur told the standing room only crowd at Austell’s Riverside Epicenter on Saturday. “This is not about policy anymore, it’s about the very existence of our democratic form of government. It’s being chipped away, eroded bit by bit every day and to quote the late, great Elijah Cummings: ‘What did we do to make sure we kept our democracy intact?’”

That is the peril, but the promise, Bettadapur continued, is Democrats have been building momentum in Cobb County with every election since 2016. She displayed a map and headline the MDJ ran in November 2018, reading: “Cobb Turns Blue, Again.”

“Stacey Abrams won this county by 30,000 votes. We flipped seats. We gained the delegation majority by just 1, but we gained it and the ‘again’ comes from Hillary Clinton winning this county by 6,000 votes. What seemed impossible just a few short years ago has happened. Cobb is blue. And it’s about to get bluer.”

So what will the map look like this November? What will the MDJ headline read, Bettadapur asked, urging the audience to take nothing for granted and to vote by taking a bottom-up approach on the ballot.

“The 2020 Census count will determine changes in how district and representation is allocated. We have to get the majority in the Georgia House if we’re to have a voice in that whole process. Democrats need to flip 16 seats in the Georgia House to achieve a majority position and that’s going to start right here in Cobb County,” she said. “You want to see change? Let’s flip some seats in the Georgia House, let’s flip some seats on the Cobb County school board, let’s flip some seats on the Cobb County Board of Commissioners.”

Monica DeLancy, candidate for District 4 Commissioner Lisa Cupid’s seat, with supporters at the monthly Donuts with Democrats event in Austell.

The Cobb Board of Commissioners is arguably more vulnerable to Democratic control with Mike Boyce as chairman and Bob Ott announcing he would step down when his term ends at the end of the year. Many conservatives have abandoned Boyce, who ran as a conservative, but raised taxes as soon as he was elected and has governed as a tax and spend liberal. And while conservative Larry Savage has announced his candidacy, Savage has also run for chairman multiple times in the past, always failing to draw the needed support. Politicos tell Around Town District 4 Commissioner Lisa Cupid is presently the clear front runner in the chairman’s race.

Saturday’s program centered around the race to fill Cupid’s commission seat as she seeks the chairman’s position. It’s a packed race that includes Monica DeLancy, Sheila Edwards, Elliott Hennington, Jonathan Hunt, April McDonald, Edwin Mendez, Angelia Pressley and Monique Sheffield. All were in attendance but McDonald. Given how solidly Democrat south Cobb is, Bettadapur said the race would be decided in the primary. But with so many candidates, a runoff is likely.

During the meeting, state Rep. Erica Thomas, D-Austell, took the floor to announce she was seeking reelection.

“I ran on fighting. Making sure at the Capitol you have somebody that’s not as scared, not scared to fight the Republicans,” Thomas said. “It’s about the fight. It’s about who you see in the community. It’s about seeing your representatives all the time, and it’s not about what I think when I go into the House floor. It’s about what you think.”

Thomas’ Democratic challenger, Mableton attorney Terry Alexis Cummings, followed her in speaking to the crowd.

“One of the things I do not like is when I call my representative to complain and I’m told it’s a local issue. Well guess what? It’s not a local issue, it’s a quality of life issue,” Cummings said to applause.

Bettadapur asked if state Sen. Horacena Tate, D-Atlanta, was in the audience.

“So now we have our candidates for Georgia Senate District 38. Horacena Tate is the incumbent. Is Horacena in the audience? No? OK.”

Tate has a well-earned reputation for being missing in action, such that a previous opponent gave her the nickname “Horacena, have you seen her?”

While Tate was absent, her challenger, Tania K. Robinson of Mableton, was not.

“I’m the only one still here which speaks volumes,” Robinson said. “I’m here, I’m in the community, and I’m here to stay. As we noticed we have an incumbent here that when we say that name, they’re not here. But I am here. You see me. I’m involved,” Robinson said, describing herself as a mother of a 12-year-old daughter who believes in public education.

“We have a lot of work to do there. I am the widow of an Army veteran who passed away last year from pancreatic cancer living in the Sterigenics area. I’m passionate about our environmental rights, our health care reform, and I’m also a financial planner by trade who works with people each and every day finding out what their problems are and finding solutions,” she said.

Democrat Caroline Holko announced she’s challenging state Rep. John Carson, R-northeast Cobb.

Caroline Holko announced that she’s challenging state Rep. John Carson, R-northeast Cobb, this time around. Holko challenged Republican Commissioner JoAnn Birrell in the 2018 election where Birrell took 51.5 percent of the vote. Now she's decided to challenge Carson in a more conservative district. In the 2018 election, Carson beat the Democrat by 60.2 percent of the vote.

Priscilla G. Smith announced she’s challenging state Rep. Bert Reeves, R-Marietta.

One Priscilla G. Smith announced she was challenging state Rep. Bert Reeves, R-Marietta. 

“I’m running for House District 34 because I’m going to really work for House District 34 and not be a beautiful face just up there for the sake of the governor,” Smith told the crowd.

Asked about this later, Reeves said: “I look forward to a hard-fought campaign this year."

Turning to education affairs, Tre Hutchins, who has announced he’s challenging Cobb school board member David Morgan, was also in the house. Morgan is another incumbent who’s often missing in action on the school board.

“Equity is an issue and we know that as it relates to South Cobb not just what we see as far as zoning and the area in which we live in and our quality of life but also in our education system,” Hutchins said. “And so I’m here to fight to make sure that our schools, particularly those that feed into Pebblebrook High School and South Cobb High School have a fighting chance and that we have some strong academic success coming out of our schools to bring programs to our schools.”

Hutchins called Morgan a good friend of his even though he was challenging him for office.

“I do not know his intentions. He’s not here to say. However I am here to let you know I am running to make sure we continue to move forward and we represent the Pebblebrook High School and South Cobb High School area,” he said.

Hutchins may claim not to know Morgan’s intentions, but word on the grapevine is Morgan will not seek another term.

Among the other candidates to introduce themselves were the two Democrats vying to challenge Sheriff Neil Warren. They are retiring Cobb Police Department Maj. Craig Owens and Jimmy Herndon, a former sergeant with the sheriff's office.

Mableton attorney Terry Alexis Cummings, who is challenging state Rep. Erica Thomas, D-Austell, and Maj. Craig Owens, candidate for Cobb County Sheriff.

If you thought this week’s vote appointing Cobb school board members Brad Wheeler and David Banks as chairman and vice chairman, respectively, would settle discussion on that topic, well, let’s just say you haven’t been following a bitterly divided board over the last year or so.

Following the vote, two of the three Democrats on the board took to Facebook to continue their rebuke of the four-member Republican majority on the board.

Board members Dr. Jaha Howard and Charisse Davis had objected during Tuesday’s meeting to Wheeler and Banks being named to the leadership roles. Davis wanted to have either position for herself, but the majority rejected her wish.

Davis didn’t say much, but Howard went off, accusing the Cobb County GOP of playing puppet master to the four Republicans and suggesting racism or sexism could be at play.

On their official social media accounts, neither Democrat pulled punches, continuing to complain after the vote.

“Year 2 begins,” began Howard’s post. “After countless hours of meetings, phone calls, and personal observations, I’ve seen enough. Yes, I said it. I’ve. Seen. Enough.

“No more unnecessary delays on major projects in south Cobb. No more weak excuses about property negotiations. No more delays on agenda items. No more silencing opinions that don’t fit the majority narrative. No more ‘if you just’ and ‘maybe laters’ that turn into never. No more fear of politics. No more moving the goal post then pretending to be shocked at my response.

“I’m here for results, not for more friends and political connections. Frankly, I’m beyond over how weak both Democrats and Republicans have been in defending and prioritizing public education. Too many of you won’t bust a grape for our children, but gladly cower (to) the big money groups or status quo. Yes, you,” he posted, adding an image of two eyeballs staring out from the screen.

“Our children deserve the absolute best of our collective efforts. So many of our educators are working tirelessly for our students and they deserve policy and advocacy that have their backs!! We must push our leaders and legislators to do what’s in the best interest of our CHILDREN.”

Howard ended the post with a warning: “You’ll hear more from me.”

Davis, meanwhile, opined that the vote “went as expected,” adding that a pattern has formed in the naming of board chairs.

“For the last 4 years, the pattern has been: (David) Chastain as Chair, then Wheeler, then Chastain, then Wheeler. David Banks will be Vice Chair. With a school board that votes down by party line on whether or not to buy new buses with AC (Democrats voting yes to AC and Republicans voting no), it’s no surprise that my colleagues refuse to support me for chair or vice chair.”

A word here about the air-conditioned bus issue. While the initial debate and a couple failed motions on the vote to purchase all air-conditioned buses came up at a meeting in October, the purchase was tabled until the following meeting. At its November meeting, Superintendent Chris Ragsdale apologized for giving inaccurate data on the topic at the previous meeting, and the school board unanimously approved air-conditioned bus purchases.

But back to Ms. Davis.

“Also, Dr. Howard mentioned in his comments wanting to know the reason that the board majority would not consider voting for someone other than themselves. It was a fair question considering that seemingly everyone who has expressed an interest in being chair over the years, except Mr. Morgan (David Morgan, the third Democrat on the school board), has been chosen. This includes newly sworn-in members, women, non-educators, and even a Democrat that served some years ago. However, in a district comprised of 62.6% students of color, there has never been a person of color chosen as chair. It'll happen. The January board meeting will be held on the 16th, and thank you, East Cobb, Smyrna, and Vinings for having me represent you on the Cobb School Board.”

Cobb GOP Chairman Jason Shepherd, who laughed off the accusation that he was in control of the Cobb school board, explained why it seems that every time Howard and Davis lose on an issue, they cry racism. They are simply employing the strategy seen from the Democratic Party over most of the past decade whenever Democratic policies lose, he said.

“We saw it with the rise of the Tea Party in opposition to Obama’s policies. Rather than defend their policies on what Democrats believed to be the merits, they countered any opposition with claims of ‘racism.’ It changes the narrative from the issue at hand to an attack and defense of the personal beliefs of the individual who must now defend themselves against the false accusation of racism rather than focus on the policies being debated.”

Jason Shepherd

Shepherd said when the Democrats took over the Cobb County Legislative Delegation, there was not any discussion on which party would get the spot of delegation chair. The Republicans, in a bipartisan gesture nominated state Sen. Michael Rhett, D-Marietta.

“The Democratic majority wouldn’t even compromise on that and walked out until they could get (Rep. David) Wilkerson in as chairman,” Shepherd said. “If the Cobb school board were to go to Democratic control, I doubt there would be any overture to the Republicans, nor would the GOP degrade their colleagues on the other side of the aisle with such ridiculous displays. I will add after more than a decade of attacking anyone as ‘racist’ who doesn’t agree with a Democratic elected official, American voters of all races, ethnicities and creeds are becoming tired of the constant division Democrats espouse. Republican principles are lifting up all Americans and in Cobb schools, that means providing the best education in the metro area for all students.”

BEEP, BEEP: The Smyrna Police Department had a little fun on Facebook following reports of coyote sightings near the city this week. On Wednesday, following an MDJ story on the sighting of a black coyote in the area, the police department published its post warning Smyrna residents about the dangers of coyotes commonly represented on TV:

“Good evening Smyrna's Best Citizens: We are aware of multiple Coyote sightings within the Smyrna area. Typically, coyotes are nocturnal, however, it is not uncommon to see them during the day. Merely seeing a Coyote is NOT a reason to call 9-1-1. There are certain behaviors that are cause for alarm. Specifically:

1. Coyotes carrying any product marked ‘ACME’.

2. Coyotes dropping anvils from hot air balloons.

3. Coyotes posting signs such as ‘Detour’ or ‘Free Bird Seed’.

4. Coyotes in possession of a giant magnet.

5. Coyotes in possession of a catapult.

6. Coyotes detonating ‘TNT’.

7. Coyotes on roller skates with rockets attached

8. For those of you who use to watch Saturday morning cartoons, we are referring to ‘Wile E. Coyote’

Please call 9-1-1 immediately if you witness any of the above behaviors.”

Police also took time to give Smyrna citizens some real do’s and don’ts, should they spot a coyote:

“Otherwise, please be watchful of small house pets when outside. Do not leave pet food outside in your yard or your garage, this may attract them to your property. Should the Coyote seem rabid (foaming from the mouth, acting very erratic) please call 911 immediately and avoid the animal.

For additional information on wildlife animals in Georgia, the Georgia Department of Natural Resources (DNR) website is a great resource.”

ENDORSEMENTS: With the 2020 primary mere months away, Family Policy Alliance of Georgia announced a list of legislative incumbents it endorses for re-election. Among its endorsements who represent Cobb County are state Reps. Ed Setzler, R-Acworth, Ginny Ehrhart, R-west Cobb, John Carson, R-northeast Cobb, and Sen. Bruce Thompson, R-White.

“While the left has threatened to take the seats of those who stood with the vulnerable, we are prepared to proudly and boldly stand with those who put what’s right ahead of political convenience,” said Cole Muzio, president and executive director of Family Policy Alliance of Georgia. “Georgia is a state that values life, and I look forward to working to ensure these legislators are rewarded for their votes at the ballot box.”

Muzio added that the group will be making more endorsements as Election Day draws closer but felt it was “imperative to begin the process of actively supporting these candidates who will be targeted with millions of dollars in out-of-state money that seeks to undermine our Georgia values and impose a radical agenda on our state.”

State Rep. Sharon Cooper, R-east Cobb (left), chats with Georgia's new senator,  Kelly Loeffler, during the Cobb GOP's monthly breakfast on Saturday.

The candidates were out in force at the Cobb GOP’s monthly breakfast Saturday where Georgia’s new senator, Kelly Loeffler, was the keynote speaker. Among them was state Rep. Sharon Cooper, R-east Cobb, who used Teddy Roosevelt’s “speak softly and carry a big stick” quote to describe Loeffler.

“Now don’t be fooled by the senator-elect’s soft voice and her striking good looks ... because let me tell you, she’s a farm-raised girl and when you’re farm-raised, you got a lot of grit there,” Cooper told the crowd, noting such people have family values, hard work, faith and love of country.

Cooper also applauded President Donald Trump for his strike on Iranian Gen. Qassem Suleimani, saying Trump “spoke softly for a long time but it was about time that he struck back and I am so proud of him for killing that … criminal.”

This year’s election would be a great one, Cooper said.

“You know, I love the color purple, but I like it on Queen Elizabeth. She’s the only one that should be wearing it. The districts and Cobb County are changing, and we are more diverse and we have to recognize that, but let me tell you if there’s a hint of purple there’s still a helluva lot of red and you are going to help us show that in the next election.”

Harrison Lance, who is challenging state Sen. Jen Jordan, D-Sandy Springs, also praised Loeffler.

“I’m so glad that she’s carrying the battleflag of the Republican Party to Washington, a party and a woman that values inclusivity, embraces diversity, endeavors to build bridges for a party that champions innovation. What more could you ask for? We are witnessing a titan in the making,” Lance said.

Karen Handel, who is running to regain her old seat held by U.S. Rep. Lucy McBath, D-Marietta, said, “Lucy McBath, she's just a rubber stamp for Nancy Pelosi. She voted to impeach our president. We’ve got to have a representative who’s going to stand strong for Donald Trump, stand strong for you.”

Former Atlanta Falcons running back Joe Profit announced he was running for McBath’s seat also. Readers will remember Profit from the headlines he made in trying to organize an inauguration gala for Cobb County Chairman Mike Boyce, which Boyce ultimately ended up canceling in the wake of mounting criticism about where the profits from the $20,000 sponsorships for the gala would go.

WHILE IT’S IMPORTANT to reelect Trump, Loeffler, U.S. Sen. David Perdue and Handel, state Sen. Brandon Beach said down ballot races mustn't be ignored.

“We have to win the Statehouse. We have something called redistricting and we have to keep the Statehouse Republican.”

Beach also shared a bill he prefiled, SB 282, intended to keep Georgia’s best and brightest in the Peach State. It sprang from an incident where he wrote a letter for a young woman in his district to get into the University of Georgia, a student with glowing test scores: 1400 SAT, 4.0 GPA, 32 ACT and 10 honors classes. While she got into Vanderbilt, Tulane and a full ride to Tennessee, she didn't get into Georgia. When he called UGA to ask about this, they told him Georgia sent out 5,500 admissions letters of which 41 percent were to out-of-state students.

“I said that is unacceptable,” Beach said.

His bill stipulates “that 90 percent of early admissions to our four research institutions: Georgia, Georgia Tech, Augusta and Georgia State have to come from the state of Georgia. We are not going to take kids from Texas before we take our own Georgians,” Beach said.

Former Cobb GOP Chair Rose Wing, who is challenging state Rep. Mary Frances Williams, D-Marietta, demonstrated the fire in her belly in her stump speech.

“I can remember I woke up on New Year’s Day, I was so excited, I was so energized, I was ready to eat raw meat. But I decided to eat collard greens, black-eyed peas, cornbread, and I ate my meatloaf on the rare side," Wing said.

Wing said she was ready for the election.

“I can tell you the House rep. (Williams) sent out an email saying, ‘Well, while I am representing you at the Gold Dome, my opponent’s out there campaigning and fundraising.’ You’re right. I am. I’m out there campaigning and fundraising because we need a representative that represents the state House District 37, so I’m asking for your help,” Wing said.

Former Cobb GOP Chair Rose Wing, who is challenging state Rep. Mary Frances Williams, D-Marietta, speaks during the Cobb GOP’s monthly breakfast on Saturday.

Republican Larry Savage of east Cobb said the audience had heard from those running for Statehouse and Congress who want to bring Republican, conservative values to those bodies.

“I want to bring those same conservative (values) back here to Cobb County where we have absolutely lost our grip. We don’t need any more massive tax increases. We don’t need any more expansion of our government unless we have an actual purpose for it,” he said.

Savage believes the county government is top heavy, saying when Bill Byrne was chairman it was a part-time job and the county manager ran things. Today, the chairman is a full-time job along with the county manager, not to mention all their assistants.

“The chairman has two in-office assistants and an additional assistant who has duties that are yet to be defined after three years. We don’t need this kind of bureaucracy. We need conservative values. We need conservative control with reporting that makes sense and I will give you that,” Savage said.

Among the other candidates to announce was Cobb school board member Randy Scamihorn, who said he was running for reelection.

“If you like what we’re doing in Cobb County Schools, No. 1 in the state in many areas, test scores are going up every year, we have state-of-the-art technology for our teachers and students, we focus on our students, students are the No. 1 customer, followed closely by the parents that foot the bill, I appreciate your vote,” Scamihorn said.

APPOINTMENTS: Following the Cobb school board’s appointment of Brad Wheeler as board chair for 2020 on Tuesday, Marietta school board Chairman Jason Waters told Around Town he expects his vice chair, Allison Gruehn, to take over as chair of that board in 2020. But, he added, that won’t be official until the board votes at a work session at 6 p.m. on Jan. 14.

That meeting will also see the appointment of a vice chair and the establishment of the 2020 school board meeting schedule. As far as who will be vice chair, Waters said he isn’t yet sure.

Waters, who has served as either chair or vice chair of the Marietta school board for the past five years, said he’s looking forward to a break from leadership in the new year.

“I’m excited. It’ll be my first time not being a board officer since my first year on the board,” said Waters, who was first elected to the school board in 2015. “My first year I wasn’t an officer. I was a legislative liaison. And then I’ve been either vice chair or chair ever since.”

So what is Waters looking forward to most about being a regular-old board member this year? Take it from the horse’s mouth: “Not as many extra meetings.”

In his time as a board officer — twice as vice chair and thrice as chair — Waters said he’s proud that the district has had “a solid financial footing,” and more recently seen exciting developments including the beginning of the historic Lemon Street campus renovation, the completion of the district’s college and career academy and the hiring of Superintendent Grant Rivera, a contract of which Waters said he is particularly proud.

Waters said his advice to the next chair, whoever it may be (wink, wink, Ms. Gruehn), is to communicate often and openly.

“Most of the problems in the world, or in a family or anything, it usually comes down to communication,” he said. “So my biggest advice is … be a good listener, and embrace servant leadership. And I know Allison will.”

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