Friday, January 24, 2020
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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.”

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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

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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.”

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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.

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“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.

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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. https://gadnr.org/.”


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.”

Campaign emails from the senior-most Cobb school board member have some constituents’ steaming.

School board member David Banks, who has served Post 5 representing a portion of east Cobb including Lassiter and Pope high schools since 2009, came under fire recently from some Cobb School District employees who said they received emails soliciting donations without giving out their email addresses.

Connie Jackson, president of the Cobb County Association of Educators, said she’d received about 50 complaints from school employees saying they’d received an unwanted email from Banks’ reelection campaign. About 30 of those emails were delivered to the school employees’ district email addresses and the other 20 or so to personal email addresses, Jackson said.

Those who spoke to Around Town about receiving an email said Banks shouldn’t be allowed to use his position to access their email addresses and solicit money from them. Some claimed the action is against board policy.

But to that, the school district and Banks himself say, “Nuh-uh.”

While school board policy says board members are not allowed to use their official position to gather information not generally available to members of the public for financial gain, school district officials say work email addresses of all district employees are readily available online.

So what about those personal emails?

Banks said all email addresses of district staff that are on his mailing list are on it because he’d received correspondence from them sometime in the past.

“No one … gives me an email list to use. I’ve just accumulated emails over the years, and some of them are from people who are school system employees, but that’s very few. It’s probably not even 5%,” he said. “They can always unsubscribe.”


YET ANOTHER CHALLENGER: Banks has also gained a third challenger as school board elections loom. Shelley O’Malley, a Delta Air Lines pilot, Naval Academy graduate and U.S. Navy veteran, told AT she plans to run as a Republican and would formally announce her candidacy for the Post 5 seat at Saturday morning’s Cobb County GOP breakfast.

O’Malley, a 22-year resident of east Cobb and mother of three, said she attended public school, and all three of her children are products of the Cobb County School District. One has graduated from the University of Georgia, one from the Naval Academy and one is a freshman at Lassiter High School.

“We’ve been a great school system. We’ve been one of the best in the state,” O’Malley said. “We’re a leader, and I just want to help make sure that goes on into the future.”

She added that while she believes Banks has done well for the county, it’s time for a change.

“I personally am kind of a term limits type of a person,” she said. “I think it’s good to get some fresh ideas, and I’m more of the mind that we can move forward better if we’re all kind of in it together. I think we all have to take our turn doing something for our community.”

O’Malley, who sits on the Cobb Veterans Memorial Foundation Board of Directors, said she wants to move the partisan school board, which has shown moments of stark political division, back toward the middle of the road and refocus its energy into one thing: the classroom.

“Politics shouldn’t be the focus of what we’re doing. It should be the schools and getting our kids educated the best we can,” she said, still noting that part of the reason she moved to Cobb was because she felt the county had “conservative values.” “I hope that when it comes down to it that the board puts away anything that resembles sides of it and that we’re all really working for our kids. I think that might be where my strengths lie — that I don’t term things as us and them.”

O’Malley also said she’d look to leverage technology to make teachers’ jobs easier, and credited Superintendent Chris Ragsdale, who has a background in the industry, for his work to do just that. But, she said, there’s more to be done.

O’Malley said she has experience with instruction and curriculum development from her work in the Navy and at Delta.

Two others have previously announced their intentions to run for Banks’ seat this year.

IT project manager Matt Harper and Robert Madayag, an attorney with Atlanta firm Lee & Hayes, threw their hats in the ring for the Post 5 Cobb school board seat last month.


BETTER LATE THAN NEVER is what Cobb County library staff thought when an overdue book was returned recently, 38 years too late.

The copy of “Hondo” by Louis L’Amour, an American western written in the 1950s, was returned to the Cobb Public Library System with its stamped return card still in the sleeve, advising of a Dec. 19, 1981 due date.

“Staff at South Cobb Library were delighted by the return of a book after 38 years!,” Cobb County Public Library System posted on its public Facebook page, with two photographs of the novel and several hashtags including “#bookreturn,” “#betterlatethannever,” and “#38yearslate.” “The book is still in good condition.”

“Hilarious,” one person commented on the post. “How much were the late fees?,” another person wrote.

Cobb County Public Library System replied that fines always “top out” at $5.

“We did not send the library police to their door,” Cobb County Public Library System posted, adding a few smiley face icons.

Lucky for the person who borrowed “Hondo” almost four decades ago, who might have been facing steeper fines in a different jurisdiction.

“People are terrified of library fines, even small ones!,” another woman commented on the Facebook post.


RECOGNITION is coming early in 2020 for several movers and shakers in Cobb, who have made the top annual lists of important Georgians published by Georgia Trend, a statewide monthly magazine dedicated to business, politics and the economy.

Georgia Trend’s January 2020 issue reveals editors’ picks for the 100 Most Influential Georgians of 2020, as well as several others left off the list but still worthy of note, and inductees into the magazine’s Most Influential Hall of Fame.

This year, two Cobb women stood out for Georgia Trend.

Cobb Chamber of Commerce President and CEO Sharon Mason and WellStar Health System President Candice Saunders both made the magazine’s 2020 list of the 100 Most Influential Georgians. Also making the list was Kessel Stelling, a former Cobb Chamber chair who is CEO and Chairman of Synovus; Gas South President and CEO Kevin Greiner; and The Home Depot CEO and President Craig Menear.

They gave an even higher honor to another Cobb resident: retired U.S. Sen. Johnny Isakson, who just ended 45 years in politics. Isakson, who lives in east Cobb, was inducted into Georgia Trend’s Most Influential Hall of Fame.

Isakson joins other Cobb residents listed among Georgia Trend’s Most Influential Hall of Fame alumni, including journalist Bill Shipp, former Kennesaw State University President Betty Siegel and the late MDJ Publisher Otis Brumby Jr.

Noteworthy Georgians with ties to Cobb, as identified by Georgia Trend, include Cumberland Community Improvement District Executive Director Kim Menefee, Town Center CID Executive Director Tracy Rathbone Styf, and KSU President Pamela Whitten.

State Sen. Jen Jordan, D-Sandy Springs, also made Georgia Trend’s “notable” list for 2020.


Cobb BOE Chair: In her latest newsletter, Cobb school board member Charisse Davis writes that the board will select its next chair and vice chair at its 1 p.m. meeting on Jan. 7.

“I’ve expressed my interest to serve as chair, a role that many other board members have held, even in their first term,” Davis writes.

Given Davis’s querulous interactions with colleagues during her first year in office, one wag observed she has two chances for the board choosing her as chairman.

“Slim, and none. And Slim just left town.”

AS OLD MAN '19 gave way to Baby New Year, we asked a medley of Cobb Countians what their New Year's resolutions were for 2020. Here are their answers:

Cobb County Sheriff Neil Warren:

“As Sheriff I encounter folks on possibly some of their worst days. ... I rarely make resolutions but if I did, it would be for people to have more kindness and understanding for each other. It sounds idealistic but small steps daily can make a big difference. I still believe mankind is good at its core and I have faith that we will get through these trying times!”

U.S. Sen. Johnny Isakson

"My new year’s resolutions are to enjoy family, stay healthy and for the University of Georgia football team to win a national championship!”

Cobb NAACP President Jeriene Bonner-Grimes:

“My New Year’s resolution for 2020 as we get excited for what’s ahead is, No. 1, to spend more significant time with my parents. I want to create some lasting memories with them for the upcoming year.”

Former Georgia GOP Chair Sue Everhart:

“One of 'em is to reelect Donald Trump, and the other one is not to get fat.”

Smyrna Mayor-elect Derek Norton: 

“To run another race (NOT political …). Having a marathon on the schedule keeps me motivated to stay healthy.”

Cobb District Attorney Joyette Holmes:

“My thoughts for creating a clear vision in 2020 is to be INTENTIONAL in all things! To me that starts with being present with my family as we serve in our daily lives, nurturing true and meaningful relationships, creating time for self-care, and being a partner with the community to make public safety/community health a priority.”

Former Cobb school board Chair Betty Gray:

“I’m very reserved with my resolutions now. At 86, you’d better limit them. … At 86, you look at things very differently. I plan to read anything I want to read and during Christmas I’ve had all the chocolate I want to eat. And I’m resolved to make some choices and do some things you really, really want to do, to see people you haven’t seen in a long time and to really enjoy some downtime.”

KSU President Pamela Whitten:

"While I'm not sure I would call them resolutions, I do have two goals for the new year. The first is to do everything possible to continue to create a wonderful experience for KSU students. My second goal for 2020 is to read as many books as humanly possible."

Holly Tuchman, former CEO of liveSAFE Resources: 

“2020 will start a new decade, and my goal for the new year is to have passion and commitment to my family, friends and our business and community as well as living a healthier and meaningful life day by day."

Marietta Superintendent Grant Rivera:

“This past year was historic for Marietta City Schools, both in and outside the classrooms. My resolution is to continue to empower our students and staff to ‘Be Somebody’ and enjoy our continued success. As a husband, father and superintendent, to ‘Be Somebody.’ To make the most of every opportunity and live up the character and integrity of Marietta in everything I say and do.”

State Rep. David Wilkerson, D-Powder Springs, Cobb Legislative Delegation chair:

“More family time, that’s probably the biggest thing. My son, David, just turned 18 and is graduating from McEachern High School and my daughter, Olivia, is 16 and is just behind him.”

State Rep. Ginny Ehrhart, R-Powder Springs:

“(1) Resist any urge to abandon grammar and spelling in favor of shorter text messages. This despite my children’s mockery of my texts, which compulsively include proper placement of commas, periods, and capital letters. (2) Drink more water. (3) Learn to not roll my eyes in public, even when warranted. (4) Spend more time with my dog, Dixie, who seems a little depressed since my last daughter moved out. I resolve to give her more Frisbee time and games of chase. She deserves it. (5) Continue my work to protect the rights and well-being of my constituents, and ramp up the fight to build a better, safer, stronger, and more prosperous Georgia that all hard-working citizens deserve.”

Cobb school board member Randy Scamihorn:

“I’ve been thinking about this before: How do we work more cooperatively together as a school board and how do we open more opportunities to our students?”

Pat Chilton, community advocate:

"I want to work in my yard more. There are so many challenges in keeping it looking its best, but the results are very satisfying."

Former Marietta Superintendent Emily Lembeck:

“I resolve to continue to appreciate all that is good in my life and balance being active with family, volunteering, enjoying new experiences and learning new things as well as remaining current with my interests in public education.”

Cobb County Manager Rob Hosack:

“My resolution for 2020 is to spend more time with my son. My reason is that I blinked my eyes and realized that my last baby was almost finished with high school! At the risk of sounding like a proud papa, he is also a helluva football player, I am proud of him.”

Sharon Mason, president and CEO, Cobb Chamber of Commerce: 

"With the Cobb Chamber moving into our new home in January 2020 and with our new branding, I look forward to utilizing our chamber’s home even more to help our existing businesses and their employees grow, recruit more great businesses to Cobb and help more get started, bring our community together to advance our economy, and to make the most of every opportunity with our amazing team each day. I also plan to focus more on personal health and fitness and signed up for my very first Spartan Race with my husband and daughter in April!"

Marietta Mayor Steve Tumlin:

“I’ve got the standards — exercise more, lose a bit of weight, but my main resolution this year is to be a better grandfather, a better friend, just more conscientious of other people’s needs.”

Austell Police Chief Bob Starrett:

“Spend more time maintaining and promoting officer safety by utilizing training and interaction with my officers.”

Jeri Barr, retired Center for Family Resources CEO:

“Being able to enjoy more time with Bob and the family in this next year of retirement. We’re planning several different trips and doing small things with each of the family members.”

Cobb Superintendent Chris Ragsdale:

“For 2020, I want to make sure we continue to recognize all of our great team members for the hard work that will be put into making our one goal of student success possible. The great successes and accomplishments our team bring the district are truly awesome. I want to also reflect on and recognize how blessed I am to be a part of the greatest team of teachers, leaders, students, and supporters focusing on One Team – One Goal – Student Success!”

Cobb Commissioner Keli Gambrill

“I’m not going to talk about my goals for 2020. Moving in silence, focusing on the walk, not the talk.”

Acworth Mayor Tommy Allegood:

“Mine is to spend more time with all of my family. That’s been on my mind a lot during the holidays here. We’ve got family in four different places around the United States, so I want to be sure to spend time with all of them.”

Marietta Councilman Joseph Goldstein:

"Be the best person I can be, represent the city of Marietta and Ward 7 constituents well, and have fun while doing both."

Cobb Superior Court Judge Steve Schuster:

“To remind myself of the oath I took to not only protect our community from those who wish to inflict evil, but also to show mercy to those deserving of our compassion.”

Kennesaw Mayor Derek Easterling: 

"Be the best version of me every day. Exceed expectations. Help others create and find their own personal success. Once a month, cook something new and different for dinner. Read more books, and finish writing mine, and take my wife on a real vacation."


Founding Father Benjamin Franklin advised: “Be at war with your vices, at peace with your neighbors, and let every new year find you a better man." 

Around Town wishes you and yours a happy and healthy 2020. 


It’s the most wonderful Around Town of the year. Jolly Ol’ Saint Nick gave Around Town a peek into his magic bag to see what prominent Cobb Countians are getting this Christmas. Here’s the scoop:

♦ Marietta Mayor Steve Tumlin is getting a plane ticket to Sweden so he can track down Franklin Gateway’s missing Ikea.

♦ Councilman Andy Morris will be getting his own VIP front-row seat for the 2020 Glover Park concerts after he struck a blow against seat-savers who stake their claim before the concerts.

♦ Downtown Marietta property mogul Philip Goldstein will receive a plan to fill the Goldstein Gap on North Park Square.

♦ Meanwhile, his son, Councilman Joseph Goldstein, will find a new pair of tennis shoes for all the times he jogs off the dais to avoid conflicts of interest.

♦ Cobb County Commission Chairman Mike Boyce is getting a budget that does NOT include a millage increase.

♦ Over in Smyrna, former Mayor Max Bacon’s stocking will contain an all-expenses paid ticket for a senior singles’ cruise, now that he has some free time.

♦ Kennesaw Mayor Derek Easterling is getting a gift certificate to Eddie’s Trick Shop on the Marietta Square so he can pick out some new costumes.

♦ Georgia’s next U.S. senator Kelly Loeffler will receive a deflector shield to ward off all the criticism directed her way.

♦ The jolly ol’ elf is gonna bankroll a book of quotes by state Rep. Ginny Ehrhart, R-west Cobb, because her soundbites to the media are journalistic gold.

East Cobb cityhood proponents, some books on how to better communicate with the public.

♦ Around Town did not see what was in the bag for NRA President Carolyn Meadows of east Cobb, but we assume it packs plenty of firepower.

♦ To the Strand Theatre, Atlanta Lyric Theatre, Marietta’s New Theatre in the Square, et al, a dictionary so we can look up how to spell “theater.”

♦ Columnist Dick Yarbrough is getting an atlas so he’ll stop confusing Montana and Canada.

♦ State football champions Marietta and Harrison high schools are getting more trophy cases to display all the hardware won this year.

♦ The Atlanta Braves will receive a new bullpen so the team can advance beyond the first round of the playoffs.

♦ Santa will comp a free meal to any restaurant in Cobb County to celebrity chef and Marietta resident Alton Brown for bringing “Good Eats” back on the air.

♦ Cobb school board member David Banks will find some strong coffee under the tree so he doesn’t have to rest his eyes at board meetings.

♦ The rest of the school board is sharing a bottle of tequila so they can do shots every time Chris Ragsdale says, “One team, one goal, student success.”

♦ Cobb District Attorney Joyette Holmes is getting a clone or two in order to make her multitude of public appearances.

♦ GBI Director Vic Reynolds will find affixed to his car a Peach Pass for those traffic-jammed commutes from Cobb to GBI headquarters in Decatur.

♦ To all voters, peace of mind in advance of what’s looking to be a turbulent campaign season.

♦ And finally, to U.S. Sen. Johnny Isakson: our thanks for your example as a gentleman and statesman over a long and celebrated career in public service.


“For unto us a Child is born,

Unto us a Son is given;

And the government will be upon His shoulder.

And His name will be called

Wonderful, Counselor, Mighty God,

Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace

Of the increase of His government and peace

There will be no end,

Upon the throne of David and over His kingdom,

To order it and establish it with judgment and justice

From that time forward, even forever.

The zeal of the Lord of hosts will perform this” (Isaiah 9:6-7).

Around Town wishes you and yours a very merry Christmas. We’ll be back next week.

To the confusion of interested parties — a category that includes state lawmakers — the Committee for Cityhood in East Cobb has refused to share a map of the would-be city.

A map has been on the group’s website for months, but its leaders took people by surprise in November when they briefly flashed an updated and expanded map before a crowd at Wheeler High School. Under the new map, which included the attendance zones of Pope and Lassiter high schools, the city of East Cobb had grown from a population of 90,000 to 110,000, they estimated. (By comparison, Marietta, Cobb’s largest city, is 61,000.)

Frustrated by the group’s refusal to share a copy of the new map, cityhood opponents made their own.

“This is a best guess estimate based on the picture that was flashed on the screen (at Wheeler) zoomed in and knowing what the attendance zones are,” said Mindy Seger of the anti-cityhood East Cobb Alliance.

The map was put together on the ECA’s behalf by South Avenue Consulting, a self-described “boutique GIS firm.”

On Thursday, the Committee for Cityhood announced it would pause its push to advance legislation on cityhood until 2021. For an area to incorporate as a city, the General Assembly has to pass a bill putting a referendum on cityhood before people that would live within its boundaries.

Perhaps they saw the writing on the wall.

In a recent interview with Seger, she said that polling the ECA had conducted on the website Nextdoor.com showed such a referendum losing catastrophically.

“The closest any of those surveys — and there’s five or six of them that have been posted … was 90/10 — 90% opposed, 10% for,” Seger said, with 300 to 900 respondents per poll.


POLITICAL PLATTER: Too much choice might be the issue in one of the election races for the Cobb County Board of Commissioners in 2020.

The District 4 seat, currently held by Lisa Cupid, has already got a whopping nine potential candidates, including Cupid, based on official campaign declarations submitted to the county.

Lisa Cupid

Cupid has also filed a declaration and supporting campaign documents in the 2020 race for the board’s chairmanship, but will have to choose one race to commit to come qualifying time in a few months.

There’s currently more candidates in the District 4 race than all those running for all other Cobb board positions combined.

Yet of the nine candidates listed on the county’s election website as running for the District 4 seat, only two have submitted campaign finance disclosure reports.

Cupid’s report for the period ending Jan. 31 listed almost $25,000 on hand after around $80,700 was received in contributions and just under $56,000 was spent during the previous campaign cycle.

Curiously, a subsequent campaign disclosure report filed by Cupid for the District 4 race in early July left little to go on, registering $0 in each itemized box for contributions, expenditures, loans and investments alike.

At the same time, Cupid filed her first campaign finance report in the board chair race, listing $79,300 in total contributions, around $8,200 in expenses and just over $71,000 on hand at the end of June.

District 4 contender April McDonald also filed a campaign finance report at the start of July, declaring total contributions of around $1,500, almost $700 in expenditures and just over $900 on hand.

All other candidates in the race have simply lodged formal declarations of intent to accept campaign contributions.

Those candidates are Monica DeLancy, Shelia Edwards, Elliott Hennington, Jonathan Hunt, Edwin Mendez, Angelia Pressley and Monique Sheffield, most of whom live in Mableton.

Last week, DeLancy revealed she filed for bankruptcy earlier this year, for the second time, and is facing eviction from her Austell apartment.

If those seem like too many names to digest, all District 4 candidates have been invited to the next Cobb County “Donuts with Democrats” meeting scheduled for Saturday, Jan. 11, at 10 a.m. at the Riverside EpiCenter. They will be asked to make short campaign introductions and answer a few questions.

Qualifying for Cobb offices in 2020 will occur during the week of March 2 to March 6.


DEPARTURES: Commissioner Bob Ott sends word that Eddie Canon, the county’s support services director, will retire this month. Commissioners recognized Canon for his service and dedication to Cobb County for more than 20 years at this week’s meeting.

Ott said Canon began his career in the county as division director of the parks services and in 2007 was promoted to its parks director. In 2016, he was chosen to serve as Cobb’s Support Services Agency director.

Around Town always found Canon to be accessible, capable, cheerful and transparent. He will be missed.

Eddie Canon


COBB BOE NEWS: Cobb school board Chairman David Chastain got a shout out from Superintendent Chris Ragsdale at the board’s Dec. 12 evening session, the last meeting of the year and Chastain’s final as the board chair.

“We appreciate all the sacrifices you’ve made for us, and you’ve done a great job,” Ragsdale said.

After applause from the crowd, Chastain jokingly said the same things he’d told the student athletes who were recognized that night for their achievements during 2019:

“One team, one goal, student success. You can’t spell team without M-E,” he said.

The superintendent also noted that Chastain powered through a recent “major surgery” to continue to be present for the district. Chastain underwent anterior cervical discectomy and fusion surgery — a neck surgery meant to reduce or eliminate chronic neck and back pain caused by a degenerative or herniated disc — at WellStar Cobb in late October.

Donning a neck brace at a board meeting in the weeks following, Chastain let his vice chairman, Brad Wheeler, lead a work session before taking over for the evening session. He did, however, forgo coming to the front of the dais for board recognitions, opting instead to stay seated and rest.

He told Around Town his recovery, which limited his range of motion and required that he not drive temporarily, was slow but steady. In a Facebook post, Chastain thanked the “great surgical team” at Resurgens Orthopaedics and the “lots of nice folks” at the WellStar hospital for their assistance in his recovery.

David Chastain

Responding to the school district’s Facebook post immediately following the December board meeting, which thanked him for his chairmanship, Chastain had this to say: “It's been a privilege to serve as Cobb County School Board Chair this year. We have a great team from bottom to top.”

Chastain told AT on Friday that 2019 was a year for the board and its newly elected members to feel each other out.

Joining the board in 2019 were Democrats Dr. Jaha Howard and Charisse Davis, who did not shy away from putting in their two cents, prompting occasional tense debates and circumventing apparent Republican-led efforts to muzzle them. MDJ readers will remember that, following a vote along party lines in September to remove open board member comments from the end of the board’s monthly evening meetings, Howard took his comments to the lectern during the public comment portion of the meeting.

As the board moves forward into 2020, Chastain said: “Now that we know each other better, I think we’ll just keep growing from here.”

As for who will take over as chair of the board next year, rumor has it Vice Chairman Brad Wheeler could be getting the promotion. But, as is routine, the board will make that decision, as well as name a vice chair, at a special called meeting shortly after the first of the year and before its regularly scheduled meetings begin.

The special called meeting has been scheduled for Jan. 7 at 1 p.m. in the boardroom at 514 Glover St., Marietta. The board will also set the 2020 board meeting schedule at that meeting, but the first regular meeting of the year is tentatively scheduled for Jan. 16.


AROUND TOWN: Twilight among the jonquils

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RETIREMENT in Smyrna is so good it’s being sold as a top option to Americans everywhere. The Jonquil City was featured in the latest issue of Where to Retire as part of an “8 Tax-Friendly Towns” article in the national magazine’s January/February 2020 issue, available now.

Where to Retire is published six times a year and circulates nationwide.

Smyrna is celebrated in the magazine’s latest issue for being budget-friendly while still offering charming attractions and amenities, according to Where to Retire editor Annette Fuller.

“Plenty of spring and fall festivals enliven Smyrna, which also boasts 50 area golf courses, and the lower housing costs and tax benefits draw many from Atlanta, just 15 miles southeast,” Fuller said.

Citing data from the latest U.S. Census Bureau, Where to Retire claims more than 700,000 Americans relocate to new towns in retirement each year.

“Generally, these relocating retirees are healthier, better educated and more affluent than those who choose to not relocate, and they bring significant economic benefits to their new states and hometowns,” the magazine’s news release states. “Florida continues to reign as the No. 1 destination for retirement relocation, followed by Arizona, South Carolina and North Carolina.”

The most popular region is the Southeast, claiming eight of the 17 states showing increases in total net retiree migration.


RECOGNITION: One of the great mysteries of the age has been what Michael Murphy, special assistant to County Chairman Mike Boyce, does in his role.

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What he did Monday was address the Smyrna City Council from the lectern during the public comment part of the meeting. He was there to sing the praises of Councilwoman Maryline Blackburn, who was ousted in the November election by Travis Lindley, who won 52.9 percent of the vote.

Murphy said while he wasn’t a resident of Smyrna, he appreciated the service of retiring Mayor Max Bacon along with other members of the council.

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“But I particularly wanted to commend Councilwoman Blackburn. I, too, had the opportunity of working with her on county projects … I know that we have some exciting things on the horizon that will be a real uplift,” Murphy said. “I think too often citizens don’t realize the value of community, don’t realize the value of public service, and I say to anyone who has served in office and perhaps did not get reelected, do not feel that you lost, just feel that you didn’t win. And if I would put my spin to ‘The Rime of the Ancient Mariner,’ It is better to have served and lost than to never have served at all, and I thank you for your service. I think I speak for many residents in Smyrna — you had an impact even across the line in Mableton, and I can certainly say I wish you the very best and I know we’ve not heard from you for the last time.”

Murphy also inserted himself into the Smyrna mayor’s race, endorsing unsuccessful candidate Steve Rasin.


POLITICAL PLATTER: Sara Tindall Ghazal, the former director of voter protection for the Democratic Party of Georgia, announced her candidacy for the house seat held by state Rep. Matt Dollar, R-east Cobb.

Ghazal said she was motivated to run by the difficulty of fixing what is broken from the outside, and said it was a natural extension of her career of public service.

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A graduate of Emory law, Ghazal spent most of her professional career with the Carter Center, working in the fields of conflict resolution and democratization in countries like Liberia and Lebanon.

Most recently, she was the director of voter protection for the Democratic Party of Georgia.

“My role there was about as nonpartisan as you can get working for a political party,” she said. “It was making sure voters” — regardless of party, she insisted — “could access their ballot.”

But it wasn’t enough.

“There’s only so much change you can make from the outside. We need some deep structural change in our laws,” she said.

Ghazal has made access to the ballot one of the key issues of her campaign, along with transit and health care.

“Georgia is home to some of the premier health care institutions in the country, between our teaching hospitals, the CDC, medical schools — there’s no excuse for us to be at the bottom of every national list when it comes to health care.”

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Ghazal also weighed in on the push for cityhood in east Cobb. In April, Dollar filed a bill that would put a referendum on east Cobb cityhood before residents of the proposed city.

“While it’s out of my hands on Election Day, I very much oppose it,” Ghazal said. “I see no need to pay higher taxes for more government. … I read all the documentation, I read the study that came out of Georgia State, I have read parts of the bill,” she continued, “and I just don’t buy it.”

She also thinks the wording of the ballot language is misleading.

“I think it’s designed that way to lead voters who have not kept up on the issue as closely to think they’re voting for something different.”

Ghazal said ousting Dollar was part of her motivation to run.

“If I were living in a district with a different representative, perhaps I wouldn’t feel such an urgent need to run,” she said. “(If) I could actually have a representative that could actually listen to the needs of the constituency, then I could try to find other ways to improve the lives of my family.”

Ghazal has her work cut out for her. Dollar’s district is one of the most conservative in the county. Between 2010 and 2016, Dollar didn’t have a general election opponent. In 2018, he easily defeated Democrat Essence Johnson 59% to 40%.

“My plan is to talk to every voter who will talk to me, to listen to every voter to understand what their needs, concerns, their hopes are,” she said when asked what her plan is to win the district. “Right now I just really want to make sure your readers understand that I’m not a politician, but I view elected office as a public service, and service is what everything I’ve ever done has been about.”


AUSTELL FIRE CHIEF Patrick “Pat” Maxwell is retiring in a couple of weeks, having officially served the city of Austell for around three decades.

Maxwell has lived in Austell since the age of 2, when his family moved to Cobb County from North Carolina. Maxwell was employed by the Austell Fire Department in 1987 as a part-time firefighter, becoming a full-time employee by 1990.

He spent 10 years working his way up through the positions of firefighter, lieutenant, and captain before being appointed assistant fire chief in 1997.

He became chief in 2015 and has served in many capacities for the fire department, including arson investigator, inspector, code enforcement and fire marshal, his biography states.

Austell officials presented Maxwell with a retirement plaque at the city’s regular council meeting on Dec. 2.

Assistant Fire Chief Brandon Merritt is due to take over as chief on Jan. 1.

Merritt grew up in Cobb and started working with the Austell Fire Department in 1996. Merritt served Austell as a firefighter, lieutenant, training officer, and captain before being appointed to the position of assistant chief in 2015.


LEPRECHAUN EMERITUS: Among the many notable moments at outgoing Smyrna Mayor Max Bacon’s recent retirement party, some of which can’t be published in a family newspaper, was a hint that one of Bacon’s signature events could be around for years to come.

As photos of Bacon’s early mustachioed and mulleted life, as well as mayoral occasions, rotated past on a slideshow at the Cobb Energy Centre, a depiction of a green-garbed Bacon also surfaced.

Bacon has adopted the practice of dressing in a green suit, painting his beard to match and flaunting his leprechaun persona as the town dyes its city center fountain green in observance of St. Patrick’s Day each year.

While city spokesperson Jennifer Bennett said she’s not sure exactly how long Bacon has gone full leprechaun, the fountain-dyeing tradition began shortly after the opening of Smyrna’s Market Village in 2003.

With his impending retirement, some in Smyrna may worry that the tradition may cease, but Mayor-elect Derek Norton told Around Town the town’s residents can rest easy.

Norton himself would not commit to Paddying up, but he implied Bacon can continue the tradition for years to come:

“I kind of feel like it might be appropriate to have an honorary mayor to do that that day,” he said.

Smyrna Mayor Max Bacon

Thursday’s retirement party for Smyrna Mayor Max Bacon was a night of laughter and tears as community movers and shakers paid homage to (and lampooned) a mayor who broke the mold.

Between performances from dueling pianos at the Cobb Energy Performing Arts Centre, Joel Powell, chairman of the city’s Planning & Zoning Board, recalled sitting in a Smyrna bar and posing the question of who is the most famous person in Smyrna’s history. Someone said Julia Roberts. True, many would agree that America’s sweetheart is the Jonquil City’s most famous daughter.

“And I said 'But who has had the largest impact on the city of Smyrna?' And nobody could answer anything different in this room, in our city, in that bar than Max Bacon,” Powell said.

Mixed with the rose petals were some roasts of the man elected to the Smyrna City Council in 1979 and elected mayor in 1985, the same year his father, Smyrna Mayor Arthur Bacon, died.

“Max is the cross section of obsessive compulsive disorder, hyperactive ADHD and Cousin Eddie from Christmas Vacation, and it’s amazing to me that he has been able to manage our city and not get arrested. Chief Lee is here tonight to attest to that,” joked Powell.

Smyrna Police Chief David Lee remarked on Bacon’s outfit: a red velvet smoking jacket à la Hugh Hefner with matching red alligator shoes.

“I have to say this: I’ve been in law enforcement a long time. The only thing he’s missing is a big floppy hat, a Cadillac or Lincoln town car,” Lee said.

The chief said he hadn’t been on the job two months when he got a call from the mayor’s assistant, Christy Ullman, saying Bacon wanted to see him.

“I said OK. I’ll be over to city hall in a minute,” Lee said.

Ullman said Bacon wasn’t at city hall. He was at the bar in Zucca’s restaurant.

Lee, who formerly worked for the city of Marietta, pondered this a minute.

“I walk in there and he’s sitting at the bar. Got a drink with a little umbrella … wearing shorts and knee high socks. I’m like, what have I gotten myself into?”

Lee said he’d gotten him a Glock engraved with his name on it as a retirement gift. 

“We did take the firing pin out. And it’s loaded with blanks. Max, thank you. I hate to see you go. It’s been such an enjoyable time working with you. Helping you when you lock yourself out of your house, out of your car. There’s some other things, but we won't get into it. Congratulations.”

Retired Croy Engineering executive Don Hicks remarked on the three marriages he’s seen Bacon go through in the 30 years he’s known him.

With Bacon’s first divorce, Hicks said he thought that the wife must be the one at fault. Then there was the second. And third.

“I said wait a minute. We’ve got a common denominator here. It’s Max Bacon. I tell you the reason that could never work out is Max had a woman he’s loved his whole life and that was the city of Smyrna.”

Hicks pledged his devotion.

“Max, unlike a lot of things, I’ll never leave you because I love you. You’re a great man and I look forward to a long life of both of our retirements,” Hicks said.

Developer Jack Halpern spoke of Bacon’s efforts in transforming not just downtown Smyrna but the entire city.

“Most politicians today are hesitant to poke fun at themselves or admit vulnerability in any way,” Halpern said. “Max has had a lifetime of material to work with, and he’s not shy of doing that for himself. But we’re all fortunate and have been blessed to have a connection to a community that’s just blossomed under the leadership and guidance of one of the most extraordinary people I’ve ever had the pleasure to meet. Somebody who has always thought of what he could do for others and for the community that he grew up in and has loved and nurtured throughout his lifetime.”

City attorney Scott Cochran listed three things he’s learned about Bacon.       

He learned the first item as a young lawyer in this 20s when he was told he needed to meet the mayor at his house. Knocking on the door, he told Bacon’s wife he was there to see the mayor on very important business. Bacon’s wife rolled her eyes and said he was in the back of the house.

“So I went to the back of the room. There’s Max in his underwear … I said ‘Excuse me. You want to get dressed?' He said, ‘No, no. I’m fine.’ …. What I learned from that and you can see today evidently is he doesn’t really care what people think.”

A second thing about Bacon is he doesn’t like to be told what to do. Cochran once got a voicemail from Bacon about being subpoenaed for a court case.

“He said ‘Hey, somebody came by and gave me this thing called a subpoena saying I have to be at some courtroom next Tuesday. Well let me tell you this: That’s my birthday, and I’ll be damned if I’m going to court on my birthday, so what I want you to do is call that judge up who issued that subpoena and tell him he could stick that subpoena right up … you know what,’” Cochran recalled.

Bacon also doesn’t stick to a script, Cochran said, a case in point being the annual state of the city address, which is meticulously prepared by city staff. That lesson was also learned in court once where Bacon was testifying for the city. When the opposing attorney began to question him, he then proceeded to say the exact opposite thing he’d said before. When the judge inquired about this, Bacon replied, "Well, I guess I feel strongly both ways," Cochran said.

Other tributes came from Bacon’s sisters, Linda Keeney and Jenny Ruth Williams; his daughter, Ashley Mize; his best friend, former Howard’s Restaurant owner Bobby Martin; and former professional wrestler Diamond Dallas Page, owner DDPYoga, who called the mayor the “The Baconator” and “Maxwell Bacon.”

“When I was lucky enough to come into this town and got to meet that guy he took me under his wing like a big brother,” Page said. “And you know the big brother I’m talking about. You know the one. The crazy big brother that every time he opens his mouth you are scared to death what’s going to come out of it. Have you heard some of the things that come out of his mouth? I’ve only been here eight years and they blow my mind. But he’s Max Bacon. And he can get away with saying anything because, the God’s honest truth is Max Bacon is the most authentic human being I have ever met in my life.”

Smyrna Mayor-elect Derek Norton said he didn’t have a lot of stories like the other speakers.

“Mainly because I was four years old when Max was first elected,” Norton said. However, “Nobody has loved this city more than Max Bacon …. He starts everything with ‘Here’s the deal.’ And here’s the deal Mr. Mayor, I love you. Everybody else in this room loves you and the city of Smyrna will always love you.”

When Bacon rose to speak his eyes were damp. 

“I’ve just been in a lucky place to where I was fortunate just to sort of lead and head in the right direction. I never cared who got the credit. It was all about getting stuff done and making Smyrna a better place. I’ve had a great life. I’m 71. I don’t have erectile dysfunction. I saw a commercial on it. I said ‘I need to look this up.’ I’m just kidding with you. Thank you all so much for coming out.”


Robert Madayag

POLITICAL PLATTER: Robert Madayag, an east Cobb resident and attorney with Atlanta firm Lee & Hayes, has announced his intention to run for Cobb school board member David Banks’ Post 5 seat in next year’s elections.

Madayag is the second person to announce they would challenge Banks, who has served on the board since 2009. The first was IT project manager Matt Harper, who threw his hat in the ring at the Cobb GOP Breakfast last Saturday.

While he said he intends to run as a Republican, Madayag said he simply believed running on the ticket would give him the best chance to defeat the incumbent. He said though some may be surprised to hear he’s running as a Republican on a Democrat-sounding platform, he swears no allegiance to any political party.

“At the end of the day, the only thing that matters to me are the kids. I am not seeking favor with any political party. If you vote for me, please know this. At no time in my thought process will the words, ‘what would Reagan do’ or ‘what would Obama do’ come into my head. It starts and ends with what is best for the kids,” he wrote.

Madayag lays out what he says will be his priorities should he be elected to the school board on his campaign website and Facebook page. The Navy veteran and father of three Cobb students says he will call for improved equity, increased transparency and reform student discipline policy, including by exploring how bullying incidents are handled in the district.

One particular intention of note is Madayag’s call for the district to hire a chief equity officer, a suggestion repeatedly presented to the board by Stronger Together, an advocacy group made up of Cobb parents and staff members.

“There is no doubt that the (Cobb County School District) has done a great job of helping those students at the top, but after hearing from countless parents about how their kids were bullied, suffered racially charged language, and were forced to fight the school district to have their kids provided basic needs,” his campaign Facebook page states.

But most importantly, Madayag told Around Town, “whoever gets elected, Banks cannot be reelected.”

Banks’ newest challenger did not pull punches speaking to AT. He said the board member has ignored parents who have repeatedly expressed their concerns to him, including a mother of one of the students affected by the actions of Ron Gorman, a former Pope wrestling coach convicted of sexual assault.

David Banks

Madayag, who said he is Filipino and Mexican, also referenced emails forwarded by Banks in 2016, saying the board member has a history of offensive actions toward minorities and immigrants.

Banks allegedly forwarded an email on in November 2016 that contained phrases such as “illegal aliens from south of the border” and other offensive statements, according to Kevin Amaya, deputy director of The Pro-Immigrant Alliance of Cobb County, who spoke up about the incident at the time. Banks said at the time that the email in question was a personal message that he did not write.

He maintained that response when he spoke to AT.

For his part, Banks said Madayag’s accusations have no merit.

“He’s just wrong. Period,” he said.

Banks said the school board doesn’t tolerate racial or political rant(s) or discrimination of any kind. Plus, he said, “I have a Hispanic daughter-in-law. So am I racist?”


CHRISTMAS is not the most wonderful time of the year for Monica DeLancy, a community activist and affordable housing advocate, who says she has been evicted from her Lake Crossing apartment in south Austell two weeks before Santa’s arrival.

Monica Delancy

DeLancy, who is running for the commissioner seat held by Lisa Cupid, says she has a 17-year-old son, who is disabled, and a 19-year-old daughter in college.

They were forced out of their apartment Thursday by apartment complex staff and sheriff’s deputies, DeLancy told the AT.

“I’m upset about the process and the lack of communication, being put out two weeks before Christmas with my Christmas tree outside in the cold and the rain,” she said. “I never got notified, the last notification I received was in July.”

DeLancy said she filed bankruptcy in July, for the second time.

She explains this in a video posted Thursday to the Cobb County Courier public Facebook page, in which she appears to be outside, surrounded by household belongings.

The founder and executive director of We Thrive in Riverside Renters Association, DeLancy says she and her children will stay in a hotel until she finds her feet.

She’s also determined to explore the ins and outs of the eviction process to determine whether she was wronged.

It’s DeLancy’s suspicion that she has been singled out by apartment management and punished for being a renter with a voice.

“The troublemakers,” she said. “It’s retaliation.”

DeLancy has been one of the most vocal residents in recent years of a handful of low-rent apartment complexes along Riverside Parkway in Austell, orchestrating meetings with other community leaders in an attempt to iron out problems.

Management at the apartment complex told the MDJ they have no comment in regards to DeLancy’s eviction.

Retired businessman Larry Savage of east Cobb gave a fiery speech calling for fiscal restraint as he announced he was running for chairman of the Cobb Board of Commissioners during the Cobb GOP’s monthly breakfast meeting.

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Until now, there have only been two announced candidates in the race: Republican Chairman Mike Boyce and Democrat Commissioner Lisa Cupid.

Savage told the party faithful if there were a credible conservative in the chairman’s race, he’d likely make a campaign contribution and retreat to his hobbies.

“I don’t see that,” he said. “As on this day there are two candidates for chairman of the Cobb County Commission. One is a liberal Democrat. The other is a liberal Republican who is perhaps even more liberal than the liberal Democrat,” Savage said, a comment that drew laughter from the audience.

Boyce and Savage have campaigned for chairman several times in the past.

The last time they squared off was in the 2016 Republican primary where Boyce received 49.06%, incumbent Tim Lee received 40.42% and Savage received 10.52%.

As no one received more than 50% of the vote, it triggered a runoff between Boyce and Lee, which Boyce won with 63.9% of the vote.

During that race, Boyce campaigned on fiscal restraint, a position he’s changed now that he’s been elected, Savage said.

“He’s given more millions of dollars to the Braves with no explanation,” Savage said. “He’s agreed to take on the cost of managing the police activities around special events … He’s conducted illegal meetings under the Open Meetings Act. And there have been new hurdles erected for people who seek information from the county government through Open Records.”

More importantly, Savage said, is the lapse of fiscal restraint.

“Our spending has surged despite the fact that we had a historic runup in property values that increased the county tax digest enormously. That wasn’t good enough. We then had to accept a 25% increase in the millage rate for the county’s general operating fund.”

An understanding of the future is needed, he said, and knowledge that certain pressures are on their way.

“There are already additional tax increases teed up for metro Atlanta and Cobb County potentially, and we have to get a grip on how we run our business here in Cobb County, how we manage our resources and how we make things happen without having to turn to the taxpayers over and over again. Every problem does not cry out for throwing money at it, and we have to learn to solve our problems using our resources more intelligently.”

That’s when Savage announced he has entered the race, a statement that caused the crowd to break out in cheers and applause.

Qualifying for the chairman’s race is March 2- 6 with the primary on May 19 and the general election on Nov. 3.


SCHOOL DAZE: At the same meeting Savage announced for chairman, IT project manager Matt Harper threw his hat in the ring for the Post 5 Cobb school board seat held by David Banks. Harper lives in east Cobb with his wife and their two daughters, who are in third and sixth grade in the Cobb School District He works IT for Cobb-based Advanced Open Systems.

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He told the crowd he grew up going to Cobb schools, and his mother was a Cobb County teacher. His credentials include serving on the Murdock Elementary school council, where he was also a science lab instructor for three years.

“During that time, I used the school garden to really make hands-on science a priority. The Cobb County master gardeners recognized that effort and invited Murdock to be on the Cobb County garden tour in 2018,” he said.

Harper said he supports “responsible use” of the 1% Special Purpose Local Option Sales Tax for education and hopes to help usher in a time of continued growth in the county.

“Cobb is great, and people know it. The secret’s out,” he said. “There is nothing that, in my mindset, from a planning background, (suggests) that people are going to leave this area. There’s only going to be an increase (in population) in this area. That means there’s going to be an increase in the school population, so every decision the school board makes, I believe needs to be with that focus in mind, that the school population is going to increase.”

The seven-member school board had a quorum at the breakfast, with five current members in the audience listening to a keynote speech delivered by Superintendent Chris Ragsdale. (Only Jaha Howard and David Morgan were absent.)

Banks, who has given no indication he plans to step down, was among that number, though he did not speak.

Brad Wheeler, who represents the district’s Post 7 with Harrison, Hillgrove and McEachern High Schools, briefly took the lectern to announce he is running again.


CHRISTMAS TRUCE? Last month, Cobb school board member Randy Scamihorn, a conservative Republican, made a surprise appearance at the Cobb Democratic Party’s monthly Donuts for Democrats meeting.

What’s soup for the goose is apparently soup for the gander. Charisse Davis, a school board member who is most certainly not a member of the Cobb County Republican Party, took time out of her morning to join the GOP for breakfast. Democrat Tre Hutchins, a candidate for the school board’s Post 3 currently occupied by fellow Democrat David Morgan was there, too.

GOP Chairman Jason Shepherd told the crowd to make the wayfaring Dems feel welcome.

“We may disagree on some things, but we’re a big body, and any time you want to come in, it takes a lot to come in to another political party, and we may go back and forth a little bit, but we love you and we’re glad you’re here,” Shepherd said.


THE JOHN LOUD SHOW: At the final Cobb Chamber of Commerce First Monday Breakfast meeting this week, outgoing Chamber Chairman Mitch Rhoden gave the chairman’s club a brief recap on the year and welcomed incoming 2020 Chairman John Loud.

“This year has gone by so quickly, and it’s been great,” Rhoden said, addressing the crowd. “Our new brand ... we have the unveil today, which we’re really excited to show you. Our new building — 1100 Circle 75 — we’re going to be moving in. We’re in the process of that build-out, and we’re going to be moving in in January. That’s going to be a really neat change for the chamber, and we’re looking forward to showing you all of that.”

Rhoden said the chamber also focused on welcoming international companies and recognizing the companies that have been in Cobb for “many years,” as well as urged members of the organization to continue networking with the county’s young professionals who are constantly looking for ways to connect.

Rhodes gave Gary Bottoms, head of the chamber’s transportation and mobility committee and former chamber chairman, a shoutout, saying Bottoms and his colleagues had educated chamber members on the “complicated nature of transportation and mobility, as we look to 2022 when we’re going to vote to see if we can fund some of these priorities.”

In that year, Cobb residents could vote on whether to authorize a special sales tax, the revenues from which would be used for regional transportation projects.

The 2019 chairman also poked a little fun at his successor:

“I also want to thank John Loud. We’re gonna hear more from John Loud — we’re gonna hear a lot from John Loud coming up,” Rhoden said, smiling and prompting laughter from the crowd. “The John Loud Show will begin soon. And as Dave Cole, with Freeman Mathis & Gary, who’s our in-house counsel said … the other day, we’ve hired a team of lawyers to make sure we’re well covered for the John Loud Show in 2020. It’s going to be great.”

The incoming chairman took the jokes in stride, laughing along and grinning back at the many chuckling faces who turned to see his reaction.

Rhoden said he hoped the chamber would continue focusing much of its attention on economic development and inclusion of the whole county, specifically naming Cobb Commissioner Lisa Cupid and her district in south Cobb.

“We have work to do, so I want to continue that work, and I would encourage you all to do the same,” he said.

PLAYING HOOKY: It’s always interesting to see which Cobb legislators attend the annual Cobb County Legislative Delegation meeting where the county’s various governments and institutions present their wish lists to lawmakers … and which don’t.

The delegation met Thursday at Jim Miller Park where seven of the 15 members who represent Cobb in the Georgia House were absent: Matt Dollar, R-east Cobb, Ginny Ehrhart, R-Powder Springs, Erica Thomas, D-Atlanta, Roger Bruce, D-Atlanta, Michael Smith, D-Marietta, Sheila Jones, D-Atlanta, and Bert Reeves, R-Marietta.

Reeves, an attorney, wrote in to tell AT he had a deposition in Gainesville.

“Otherwise I would be there. My absence is not due to a lack of interest!” he said.

In the upper chamber, two of Cobb’s six senators were absent: Bruce Thomas, R-White, and Horacena Tate, D-Atlanta.

The latter isn’t surprising: an opponent nicknamed her “Horacena Have You Seen Her?”


NO GOOD DEED: An article in the MDJ’s Sunday, Dec. 1 edition chronicled the $5.2 million renovation project underway at First Baptist Church Marietta. The next day the church received a call.

Apparently, the MDJ’s coverage, which included details of the project provided by architectural liaison and church attendee Don Dorsey, rang alarm bells at the city’s building permitting office.

The church had no building permit.

“The architect was notified earlier this week after the article in the MDJ,” Mark Rice, the city’s public works director, told Around Town. “They are in the process now of submitting the required documents for a building permit.”

Dorsey said he did not realize that some project particulars, such as the roofing and window replacement, required permitting.

“When the city public works director read (the MDJ’s) article, he called to learn more … ” Dorsey said. “The city has been very understanding and cooperative and is not holding up the progress of the work while we go through the process of obtaining the permit.”

The church member said he takes responsibility for what he called a simple misunderstanding.


ON ENDORSEMENTS: A lesson to be learned from this week’s runoff election for Smyrna mayor — be careful who you bring into your campaign.

Ryan Campbell trotted out Dr. Jaha Howard as a supporter and, as is typical of the Cobb school board member, who brings new meaning to the word grandstand, Howard made it about himself.

In a Facebook post endorsing Campbell, Howard portrayed himself as the victim, a favored pose to strike.

“I’m fully aware that my endorsement is not the most advantageous for my political future. Ryan’s opponent is very, very well connected and political retaliation is real,” Howard wrote.

He also posted a video endorsement of Campbell with school board member and comrade Charisse Davis. All to no avail. Smyrna Councilman Derek Norton beat Campbell in the runoff to become Smyrna’s next mayor.

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At the other end of the endorsement spectrum is the loss of support of Steve Rasin, who finished in third place in the mayoral contest in November. Rasin appeared to endorse Campbell in a video from election night. As Norton and Campbell campaigned for the runoff win, Rasin threw his support to Norton.

Being the margin of victory was 2% (159 votes), one might assume Rasin’s endorsements tilted the polls in Norton’s favor.

At the wee age of 26, young Campbell could have a bright political future. Yet as one political wag advised, he may want to be prodigious while choosing and soliciting political bedfellows next time he wades into the political arena.


R-E-S-P-E-C-T: Marietta will be the backdrop of at least a few scenes in the upcoming season of a National Geographic anthology period drama series taking a closer look at extraordinary people in modern history.

Signs posted on buildings around Marietta indicate filming for the third season of “Genius” examining the life and artistry of Queen of Soul Aretha Franklin will take place next week. The series’ first two seasons focused on the lives of Albert Einstein and Pablo Picasso.

Season three stars Grammy winner Cynthia Erivo and will feature performances by her, as well as archived footage of Franklin’s performances, according to the posters.

Filming is expected to divert street and pedestrian traffic in the vicinity of the filming on Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday, but no roads or sidewalks are expected to be closed.

Pending the city of Marietta’s approval, intermittent lane and street closures will take place on various downtown stretches of Anderson, Winters streets and South Park Square.

The notice of filming indicates that Marietta police officers will assist in directing traffic.


RECOGNITION: Cobb political analyst, author and university professor Kerwin Swint got an indirect shout-out in the U.S. Senate this week when Sen. John Thune, R-South Dakota, read aloud some of Swint’s recent writing about Sen. Johnny Isakson, R-Georgia.

Isakson, who is retiring in a few weeks, gave his farewell speech on the Senate floor Tuesday, after which he was lavished with praise by senators from throughout the country in their official tributes.

Thune, South Dakota’s senior senator, read a couple of paragraphs of Swint’s Nov. 1 column about Isakson during his own tribute to the 45-year legislator. Thune didn’t name Swint but said “the author of the piece is a political science professor at Kennesaw State University.”

“There have been a lot of tributes to Johnny since he announced his decision to retire, and one that I came across that I thought really captured Johnny was published in a Georgia magazine,” Thune said, before reading a part of Swint’s column in the November issue of Georgia Trend.

This is the part of Swint’s piece which Thune read aloud:

“As a political science professor and an administrator, I’m often asked by students if good people can serve in government and keep their integrity. Johnny Isakson is always the first example I come to. It’s very often a shocking revelation to most people — that good people can, and often do, serve in government for long periods, fight hard for what they believe in, and remain true to themselves and their principles. And they don’t have to sell their souls to do it. It’s a great lesson, really.”

Swint said that may be first time ever that Kennesaw State has been mentioned on the floor of the U.S. Senate.

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POLITICAL PLATTER: Looks like Chairman Mike Boyce will have opposition in the Republican primary after all. Retired conservative businessman Larry Savage of east Cobb sends word that he will announce his candidacy for chairman at the Cobb GOP breakfast Saturday morning.


LIGHT MY FIRE: Some interesting facts and figures emerged about Marietta’s fire department during the year’s last meeting of the Marietta Area Council of the Cobb Chamber of Commerce Thursday.

Marietta Fire Chief Tim Milligan was at the meeting, held in the Center for Family Resources in Marietta, as the keynote speaker.

Milligan, who has been with the Marietta Fire Department for over 20 years, described his department “by-the-numbers.”

♦ 1: The department’s designated class rating. “To put our class one rating in perspective, 50,000 departments are graded throughout the entire country and only 373 have a rating of one,” Milligan said.

♦ 133: Marietta’s sworn firefighters.

♦ 13,000: Calls for service the department received in 2018.

♦ 0: Calls in 2018 to rescue a cat stuck in a tree.

♦ 70%: Ratio of calls related to something medical.

♦ 233: Fires extinguished by Marietta firefighters in 2018, including 69 structure fires.

♦ 50%: Over half of Marietta’s firefighters are trained paramedics.

♦ 3,000: Fire hydrants in Marietta that each have to be annually checked.

Milligan finished his speech responding to a question about the silliest calls he had responded to in his career.

“There was one individual who was petting his dog and got his finger wrapped in the pet hair and when we got there he was running around, so we grabbed him and got the knife out and told him to hold still. There was another call that got us up at 3:30 in the morning because when they turned their faucet on in the bathroom and went to turn it off it broke and the water was running and they didn’t know what to do. That didn’t go so well with the guys.”

The head of Cobb County’s Fraternal Order of Police lodge created a stir last week when he announced on the lodge’s Facebook page that he was working with retiring Maj. Craig Owens in his campaign to be elected sheriff next year.

The county website lists Owens as commander of Cobb Police Precinct 2, which includes the areas of Austell, Mableton, and Powder Springs. Owens has been employed with the police department since 1989.

“This campaign is not about being a Democrat or Republican, it’s about making things better for the outstanding men & women who work for the Cobb County Sheriff’s Office,” Steve Gaynor, president of Cobb County’s Fraternal Order of Police Kermit Sanders Lodge 13, posted on the lodge’s Facebook page. “The problems at the Sheriff’s Department have been ignored for way (too) long and it’s time for change. So please watch for our kickoff meet & greet fundraiser at the beginning of December.”

Gaynor went on to post that he was looking for good places to put up campaign signs around Cobb. He ended the post with: “Please join with me in welcoming and supporting Craig Owens as your new Cobb County Sheriff.”

Some people commented below the post that they would be supporting Sheriff Neil Warren.

“I have nothing against Craig but I for one will be supporting Sheriff Neil Warren and I live in Cobb. I vote here,” wrote one.

Replied Gaynor: “Warren’s time is over, he has failed to move forward into the future and has refused to address the serious issues facing the Sheriff’s Office. The old ways of doing things are long over and the ‘good olde boy’ way of managing is no longer acceptable. I have been in the trenches fighting for the men & women of Cobb County Public Safety for many years and he has refused to join the fight for his people. I like Neil as a person, but he should realize it’s time for change.”

Another commenter inquired as to the appropriateness of the post.

“Steve, do you believe it’s appropriate to use the Official Facebook Page of Lodge 13 to endorse a candidate who you are personally working for?” one person wrote.

Gaynor replied by saying, “Not endorsing a candidate only announcing that I am working on this campaign. However as we move into the April/May time frame the Lodge will ask all Candidates to speak at our meeting for possible endorsement.”

His post also drew out private investigator Jimmy Herndon of east Cobb, a former sergeant with the sheriff’s office who is running a scorched earth campaign against Warren in his effort to succeed him.

Herndon, a Democrat, complained to Gaynor that “in all fairness, declaring him as ‘your new Cobb county Sheriff’ as the president of the FOP sure seems like a pretty solid endorsement by you, at least to me. I must have received 50 messages when you posted that. I’ve been running for a few months as you know and you’ve not shared the work I’ve been doing to show how Warren really runs his office.”

Gaynor told the MDJ he wasn’t interested in endorsing Herndon, given “baggage” relating to his acrimonious departure from the sheriff’s office.

The day after his initial Facebook post, Gaynor made another, explaining that his previous one had generated a few questions from lodge members, a group with more than 700 members.

“Yesterday’s statement was NOT a Lodge 13 endorsement, but a statement from the Lodge President that I am taking steps that I believe will help Cobb County Public Safety,” Gaynor wrote. “Craig Owens is a LIFE Member (over 20 years of membership) and believes in the actions we have been taking for months to get the attention of the commissioners. Our next Lodge meeting is next Wednesday at 1630 if any member would like to come address the membership. Until then as the CEO/President of this Lodge I will continue to fight for the majority of the members who have voiced their safety concerns for more than a year.”

Gaynor said Owens will kick off his campaign Dec. 12 at an event in Austell.

AT asked Warren if he cared to respond to Gaynor’s Facebook posts. He did not.

The primary is May 19. The election is November 3.


JAILHOUSE BLUES: The situation in the Cobb County jail has led Marietta Councilman Reggie Copeland to question whether the city ought to be sending its prisoners there.

The city’s Public Safety Committee, which Copeland chairs, voted 3-0 last week to extend the city’s contract with the sheriff’s office to house inmates. The 20-year contract is set to expire at the end of the year unless the City Council approves a seven-year extension.

Under it, the city pays a certain amount to the county to house inmates. The current rate is $69 per inmate per day, or $25,185 per year, according to the contract. A new rate is determined at the start of each new year, but the cost per inmate cannot increase by more than 3% per year.

Copeland, who has first-hand experience in the detention center, said recent reports about deaths in the jail have him worried.

“How much liability do we have as joint signers?” he asked. “In particular because since Jan. 1 of this year, there have been six deaths in the jail. There are several citizens who have called me, I don’t have the answers to it, but I’m kind of hesitant to go too much further with this, personally.”

Copeland’s numbers are accurate, according to numbers from the sheriff. In addition, the MDJ mailroom has been flooded with letters from inmates in recent months describing a monthslong lockdown where they say they have been unable to leave their cells for days on end, even to shower.

The ACLU has expressed interest in what’s going on there, hitting the sheriff with an open records request late last month.

City manager Bill Bruton said whatever goes on behind the jail’s walls, Marietta is not liable.

“In general, once we hand over one of our inmates or individuals who have been arrested to one of the jails, they have responsibility and liability,” he said. “We have responsibility to transport and bring them over there, but the minute we transfer them to them, they’ve got responsibility.”

City attorney Doug Haynie concurred.

“This commitment neither increases nor decreases the city’s liability,” he said. “The city and the county have sovereign immunity. I would say to you that the city has no liability under this. I read what you’re talking about as far as how the jail is run by the sheriff, but I see that does not carry over any liability to the city of Marietta.”

That was good enough for Copeland, who voted to approve the extension along with the other two committee members, Councilman Johnny Walker and Councilwoman Cheryl Richardson.


CITYHOOD: A select few east Cobb residents continue to quarrel over whether the community could become a financially viable municipality, trading insults among former friends.

East Cobb residents Shailesh Bettadapur, Bill Dennis, Bill Green, Russ Morrisett and Ken Pollock formed a team earlier this year called the Independent Finance Group to crunch the numbers relating to east Cobb cityhood.

They started out in agreement — that a paid university study on east Cobb cityhood needed fact-checking.

But by September, when the group was ready to publicly release its findings, Bettadapur broke ranks, left the team and denounced its 4-1 majority conclusion.

Green, Dennis, Morrisett and Pollock decided east Cobb, as a city, could offer its residents lower taxes than they currently pay to the county for various services, including policing.

Bettadapur didn’t agree, as he recently explained to the MDJ.

Bettadapur also accused Green of falsely asserting that his being married to Cobb Democratic Party Chair Jacquelyn Bettadapur had something to do with his leaving the group.

“I can say without hesitation that Mr. Green’s assertion is false,” Bettadapur told the MDJ for an article that was published on the front page of Sunday’s edition.

“Shailesh on front page today. Same antics. I’m a liar,” Green texted MDJ reporter Rosie Manins on Sunday afternoon.

“A city couldn’t possibly cut taxes because it would have to take on a police force with no new revenue transfer,” Green texted. “He’s pushing the non-starter non-compliance scenario. I would vote no, too, if I thought a new city would do something that stupid.”

Whether east Cobb becomes an incorporated city within Cobb County will be determined by public vote during an election referendum, if the case for cityhood makes it that far.