Friday, August 23, 2019

James Herndon, candidate for Cobb County sheriff, addresses Democrats during their monthly "Donuts with Democrats" meeting at the Smyrna Community Center.

FASTEN YOUR SEAT BELTS. Next year’s race for Cobb County sheriff is shaping up to be an explosive one. A former sergeant with the sheriff’s office who parted ways under unhappy conditions has launched a campaign to unseat the county’s longtime sheriff.

Private investigator James “Jimmy” Herndon of east Cobb gave a stump speech at the monthly “Donuts with Democrats” gathering over the weekend. In that speech, he ripped Sheriff Neil Warren, accusing him of running a dangerous jail where prisoners have died, of playing favorites with employees, of wasting money by partnering with ICE and of bullying Kennesaw State University cheerleaders for kneeling in protest during the national anthem.

“If my children, unfortunately ... have any contact with the law, I’d like for them to be able to survive it, get in and out of jail and being treated fairly, and right now the place scares me the way it’s being run. It’s really not being run very well at all,” Herndon told the Democratic audience at the Smyrna Community Center.

During his tenure with the sheriff’s office, Herndon said he was tasked with investigating things he didn’t always agree with.

“It had nothing to do with carrying out the law or anything like that,” he said.

He accused Warren of playing favorites by providing his secretaries and IT staff take-home cars, while the deputies on the road didn’t have them.

Cobb Sheriff Neil Warren addresses the crowd at the Cobb GOP’s Independence Day BBQ bash at the Cobb Civic Center.

He criticized the sheriff for giving a lobbyist an $18,000 raise.

“I have no idea of what a sheriff needs a lobbyist for. Your job is to enforce the law, not make it,” Herndon said.

He blasted Warren for his vocal opposition to the KSU cheerleaders who kneeled in protest during the national anthem a few years ago.

“I disagreed when the sheriff used the power of his office to suppress free speech of a bunch of KSU students that weren’t bothering anybody,” he said to loud applause from the Democrats.

There’s probably 30,000 to 35,000 people who annually pass through the county jail with about 2,000 locked up at any given time, Herndon said. About 40 percent of the jail population is diagnosed with some sort of mental illness, he said, claiming the jail only has one psychologist on staff most of the time to process inmates.

“And they languish for days on end without medication, without treatment and it gets bad,” he said, pointing out that three inmates have died in the last six months.

Another criticism Herndon launched at Warren was the federal 287(g) program he uses in partnership with U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement.

In arguing against that program, one may appeal to people using the moral argument about “our society tearing apart families,” Herdon said, although the moral argument doesn’t always work. So Herndon used a financial argument against the ICE program, saying the sheriff’s office uses “about 12 employees” to operate it. Employees that “you pay their salaries for, you pay their benefits package for, you pay their cars for, you pay for their offices. Everything. None of that is reimbursed by ICE. That is a thing that is already funded through taxes to the federal government. It’s their job. They should be doing it. We shouldn’t be doing it in our jail. It would free up 12 people that we could put on the floor to prevent people from hanging themselves, hurting themselves and instead, we have them tied up in the office all day just simply to ask people if they’re illegal or not. I just think it’s a tremendous waste of resources, time and money and it needs to go away.”

Herndon, 45, and his wife Kristi have four sons and attend First Presbyterian Church in Marietta. Born in Baxley and reared in Clinch County, he holds a bachelor’s and master’s degree in criminal justice from Valdosta State. He said he arrived in Marietta by way of a previous wife who was from here. He began working for the sheriff’s office in 2002. He said he now works as a private investigator for the Marietta intelligence firm, Black Spear Intelligence.

Herndon said he parted ways with the sheriff’s office under less than pleasant circumstances. According to Herndon, when he became fed up with his job there and let it be known that he was looking for employment elsewhere, he ran into retaliation.

“I just wanted to move on and go work somewhere else and do my thing and they wanted to beat me up so bad because I wanted to leave,” he said after the meeting.

Through an open records request, Around Town obtained a Sept. 5, 2017, memo from then-Lt. Col. Sonya Allen to Sgt. James Herndon. In that memo, Allen writes that based on an investigation that revealed Herndon downloaded an anonymity internet browser onto county owned computer equipment, she was proposing his termination.

“There was a settlement agreement reached that cleared me of all that,” Herndon said. “I’m legally bound. I can’t tell you what’s in it, the settlement agreement. In return, I dropped all my claims against them.”

A settlement agreement obtained through an open records request does state that if he agreed to submit a letter of resignation effective Sept. 6, 2017, the termination record would be removed, would show that he resigned and would say that the finding was “not sustained.”

“They felt it was in their best interest to settle,” he said.

Around Town asked the sheriff if he cared to respond to any of the accusations lobbed his way. Warren didn’t take the bait.

“I am proud of my record as Cobb County’s elected sheriff and look forward to continuing to serve our citizens another four years,” Warren said.

Qualifying for all partisan offices in 2020 is March 2-6, with the primary May 19 and the general election Nov. 3.

James Herndon, candidate for Cobb County sheriff, addresses Democrats during their monthly "Donuts with Democrats" meeting at the Smyrna Community Center.

PARKING PAINS: File this in the be-careful-what-you-wish-for category.

Mike Boyce

In his zeal to bring the costs of operating the county government’s two parking decks in line with revenue, Chairman Mike Boyce ended free parking at night and on the weekends. When that didn’t right the ship, the county turned over operations of the facilities to LAZ Parking, hoping the private sector could do what the public sector couldn’t — break even.

Boyce discovered that helping the garages climb out of debt can mean a personal sacrifice.

“I found out the hard way the other day … my (parking) card is no good on the weekends,” Boyce told Around Town. “I paid my five bucks.”

County employees are issued a card that grants access to the parking deck for a monthly fee. But as the chairman discovered, his card only works during the workweek, not on weekends.

“I kept waving that card and it was saying, ‘It’s Saturday. It’s Saturday.’ And I looked at the sign where I park: ‘Monday through Friday. 8 to 5.’ They take that literally.”

The good news is that since outsourcing operations to LAZ, Boyce said, the parking decks are no longer draining county coffers.

After just over three months with LAZ running the parking show, Boyce says the new deck operator is “doing great.”

“We’re in the black,” he said. “They know what they’re doing. Imagine that.”

When they first came on board, LAZ was expected to increase parking revenue by nearly half a million dollars. Now we know at least $5 of that $500,000 came right out of the chairman’s pocket.

ONE MIGHT EXPECT the observance of the 100th anniversary of the Georgia Department of Banking and Finance to be, well, mind-numbingly dull. Picture a bunch of old bankers in three-piece suits sitting around, swapping tales of fiduciary investment acts, trust company law and the GMALPBA (Georgia Merchant Acquirer Limited Purpose Bank Act).

But leave it to Vinings Bank to turn a potential snoozer into raucous entertainment.

That was the scene Thursday in the Vinings Bank atrium community room when 175 bankers and associates gathered to celebrate the GDBF’s centennial.

The agency that regulates and examines Georgia state-chartered banks was created by an Act of the Georgia General Assembly on Aug. 15, 1919, and Vinings officials saw the benchmark as an opportunity to celebrate the importance of community banks and their contributions to growing the local economy.

Bankers, former bankers and associates of bankers all took a turn at the podium. The highlight had to be the Bob Shaw-led chorus and their rendition of “I want a bank, just like the bank that knows just who you are.”

The Bank Notes: The banker chorus of notables was under the direction of Bob Shaw, much to his dismay.

Among the choir notables were Gary Black, state agriculture commissioner, Public Service Commissioner Lauren “Bubba” McDonald, who announced he’s running for reelection, former Gov. Roy Barnes, TV pundit Phil Kent and GBDF Commissioner Kevin Hagler. They sang (to the tune “I wanna girl, just like the girl who married dear old dad”):

I wanna bank, just like the bank that helped us buy our cars.

They’re the folks that helped get us where we are.

A good old-fashioned bank, red, white and blue.

One who loves to work with folks like you.

I wanna bank, just like the bank that knows just who you are.

John McNair and Lori Godfrey of the Community Bankers Association of Georgia honored Vinings’ own Joe Daniell with the Lifetime of Service Award.

Godfrey noted that Daniell started with the Marietta Commercial Bank in 1967 and cited many of his accomplishments inside and out of the banking community.

When asked if he wanted to say a few words, Daniell, characteristically a behind-the-scenes kinda guy, passed on taking the microphone, prompting Godfrey to say, “Joe Daniell was speechless. Please take note of that.”

Lori Godfrey of the Community Bankers Association of Georgia presents Executive Vice President of Vinings Bank Joe Daniell a Lifetime of Service Award Thursday.

And leave it to Gov. Barnes, known to spin a yarn or two, to capture the spirit of community banking in a story right out of old Cobb County.

“It’s what community banks are all about. You know, the folks that loan you money. ... They know the folks who’ll pay and who won’t pay. I got to tell one more story and then I’ll hush ...

“When we started the bank down in Mableton, there was a fellow, he’s dead now. He was a good friend of (Barnes’ brother) Ray and ours ...

“He had a great business. He went around and he bought used heavy equipment. And they had a big garage down there on the Chattahoochee River and he would rehab it and repaint it and all and sell it. And he had done business with us, Ray and I, and Daddy had always run him credit ... at the store.

“So, when we opened the bank down in Mableton, I called him and I said, ‘We want to do business with you.’ ...

“Well, a few months later he called me ... and so he says, ‘Y’all still want to do business with us?’ I said, ‘Yeah.’ I said, ‘We’d like to.’

“And he says, ‘Well, I need a little line of credit.’

“So we did. I went down there and signed him … We gave him a $250,000 line of credit and I said to him ... ‘I need three years income tax returns.’ He said, ‘Well, they’re there in the filing cabinet.’ And we made copies.

“Well, he went along fine. He always paid everything. ... Then things got a little tight, you know, and we had one of these young bank examiners that came in — why they hire bank examiners that have never been in business for themselves is beyond me. But anyway, in the exit interview, Ray and I were sitting there and the examiner said, ‘Y’all want to explain to me how you loan a fellow $250,000 and he’s got an annual income of $16,000 a year?’

“I said, ‘Well, it’s real simple.’ I said … ‘He cheats on his income taxes.’

“‘Look, we know him.’ I said to the examiner, ‘His daddy made liquor. And do you know how we know he made liquor?’ He said ‘No.’ And I said, ‘Because Ray and I sold him the sugar.’

“So this little bank examiner paused, looked at me and he says, ‘You have a suggestion how we write this up?’”

WHO NEEDS HISTORIC PRESERVATION? The new owners of a Church Street home formerly occupied by Food Network chef Alton Brown will be able to perform renovations previously denied by the Marietta Historic Preservation Commission after that decision was overturned by the Marietta City Council on Wednesday. In an article on the flap, MDJ reporter Ross Williams quoted history deficient Councilman Andy Morris as saying “If somebody proposed to get rid of the historic committee, I’d vote for that, too,”

Andy Morris

Cobb Landmarks & Historical Society shared the MDJ article and highlighted Morris’ remark on its Facebook page, noting that it was “feeling irritated,” as the preservation of historic homes was not a problem singular to the house in question.

“It’s a problem with much of the Atlanta area in general. There’s been a widespread disregard for preserving historic assets since the 1960s and 1970s. Go look at photos of Atlanta in the 1930s and 1940s, before the ‘redevelopment’ and you’ll see a downtown resembling Savannah. Mostly all gone now,” Cobb Landmarks observed.

Marion Clark Savic joined in the conversation by writing that the City Council has “already overturned two HPC denials for demolishing historic homes on Church St. One was demolished and one was on the pilgrimage home tour last year. Know who you’re voting for next time! It’s time for a change or our charming historic Marietta will be historic no more.”

Cobb Landmarks gave her remark a score of 100.

Vinnie Jenks weighed in to opine, “So, the homeowner’s property rights are being upheld. Refreshing!”

In response, Cobb Landmarks accurately replied: “When you choose to purchase a home in a registered historic district you should understand that there are limitations to what can be done.”

POLITICAL PLATTER: The monthly Cobb Democratic Party’s “Donuts with Democrats” meeting is 10 a.m. Saturday at the Smyrna Community Center.

Amy Swygert and Linda Gooding from Fair District GA will be leading the discussion on the fight against gerrymandering in Georgia. The party will also be joined by Ed Reed from Fair Count to learn about efforts underway to ensure that Georgia gets a fair count in the 2020 Census. In addition, Cobb school board member Charisse Davis is scheduled to give an update on all things Cobb County Schools. ...

Meanwhile, over on the right, Julianne Thompson, chair of Georgia Women for Trump, is the speaker at the next Cobb County Republican Women’s Club meeting at 11:30 a.m. on Friday, August 23.

Thompson will be speaking on women’s involvement in the 2020 Trump campaign.

The event takes place at the Atlanta/Marietta Hilton Conference Center. Info:

SCHOLARSHIPS: Metro Marietta Kiwanis have announced the recipients of the 2019 Morgan Thomas Scholarship recipients. They are Candace Batulis, Kennesaw State University; Ekene Nwosu, University of North Georgia; Detriana Edwards, Georgia Tech; Aaliyah Leonard, University of Tampa; Tatiana Saunders, Georgia Southern University, club president Rose Wing reports.

The 2019 Morgan Thomas Scholarship recipients, from left: Candace Batulis, Kennesaw State University; Ekene Nwosu, University of North Georgia; Detriana Edwards, Georgia Tech; Aaliyah Leonard, University of Tampa; not pictured: Tatiana Saunders, Georgia Southern University. Also pictured, Bill Via, scholarship chair; Rose Wing, president, Metro-Marietta Kiwanis Club; and Shari Martin, executive director, Cobb Community Foundation.

U.S. Rep. Barry Loudermilk is one of the speakers at the annual GOP fundraiser hosted by Adventure Outdoors in Smyrna on Friday, a fundraiser that has come under fire from such Democrats as state Sen. Jen Jordan, who represents the area.

Barry Loudermilk

Jordan took to Twitter to tie the 5th Annual 11th District GOP Marksmanship Event and BBQ to the recent mass shootings in El Paso and Dayton.

“Marksmanship Event just two weeks after #ElPaso and #Dayton mass shootings? And GA Republicans wonder why it has lost support of so many suburban women... Confirmed speakers include my congressman @RepLoudermilk, NRA president and @Georgia_AG #gapol,” Jordan said in her tweet.

Loudermilk was less than pleased by her remarks.

“I think she ought to be ashamed for politicizing this. If she was that concerned about it, why didn’t she come out and say something a couple years ago when I attended the same event two months after I was a victim of a mass shooting?” Loudermilk said, referencing the 2017 practice session he attended in Alexandria for the annual Congressional Baseball Game for Charity where gunman James Hodgkinson opened fire on attendees.

“This is a marksmanship event,” Loundermilk said. “It is an annual fundraising event. This is the fifth year it’s happened, and you know, for the Democrats to politicize it, I think it’s shameful. They’re the ones trying to tie this to those shootings, and this has been going on for quite a while, and I would think if they’re going to tie it to those shootings why don’t they tie it to the ones where the liberal left Democrat came on the field and tried to kill a dozen or more Republicans? There was no condemnation of this event then. This has nothing to do with those mass shootings.”

Loudermilk said he attended the Smyrna fundraiser in 2017 following the mass shooting he lived through despite feeling post traumatic stress.

“I even went to a shooting range about a month afterwards and right as I pulled up to the firing range — I was going to go shoot with my boys — they opened the range and started shooting, I found myself diving into the seat of my car just as a reaction. But it wasn’t the gun that was trying to kill me, it was the person behind it,” he said of Hodgkinson. “I didn’t run in fear of guns. I realized that was an act of evil. And that’s the problem we have, it’s a cultural problem. So I didn’t have an issue showing up to an annual event that happened to be a marksmanship event, and so I think it shows the hypocrisy of the left that they’re trying to utilize this for politics, and it’s shameful to do that because it’s using people who have been victimized by evil for political gain.”

Loudermilk said it would be easy to promote Friday’s fundraiser by connecting the recent mass shootings into the argument that one should practice their aim as a way to defend against such attacks. But no one is doing that.

“No, we’re sensitive to the victims that are out there,” he said. “I think we need to take a breath and we need to quit demonizing either side. We need to sit down not just with the legislators but with law enforcement.”

For instance, he spent Monday touring the Cherokee County Sheriff”s Office and speaking with deputies.

“We need federal, state and local and all parties to come up with — is there something that can be done legislatively or is there something that we need to do at the community level? I think it’s something that we put everyone together and come up with the right solution.”

Members of Congress deal with threats on a continuous basis and fanning the flames of division is simply not helpful, he said.

“What we need is a coming together, not taking advantage of a crisis or as one politician just said ‘Never let a crisis go to waste.’ I think that’s the worst advice for our society that we could ever have because as it comes down to it, we’re all Americans. We all love our freedom. We all love our liberty and we expect the government to do what the government can to ensure our rights are protected.”

FOR HER PART, Jordan said this is the first time she’s heard of the marksmanship fundraiser. Had she known about it back when the D.C. shooting occurred, she likely would have said something then.

Jen Jordan

“But let me go straight to the point about politicizing. Absolutely I’m politicizing this issue. I’m politicizing the issue of preventing another mass shooting, fighting gun violence and promoting gun safety. That’s what I was elected to do. That’s the whole point,” she said.

The work of politics and what politicians are supposed to do is about pushing the issues that people care about and also working in ways to try to come together when there’s a problem and come up with a solution, she said.

“I think the thing that is so frustrating about the mass shootings and what we’re encountering now in our country is this keeps happening again and again and again, and there is never any real effort made to try to fix it, and so if me speaking out against it … brings attention to this issue and helps to actually bring it on the floor and make people think about it in a way that will prevent mass shootings no matter who the target is — I don’t care if you’re a Republican or a Democrat, an independent, apolitical, adult, child, whatever, that’s the point. The point is we need to be trying to protect everyone and we’re not doing anything.”

Hearing the same thing over and over again is tiring, she said.

“I have filed bill after bill trying to meet folks in the middle and trying to just move the ball a little. Nothing big. Just a little more protection. Keep guns out of the hands of domestic abusers. The kind of stuff we should all be able to agree on, but even on those things we’re not getting anywhere. We kind of have to take a breath and think about what’s important, and at this point in time the things that are important to me are my children and the safety of my children and the safety of people that I was elected to represent. And that’s what I’m going to do.”

POLITICAL PLATTER: A fundraising reception for Smyrna Councilman Derek Norton, candidate for mayor, includes such special guests as U.S. Sen. Johnny Isakson and Attorney General Chris Carr. The reception is from 5:30 — 7 p.m. next Tuesday at The Georgian Club. For information, contact Patti Peach at or 404-234-5884.

FOOTLOOSE: Former Gov. Roy Barnes came back to his south Cobb roots on Sunday to help celebrate the church’s 147th homecoming.

The Barnes family’s history with the church goes back nearly 100 years, and before he gave his address, the governor and his family were the target of some good-natured roasting from Deacon Chad Williams.

“His grandfather was active in the building program at this church in the 1930s, which, coincidentally, coincided with a sharp increase in sales at Barnes Hardware,” William said.

Williams said he looked through church records to see if he could dig up any dirt on the family, but did not come up with much.

“Best I can tell, you’re not related to Josh Barnes from 1916, he was forgiven for drinking too much and getting mad. There was no listing of the Barneses in the 1916 discussion about a dance in which brother Joe Harris stated that if it had been a dance and he offended anybody, he was sorry, he asked the church to forgive him, and he said he would throw the church a dance if they wanted.

“At the same time, there was Brother Sim Tanner, he acknowledged he had danced at the dance, but he didn’t know that it was a dance. Noah Johnson, he was excused for dancing on account of, quote, ‘getting out when he found out it was a dance.’

“Finally, there was no mentioning of the Barnes family when it was reported that when J.I. Perry was asked why he no longer was living with his wife, he told the men of the church: ‘You try to live with her.’”

SpecialGov. Roy Barnes delivers remarks at the 147th annual homecoming for Milford Baptist Church in south Cobb.

How popular is The Glover Park Concert Series that graces the stage on the square the last Friday of each summer months?

Wildly popular.

An estimated 10,000 jammed downtown July 26 to hear the Carolina Beach Music of The Tams. So, how do you get a good seat with so many jockeying for position?

Primo seats are available up front at 40-plus tables that can be reserved beginning at 8 a.m. on the first business day of the month. Problem is, they sell out in minutes, leaving the rest of the throng to stake their claim on the Glover Park lawn.

And therein lies the rub: How far is too far to secure a spot for a concert?

According to Marietta Councilman Andy Morris, some people are showing up over 12 hours before the concerts at Glover Park to claim dibs and set up camp at the best spots. And that doesn’t sit well with the Ward 4 councilman.

“People are coming out there now and it’s completely roped off by 10 in the morning, and I just don’t think that’s fair for the rest of the citizens,” Morris said at a recent Parks, Recreation and Tourism Committee meeting.

Morris said he would like to see an ordinance change to stop that behavior and possibly issue tickets to early-bird dibs-callers.

Rich Buss, Marietta’s parks and recreation director, said he goes into work at about 7 a.m. and sees people already out there. The concerts are at 8 p.m. He said he’s seen people drive stakes into the ground and rope off spots with yellow police tape.

Buss said around 1998, the city started telling people they couldn’t set up their chairs or blankets until 4 p.m. That worked pretty well until recently.

“A few years ago, people started coming earlier, they were putting out their blankets and tarps, we were picking them up, taking them away, setting them off to the side,” Buss said. “Of course, then we got a lot of irate phone calls.”

That’s when city employees started putting signs up, but Buss said that didn’t work either.

“People would come and pull our sign right out of the ground, take it out and throw it over there and put their blanket right on it.”

Confronting the residents didn’t work either, Buss said.

“Basically, they just got a lot of four-letter words and cussing. … If we moved it, they’d turn around, 15 minutes after you turned your back, and come back.”

Morris said he’d like to see public safety ambassadors or police officers have the power to issue tickets to squatters.

Buss said that presents several new problems. You can’t keep people from sitting in Glover Park all day, and closing off dibs until 4 p.m. could cause a stampede at that time if a large crowd rushed in to stake their claims.

He also said it is not clear the police, ambassadors or park staff could spare the manpower to deal with entitled cover-band groupies.

The committee voted to direct staff to look into the viability of Morris’ plan and report back before next year’s concert series.

In other words, look forward to more of this behavior Aug. 23 and Sept. 27, when Mo’ Soul Band and Men in Blues perform the last two Glover Park Concerts of 2019.

So what makes these concerts must-go destination? Great music, dancing, good people and you haven’t lived until you’ve seen Vinings Bank President Clark Hungerford do the Electric Slide.

JUST CALL IT A ‘GRANT GRANT’: Marietta Superintendent Grant Rivera announced Tuesday he will give away his $10,000 bonus to pay for college applications for about 150 seniors.

Jen Brock, a spokeswoman for the district, said Rivera’s $10,000 gift will guarantee that some students who are on the fence about applying because of financial struggles will have that chance.

“You have some kids who can’t afford to spend $50, $60, $70 on an application. It’s a little bit of a gamble, because it’s not a guarantee you’re going to get in,” she said.

To be eligible, students must apply early, with college deadlines falling in October or November, Brock said.

Depending on how many students take advantage of the gift, she said the district may also be able to pay for in-state college visits for seniors who may otherwise not have had the chance.

Rivera said his donation will go to the Marietta Schools Foundation, which will then distribute the money to students.

The $10,000 bonus came as a perk of his contract extension, which was approved by the school board in September and lasts until June 2021. The extension guaranteed him a salary of $190,136, including a raise of $5,000. His retirement pay, benefits and other perks written into the contract bring his total annual compensation to more than $226,000.

Rivera said he had the donation written into the contract when it was extended, but didn’t yet know specifically what the money would be used for. He said since he received the $10,000 in December, paying for applications was out of the question last year, as early deadlines had already passed.

He said he sat down with the Marietta High School’s college adviser to discuss the “most real and immediate impact” that he could have on students by donating the money. The answer was to incentivize applying early for college, and so, nearly a year later, it is gratifying to deliver on a promise to give back, Rivera said.

“I am grateful that families know that Marietta City Schools, and specifically the superintendent, are in the middle of this process with them, and it isn’t just lip service,” he said. “It’s actually a value statement and a priority for me.”

SMYRNA COUNCILMAN ANNOUNCES: Derek Norton, Smyrna councilman, has officially launched a campaign for mayor of Smyrna.

“It’s official — (wife) Laura and I are glad to report that the Derek Norton for Mayor Campaign is up and running at full speed!” Norton said in a release issued Friday.

Current Mayor Max Bacon, who has reigned supreme in Smyrna for 34 years, shocked Cobb politicos last month when he announced he was done. That cleared the way for a Norton campaign.

In a statement earlier this month, Bacon indicated that Norton would be the man to succeed him. “I’m going out of office in January, and I’m going to make sure the city is safe, and when I do turn it over to the next mayor, who will probably be Derek Norton ... he’s on board with this too,” Bacon said in an earlier meeting.

Candidates qualify Aug. 20-22. The election is Nov. 5.

SEX CASE SMOTHERED, COVERED AND CHUNKED, BUT MORE TO COME: The jury was seated and opening arguments underway. So, it was a shocker when the announcement came that a settlement had been reached in the Waffle House sex tape case, the salacious seven-year dispute between the restaurant chain’s chairman Joseph Rogers Jr. and his former housekeeper, Mye Brindle, who secretly recorded them having sex. That bombshell was dropped Tuesday in Cobb Superior Court.

But the concupiscent case still has another chapter. Around Town reached out to Rogers’ attorney Robert Ingram for a statement. He said Rogers “is pleased with this outcome and now plans to focus his efforts on his pending lawsuit against Ms. Brindle’s former lawyers ... ” Defendants in that civil action pending in Cobb Superior Court include David Cohen, Hylton Dupree, Jr. and John Butters.

Lisa Cupid

THERE’S NO SHORTAGE of folks hoping to fill the District 4 seat held by Commissioner Lisa Cupid, who hopes to oust county Chairman Mike Boyce in next year’s election.

At least five people have filed declarations of intent to either accept campaign contributions or spend on campaign expenditures in the District 4 commissioner race to date.

One hopeful is community activist Monica DeLancy, 45, of Austell, a Daytona Beach native who works as a parent resource specialist with the Cobb School District.

The mother of two is active in such groups as the Austell and Powder Springs community task forces and the We Thrive in Riverside Renters Association, among others.

“I do it for the children. When I moved to this area ... this area was plagued with being crime-ridden, drug-ridden, all of those things, so I said I had to be involved in the community because I wanted to change that stereotype for the area. So that’s why. It’s for my kids,” she said of her community involvement.

Monica DeLancy

No stranger to the campaign trail, DeLancy previously ran against Cupid and has also run for the seat held by state Rep. Erica Thomas, D-Austell.

Housing options for economically disadvantaged families is a priority for DeLancy.

“If we’re going to have jobs in Cobb County only paying $10 an hour and turn around asking for rent to be $900, $1,000 a month just for two bedrooms, that is out of reach for the hourly worker,” she said.

DeLancy says the formula that calculates affordable housing prices only considers people making $50,000 to $60,000 a year.

“They’re not meeting the low, low income housing. The formula that is used is just really high. We have teachers that are making $40,000 and still struggling to keep up with rent. They have to have roommates.”

DeLancy’s thoughts on the job Cupid has done as commissioner?

“Commissioner Cupid has done the best job she can do with what she has been offered,” DeLancy said, noting Cupid is but one of five on the Cobb Board of Commissioners.

Another candidate vying for the seat is Democrat Elliott Hennington of Powder Springs, 61, a general contractor who retired from the Air Force with the rank of master sergeant. The single father of two chairs the Powder Springs Task Force and also sits on the Austell Community Task Force. A deacon at Destiny World Church, this is his first run for elected office.

Elliott Hennington

Hennington’s No. 1 priority, if elected, is “trying to be a servant to the people, hearing what the people’s concerns are.”

A third candidate in the race is Sheila Edwards of Mableton, who challenged Rep. Thomas in the May 22, 2018, Democratic primary. Thomas won that four-woman race with 53 percent or 2,420 votes, but Edwards came in second at 32 percent of the vote or 1,451.

Others who have filed declarations to accept campaign contributions for the District 4 commissioner race include April McDonald and Monique Sheffield of Mableton.

AT asked state Rep. David Wilkerson, D-Powder Springs, chairman of the Cobb Legislative Delegation, about his take on the race.

“I would say Sheila’s run before, Monica’s run before and Elliott’s been involved, so I would probably say those are probably the three most well-known people right now, but I’m hearing there may be more people getting in the race,” Wilkerson said.

Wilkerson called it an open race without a front-runner yet.

“It’s a huge district so everybody is going to have to get out and meet people because if you think about it, I guess Monica and Sheila are probably more well known in the bottom portion and then Elliott is probably more well known in the Powder Springs area.”

Qualifying for the race is March 2-6 with the primary May 19 and the general election on Nov. 3, 2020.

CUPID HAD PLANNED on making an endorsement in the District 4 race.

“This particular individual has not only been active in things in the county but I’ve also seen her being involved politically,” Cupid said.

However, Cupid said she made that decision before others entered the race, including one person she said was as close as a sibling.

“This is tugging on my heart in more ways than I thought,” she said.

Cupid’s advice to candidates on running a successful campaign?

“That’s a weighty question. You can approach it from so many different angles. From a political perspective, I think it’s important if you want to run that you know how to run to win, and for those that want to be successful that they would take time to invest to realize what it takes to do that.”

From a service perspective, Cupid said, “I hope that whoever wins truly has a heart for not just the district and the physical development, but for the people and the human capital that’s here. I think District 4, it holds a special place in my heart, and there’s so many different people that make up our district who care about it, even if it is in different ways. And I think it’s important for people to have a sensitivity to all people here, even those who may not necessarily hold your beliefs. But I know that at the end of the day people are here because they care about their families, they care about their futures, and they care about our community, and I think it’s important to serve with a conviction that we’re accountable to each and every one.”

One message that comes through loud and clear from District 4 residents, Cupid said, is that they want “someone who will be an advocate for the district and a strong advocate for the district.”

LAW & ORDER: The Cobb County Police Department has its first African American deputy chief of police, with the swearing-in of Scott Hamilton to oversee administration operations.

Hamilton was one of five Cobb Police staff to be honored during a July 27 police badge pinning ceremony at the Cobb County Senior Center, which was attended by dozens of police command staff members, elected and appointed officials, families, friends, peers and community stakeholders, the department reported.

Hamilton began his law enforcement career with the Cobb Police Department in 1995 as a uniform patrol officer.

During his tenure with CCPD, Hamilton served on the DUI Task Force, MCS Cobra Narcotics Team, Department of Public Safety Training Unit and Criminal Investigations Unit. He also served as the special operations commander, in which he managed traffic services, the K-9 unit, the DUI task force, the mobile field force, explosives disposal, the DIVE Team, the honor guard and special events.

“He has moral integrity and great character,” said Deane Bonner, former president of the Cobb NAACP. “He has served our committees well,” Bonner added. “We salute him in is new role and he makes Cobb proud.”

Deane Bonner

Hamilton joins Cobb Police’s two other deputy chiefs, Jeff Adcock and Stuart VanHoozer, who oversee precinct operations and support operations, respectively.

“I’ve known Scott, he worked for me as an officer when I was a lieutenant, and I’ve known him ever since he started at the police department,” Cobb Public Safety Director Mike Register said Monday. “And then of course, when I came back as chief, he was doing a great job down at Precinct 2 as the commander there. After that, he went to special operations and was in charge of all of our special response units … he did a great job there, too, and I was very proud and honored to be a part of the ceremony that promoted him to deputy chief.”

Hamilton has a Bachelor of Science in health/physical education from the University of The Cumberlands and a Master of Science in Criminal Justice with a concentration in Critical Incident Management from Saint Leo University. He is also a 2018 graduate of the Northwestern University Center for Public Safety School of Police and Command.

“When you look at his credentials … he’s got a very operationally diverse background. I think that the county is lucky to have him,” Register said. “He has shown over the years that he is a committed servant to the community and a great representative of the Cobb County Police Department.”

TOWN HALL: Cobb Democratic Women are hosting an education town hall with Democratic school board members Charisse Davis and Jaha Howard from 7 to 9 p.m. Thursday at Golden Corral, 2211 Cobb Parkway, Smyrna. The event is moderated by CDW President Chinita Allen.

In a week when Smyrna officials showed concern for what was in the air, there came a big stink at the City Council’s Committee of the Whole meeting Thursday night.

Following reports that toxic pollution is wafting from two medical device sterilization plants in metro Atlanta, including one near Smyrna, Mayor Max Bacon on Monday told Around Town he’d be ordering city staff to pursue an air quality study.

His announcement came after Georgia Health News released a report concerning ethylene oxide emissions in the area, a toxic gas which the company Sterigenics uses to sterilize medical equipment in a facility just outside Smyrna’s city limits.

Hizzoner’s remarks were echoed by Smyrna Councilman Tim Gould during a community meeting Tuesday night at Campbell Middle School.

“The mayor asked me to let you know that the city is going to move forward with independent testing. I know we’ll coordinate with the other agencies also, but we just wanted to make sure we were doing what we could immediately to engage with a third-party testing company,” Gould told the crowd, noting he was “speaking on behalf of the city.”

Gould’s remarks, and his knowledge of the matter, seemed to irk two of his peers.

“I’ve been on the council for eight years, I have never gone out and spoken on behalf of the council without it being a decision of the council,” said Councilwoman Susan Wilkinson.

Wilkinson also referenced an email from Bacon that said if council members were to go on a tour of Sterigenics, which occurred earlier Tuesday prior to the community meeting, “that it was to be understood that we do not speak on behalf of the Smyrna City Council in any way, shape or form.”

“People have been speaking on behalf of the council when the council hasn’t ever discussed it or been informed about it, and I’ve been reading about it in all kinds of different places,” Wilkinson said. “I didn’t even know about it when I first got a phone call from a citizen. I wasn’t even aware of the whole thing, and it was already posted on our Smyrna Facebook page.”

Wilkinson’s reference to Bacon and Gould’s remarks was then grabbed by Councilwoman Maryline Blackburn.

“I have an issue with that, too,” Blackburn said of the air testing announcement, “because I think that should have come before the council.”

“Not necessarily, it doesn’t have to,” Bacon responded before saying shortly thereafter, “What’s the deal? I’m the chief executive officer, and maybe some of y’all don’t want to realize that.

“I very rarely exercise that, quote, ‘power,’ but in this case, I said we were going to step out front and we’re going to do this, and if you have a problem with that, then I’m sorry,” Bacon added. “It’s not like I just asked that we spend $12 billion on a study.”

Wilkinson responded by saying that while she was in favor of the air testing, she wanted “the respect of being communicated with, like other council members have been.”

Blackburn, meanwhile, piggybacked minutes later off of what Wilkinson had said, saying the air testing announcements had caught her “off guard.”

“To find out that the city is moving forward with partnering with the county to do … emissions testing. That took me off guard when people were asking about it, I didn’t know we had made the decision to do that. Yeah, you’re the CEO,” Blackburn said, turning her comments to Bacon, “but I think that it would’ve been nice for the entire council to be included in that to know what the city was going to be doing so that we would be able to explain that to them as well, but it appears that though there were certain people that were privy to that information.”

Blackburn concluded that the air affair had shown a “breakdown of communication” among the council.

Council members at Thursday’s meeting did not discuss any measures to be considered at Monday’s City Council meeting regarding Sterigenics or air testing, but as the MDJ previously reported, Smyrna will be partnering with Cobb County in discussing emissions testing procedures related to the Cobb facility.

County commissioners are expected to consider a measure at their Aug. 13 meeting that would authorize a contract with an EPD-certified air testing firm, along with a partnership with Smyrna and an agreement on how the governments would pay for the work. Yet to be determined, according to Commissioner Bob Ott, is where air samples will be taken and how many. Those decisions will factor into the cost of testing, which Ott declined to give a potential range for.

Democrat Leroy “Tre” Hutchins, PTA president at Pebblebrook High School and outspoken advocate for south Cobb schools, has announced his candidacy for Post 3 on the Cobb school board, a seat held by Democrat David Morgan.

Tre Hutchins 

Post 3 includes Pebblebrook and South Cobb high schools.

In addition to Morgan, other Cobb school board members up for election next year are Republicans Randy Scamihorn, David Banks and Brad Wheeler.

Hutchins said Morgan, who works a full-time job, can’t give south Cobb constituents the representation and access they deserve. A 35-year resident of the county now retired, Hutchins said his service on the board would be his full-time job.

“At this moment, we need a school board member who’s responsive and who has the time that they can dedicate to actually being involved in the community and helping to change the narrative of south Cobb. I ... actually have that availability and dedication and time to do so,” he said.

Hutchins said his first priority should he be elected would be the development of a plan to close the achievement gaps between the district’s high-achieving and underperforming schools. He added that south Cobb schools have not received the support they deserve from the school board and district, and they’ve suffered as a result.

For their performance so far, Hutchins says Superintendent Chris Ragsdale and the school board both get a “B.” Closing the achievement gap would bring them to an “A,” he said.

As a member of the first graduating class from Pebblebrook High School’s performing arts magnet, Hutchins balked in May at school board Vice Chairman Brad Wheeler’s suggestion of moving magnet schools off of overcrowded campuses in the county to campuses with fewer students, calling it short-sighted.

“To even suggest something like that in an effort to keep open schools that are grossly under capacity ... doesn’t really make sense,” he said then.

He took a more neutral approach this week.

“I want to do what’s best for the program. If that means moving, then I want to see what’s best for the program. But I also want to see what’s best for Pebblebrook as a whole,” Hutchins said. “The program is the school. It’s been there for 30 years. So it has to be something that’s going to be best for the performing arts program and what’s best for Pebblebrook.”

When pushed on whether that meant he would support a plan to move if that indeed was determined to be best for both parties, he left it at “I’d want to see the plan.”

Hutchins said he is a minister, entrepreneur, child advocate, foster parent and single father of three. He is also involved with various local civic organizations, advisory boards and school councils.

APPOINTMENTS: Gov. Brian Kemp has sworn in Cobb Probate Court Judge Judge Kelli Wolk to the Board of Commissioners of the Judges of the Probate Courts Retirement Fund of Georgia. The Judges of the Probate Courts Retirement Fund of Georgia provides a retirement benefit to probate judges.

Wolk has been judge of the Cobb County Probate Court since 2009. She earned her law degree from Georgia State University College of Law. She and her husband, Ron Day, live in Smyrna, and they have a daughter.

Cobb Chief Magistrate Court Judge Brendan Murphy has reappointed Joe Atkins to the Cobb County Board of Ethics.

Smyrna Mayor Max Bacon says he’s ordering the city manager to conduct an air quality test on Tuesday in the wake of reports that the area may have a higher than normal concentration of a toxic gas linked to cancer.

Earlier this month, Georgia Health News released a report concerning ethylene oxide emissions in the area, a toxic gas which the company Sterigenics uses to sterilize medical equipment.

Bacon emphasized that the Sterigenics plant is outside Smyrna’s city limits.

Even so, “We want to do our own air quality test. And I don’t want this company to do an air quality test. That doesn’t make any sense. We need to do our own air quality test, the city does. We’re going to do it ASAP, and we’re not going to wait around.”

Bacon said he has the support of Councilman Derek Norton and has already spoken to council members Tim Gould and Ron Fennel, among others.

Bacon is retiring at the end of the year after serving as mayor since the 1980s. He suggested that some state officials were using the toxic gas issue for political reasons. For instance, state Rep. Erick Allen, D-Smyrna, is holding a town hall at Campbell Middle School at 7 p.m. Tuesday on the subject. Allen says he and other lawmakers will be in attendance as will executives from Sterigenics to address concerns.

Bacon said he’s not involved in that town hall.

“He’s not contacted me, so I’m really not involved with Erick Allen at all. Period. You would think that Erick Allen would have contacted me immediately, but he has not. And I really don’t appreciate it, but that’s OK. You know, he’s got to do his thing. I’m not doing it for any political reason. I’m going out of office in January, and I’m going to make sure the city is safe, and when I do turn it over to the next mayor, who will probably be Derek Norton, and he’s on board with this too, (we want) to make sure our citizens are safe, regardless of whether this is in the city or in unincorporated Cobb County.”

Meantime, in addition to conducting its own air quality analysis, Bacon said the city will work with County Chairman Mike Boyce to answer any uncertainties.

“It’s one of these things where we don’t know if it’s a cancer-causing issue or they need to be shut down or what is it doing to our quality of life,” he said. “So I think just to err on the side of caution we need to be very proactive and forward with it, and let’s find out what the heck is going on.”

Mike Boyce

County Chairman Mike Boyce scored a victory this week in winning passage of his bloated budget and millage rate, which increases taxes no matter how many ways he wants to spin it.

As the swing vote, Commissioner JoAnn Birrell handed Boyce that victory.

JoAnn Birrell

Fiscal conservatives may at least take heart by the performance of freshman Commissioner Keli Gambrill, who in her comments prior to voting against the budget with Bob Ott, left Boyce’s budget with more holes than the RMS Titanic.

“Where to begin?” Gambrill said, beginning by answering remarks made by Birrell. Birrell attempted to justify her support of the budget by reminding the audience how the county allegedly faced a $30 million hole last year.

“We all remember the $30 million deficit,” Gambrill answered, referring to Boyce’s victory last year in hiking the millage by 1.7 mills. “We all remember that the millage rate was set last year to cover that. However, that has been repaid. So looking at this year, that automatically puts $30 million more in our budget for us to spend.”

Keli Gambrill

Gambrill then ticked off other expenses from the $14 million in excess fund balance dollars spent on capital projects earlier this year to the $8 million loan commissioners provided for the Cobb Medical Examiner’s facility, a facility that ended up costing $11 million despite its SPLOST allocation of $3 million.

“That comes up to about $52 million,” Gambrill said. “So if we truly have that money, where is it and why isn’t it being reflected and taken off the backs of the taxpayers this year?”

Another argument Birrell used to justify her vote for the budget was that it reduced the amount of water system revenues transferred to the general fund. The budget transfers 9% of water system revenues, which amounts to $20.6 million, according to county spokesman Ross Cavitt. For decades, commissioners have raided water system revenues, slurping them into the general fund to be spent at whim, such that last year there wasn’t enough funds to operate the water system. So what did commissioners do? Why, they raised water rates on customers. Ott has called the transfer a hidden tax, and this wasn’t lost on Gambrill either.

“If we are looking at reducing that transfer, then we also need to look at reducing the rates that we put onto your water bill because this is a tax as well,” Gambrill said, before turning her attention to Cobb Travel and Tourism.

“They are a nonprofit. If we are not going to be funding nonprofits, we do not need to be funding Cobb Travel and Tourism,” she said.

Gambrill said she realized the Association of County Commissioners of Georgia has said the county is legally required to fund Cobb Travel at 2% of the hotel-motel tax revenues from the $3 dollar a night hotel tax in the Cumberland Community Improvement District. Given those revenues were $3.6 million, “we would be required to pay them $72,000, however, currently we have $1.5 million allocated to Cobb Travel and Tourism, which is a nonprofit. … So with those discrepancies and again I think we have revenues there that we’re not realizing, I cannot support the budget,” Gambrill said.

ROADS & BRIDGES: One of the more revealing facts to come out of the budget debate was highlighted by Ott, who illustrated how much the county relies on a voter-approved special purpose tax to maintain its roadways.

The enabling legislation that created the commission refers to the board as the Commissioners of Roads and Bridges, Ott said.

Bob Ott

Yet about 95 percent of the county’s transportation department is funded by the 1% special purpose local option sales tax.

“Your roads, your bridges, your sidewalks are all in SPLOST,” Ott said.

The county has over 2,400 miles of roads which require regularly scheduled paving with an accepted cycle of a 20-year rotation on major streets and a 25-year rotation on minor streets. Ott said Cobb’s local streets have a rating of 49 out of 100 and major streets have a rating at 63. To simply maintain that number costs the county about $26 million a year.

What is troubling besides road paving clearly not being a special purpose, Ott argued, is that it is being funded out of the 2016 SPLOST at $15 million a year.

“There is no line item in this budget addressing DOT, streets and sidewalks that show a move to pulling this back to the general fund budget to where it needs to be,” he said.

The point is if SPLOST was voted down by voters, Cobb DOT could not operate and roads would not be repaved and maintained.

An additional DOT issue is the county’s bus system, CobbLinc.

When he was first elected, Ott said the general fund subsidy for transit was $9 million.

“This year the subsidy is almost $20 million for a $25 million operation,” he said.

At a previous work session, Ott said there was discussion about why the transit subsidy was even discussed.

“A subsidy that is almost the equivalent of 1 mill needs to be discussed. Cobb has taken on too many grants and those that are expiring are now forcing the county to pick up the tab,” he said.

PENSION PAINS: The health or lack thereof of Cobb County’s employee pension plan was also spotlighted during the budget debate. In raising the issue, Ott said the problem began when a previous board adopted the so-called Rule of 80. That is, if the sum of the employee’s age and years of service total more than 80, they can receive full pension benefits.

Ott said the single reason the pension is so underfunded is the fact that when the Rule of 80 was put in place, it was made retroactive.

“The rate retirees received was more than they had paid,” he said. “That alone took the pension from being funded at 95% in 1997 to 52% today. A few years back, the board adjusted the pension to a hybrid plan, but that never adjusted the underlying issues. The county is now a few years into a 30-year catchup.”

WITHOUT A LOBBYIST: Cobb leaders announced Tuesday the federal government would kick in $5 million — the lion’s share of the money needed to fully fund the $44 million ramp connecting the reversible lanes to Cumberland — through a grant program.

Ott, who oversees the area, spoke to the MDJ about the grant announcement during a break in the commission meeting after which the county’s budget had been passed.

“It’s been a long road, many efforts by the county and the CID to get the money. It’s a much-needed project. It is a true example of cooperation between the county and the CID,” Ott said. “And interestingly, with some of the comments heard tonight during budget hearings, it was done without a lobbyist.”

The fiscal 2020 budget passed Tuesday night allocates $250,000 for a lobbyist on the federal level.

The county has not had a federal lobbyist since its annual $168,000 contract with Marietta-based Garrett McNatt Hennessey & Carpenter 360 expired in 2016.

Lisa Cupid

Commissioner Lisa Cupid was among those who argued in favor of funding a lobbyist.

“There’s concern about having a federal lobbyist. Cobb County misses out on its fair share of tax dollars,” Cupid said. “When we have no one talking to our counterparts in D.C., we lose money that other municipalities and localities are taking advantage of. They get grant opportunities that pass Cobb County by.”

ARRESTED DEVELOPMENT: In its Friday newsletter, the Georgia Public Policy Foundation took note of MDJ reporter Ross Williams’ article on the Development Authority of Cobb County. Williams writes in that article how the development authority’s grants committee approved a grant of $75,000 to help fund WellStar Kennestone Hospital’s new $126 million emergency department currently under construction.

Titling the item in its newsletter “arrested development,” the Georgia Public Policy Foundation observed that WellStar Health System “had 2016 revenue of more than $1.1 billion and assets of more than $2.7 billion.”

Who appoints members to the Development Authority of Cobb County? Why, the Cobb Board of Commissioners, natch.

East Cobb’s Johnson Ferry Baptist Church has announced the man set to take over as its new head pastor — the megachurch’s second leader in nearly 40 years.

The pastor-to-be is Clay Smith, senior pastor of First Baptist in Matthews, North Carolina, since 2014.

His ascension comes after founding Senior Pastor Bryant Wright announced his plans last year to step down after serving since 1981.

In announcing his retirement, Wright said it was not an easy decision, but he felt God was telling him it was time to move on, and the church needed a pastor from a younger generation.

In a videotaped message to his congregation, Wright said he has no doubt the 10-member committee tasked with finding his replacement made the right choice.

“When we began to pray about this, Anne (Wright) and I as a couple, the big prayer was not only was God leading us to let go of the church that we loved greatly, but who is it that God was preparing to be in this role, and there’s no doubt in my mind that Clay Smith is the man that God has chosen for this role,” he said.

Wright leaves big shoes to fill. Under his leadership, the church has grown from a group of 20 families meeting in a vacant doctor’s office to a sprawling campus on Johnson Ferry Road, not far from the border with Sandy Springs.

The megachurch now has over 7,300 members and seven Sunday morning worship services with an average worship attendance of about 4,000.

Wright also served as president of the Southern Baptist Convention from 2010 to 2012, and founded Right from the Heart Ministries, a video, radio and web app-based non-denominational ministry. Wright has said he will continue working on Right from the Heart after he leaves Johnson Ferry.

Smith, himself the son of a pastor, was born in Greenville, South Carolina. He holds a master’s from Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary in Fort Worth, Texas, and is a doctoral student at Southwestern with a concentration in preaching.

He lives with his wife, Terrica, and their three daughters.

In a short message to congregants, Smith said taking over for Wright will be a major undertaking.

“I’m humbled,” he said. “This is an incredible ministry, close to four decades of reaching the world with the Gospel, and just to think about being a part of that is a humbling, honored step that I believe the Lord has led us to.”

Selection committee member Jennifer Chapin said Smith’s humility is part of what the committee liked about him. She said during one conversation, she asked him how he felt about attending service at the church one Sunday.

“I don’t really know what I expected to hear him say, but he said ‘I really feel humbled,’” she said. “I was like, wow. That really surprised me because Clay had been at the top of our list as far as the No. 1 candidate, and we had been praying as a search team … He had just checked all the boxes of being a great pastor, a great shepherd and a great leader, but I was just excited to hear him say that because, oh my gosh, he’s really a man of God. He’s got this other side to him that we really hadn’t seen yet.”

Terrica Smith told the congregation she is excited to become a part of the community.

“From the moment I walked into the door, being greeted, I had my three little girls, they were so helpful getting me to the children’s area and to the youth area,” she said. “I was just overwhelmed by everyone’s friendliness and willing to help me plug in. We enjoyed being in traditional service and we were absolutely blown away when we walked into the modern service and the high school choir was singing, they had just gotten back from a mission trip. It was powerful, it was moving and we all had chills.”

Smith is scheduled to deliver five Sunday sermons Aug. 4, and after the last service, the church will hold a vote to approve the recommendation to hire Smith.

Wright is expected to stay on for a few months, through November or December, sharing preaching responsibilities with Smith and showing him the ropes, and Smith is set to be officially installed Sept. 8.

Mary Ansley Southerland sends word that Trey Meaders was selected to be the 2019-20 mascot for the Georgia State University Panthers. He assumes his role as “Pounce” immediately. Trey retired in May as Marietta High School’s Devil mascot. Southerland said he looks forward to his new role at GSU and fulfilling his lifelong dream of being a collegiate student-athlete. Georgia State kicks off its football season at the University of Tennessee on Aug. 31 and the game will be televised on ESPNU. No doubt his Marietta friends and family, including parents Haley and Robert Meaders and grandparents Jeanie and Johnny Hunter, will be quick learners of the chants, cheers and traditions at Georgia State. Three cheers for Trey and the Panthers!

Climbing high into the sun: Maj. Gen. John P. Healy will assume command of the 22nd Air Force from Maj. Gen. Craig L. La Fave during a ceremony at Dobbins Air Reserve Base on Friday.

Healy joins 22nd AF from his previous assignment as director, Exercise and Assessments Directorate at U.S. European Command in Stuttgart, Germany. Healy is a command pilot with more than 5,000 hours in the C-17A, C-5A/B and other aircraft.

As commander, Healy will lead more than 12,000 reserve citizen airmen in 14 units at 30 locations across the U.S. The general will serve at the Numbered Air Force’s headquarters here and will be responsible for the Air Force Reserve’s tactical airlift capability provided by units flying the C-130 Hercules. In addition to airlift, 22nd AF units perform a variety of mission sets to include aeromedical evacuation, distinguished visitor airlift, undergraduate pilot training, civil engineering, flight tests, joint planning, Basic Military Training and more. The Numbered Air Force is also home to three Department of Defense special missions: weather reconnaissance provided by the “Hurricane Hunters” of the 403rd Wing at Keesler Air Force Base, Mississippi, aerial firefighting from the 302nd Airlift Wing at Peterson AFB, Colorado, and aerial spray performed by the 910th Airlift Wing at Youngstown Air Reserve Station, Ohio.

RIP: The Smyrna Police Department announced Tuesday the passing of former Smyrna Police Chief Stan Hook, who served as chief of the department from December 1989 to December 2012.

Stanley Hook

“The men and women of the Smyrna Police Department along with Chief Hook’s family are in mourning as we prepare to say our final goodbyes. We are asking the community to keep the Hook family in your thoughts and prayers. If you feel inspired, please leave some kind words or comments that we can pass onto Chief Hook’s family. Rest peacefully Chief … we have it from here!!” Smyrna PD posted on its Facebook page.

Around Town expresses our condolences to the family of Audrey Beth Grizzle Tumlin, 34, of Atlanta, who died Saturday after a courageous six-month battle with brain cancer.

Audrey was the wife of Sig Tumlin and mother of 19-month-old George. She was the daughter-in-law of Marietta Mayor Steve and Jean Alice Tumlin.

A celebration of her life will be at 2 p.m. Thursday at Glenn Memorial United Methodist Church on the campus of Emory University.

A visitation will also be held at Glenn Memorial from 5 to 7 p.m. Wednesday.

Audrey and Sig Tumlin with son, 19-month-old George

In lieu of flowers, the family requests donations be made to Aflac Cancer and Blood Disorders Center of Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta.

Around Town expresses our condolences to the family of Audrey Beth Grizzle Tumlin, 34, of Atlanta, who died Saturday after a courageous six-month battle with brain cancer.

Audrey is the wife of Sig Tumlin and mother of 19-month-old George. She is the daughter-in-law of Marietta Mayor Steve and Jean Alice Tumlin.

A celebration of her life will be held at 2 p.m. Thursday at Glenn Memorial United Methodist Church on the campus of Emory University.

A visitation will also be held at Glenn Memorial from 5-7 p.m. on Wednesday.

In lieu of flowers, the family requests donations be made to: Aflac Cancer and Blood Disorders Center of Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta.

GLANCING OVER at Cobb’s Superior Court judges who selected him as the county’s new chief magistrate and who turned out Thursday to see him sworn into office, Brendan Murphy smiled.

“Everyone always says at these events that you’re the best bench in the state of Georgia. And now finally we know it’s true,” he said.

Judge Steve Schuster gave the opening remarks in Cobb Superior Court’s ceremonial courtroom, which was packed with family, friends and dignitaries, and, as usual, had the crowd laughing.

“Judge (Reuben) Green gets very nervous when I speak, and today he approached me in the back hall, and he did this test with me where he said start at a 100 and count backwards by seven. So I go OK, ‘100, 93, 86, 79, 72.’ He said ‘OK you’re clear. You’re not senile yet. I said thank you because those are the only numbers I had written on my wrist,” Schuster said.

Schuster went on to say Green was kind enough to send him a note reminding him that Murphy’s children would be there and to keep his remarks appropriate.

“And I said don’t worry about me. You need to worry about Judge (Kimberly Childs).”

Schuster said he, Green and Judge Rob Flournoy were fortunate enough to have Murphy in their courtrooms as a prosecutor.

“And we were perceived by the bar as better judges because of Brendan’s demeanor,” Schuster said. “He was always respectful with everybody. He was able to relate in a professional manner. And that reflected well on us because the people were left with a taste of his professionalism.”

Schuster spoke of Murphy’s humility.

“You know, I was walking in today and I looked at the magistrate’s parking lot, which was normally populated with Land Rovers and Porsches, and I see that Honda Odyssey,” Schuster said. “And that reminded me of his humble roots. But he also reminded me that it’s a great campaign car.”

The judge shared a story of when Murphy was prosecuting in his courtroom earlier on.

“He kind of heard about me ... being me, and I’m sitting during a plea one day, and I’m up there speaking, and I look over … and he’s going (draws his hand across his throat), and I thought to myself, ‘Wait, I don’t understand that. So after court I called him back, and I said ‘Brendan, you cannot tell me to cut off the defendant’s head.’ He says to me, ‘No, I was telling you to be quiet and not ruin this plea.’”

Schuster later learned the same tactic did not work with Flournoy but did with Green.

As Schuster recited the names of all the elected officials in the room, he said, “Usually Judge (Ann) Harris would walk in about now if this were a judge’s meeting so she would come flying in with her day binder.”

And as if on cue, Harris entered the courtroom, prompting the audience to roar with laughter as she gave them a puzzled look.

Judge Childs, who also gave remarks, said Schuster advised her to keep them at 10 minutes.

“Judge Schuster, if you feel like I’m going on too long and you need a comfort break, feel free to just slip out that side door over there,” Childs said before turning to the Versailles-sized portrait of Schuster hanging on the courtroom wall.

“I mean, your portrait is right there, and it is so lifelike, it’s like a silent version of Judge Schuster,” she said.

Murphy also teased Schuster about the portrait.

“I especially appreciate Judge Schuster getting me the phone number for the beautiful artist ... that did these paintings, but I told him I thought it was a little premature. Day 1 was a little premature,” Murphy said.

As for his minivan, “You need a vehicle big enough to carry that very modestly sized portrait,” Murphy said.

MURPHY GAVE SHOUTOUTS to many, including Cobb and Marietta school district attorney Clem Doyle, explaining how he began his legal career with Doyle’s firm, Gregory, Doyle, Calhoun & Rogers.

“For better or worse, Clem’s the one that brought me to Marietta. So if you’re mad at anybody, be mad at Clem. Clem taught me what it means to represent a client. He taught me what it means to work with elected officials like Ms. Grimes,” Murphy said, in reference to former Marietta school board member Jeriene Bonner Grimes, president of the Cobb NAACP. “He taught me the business side of the law. He taught me about our community, the Gem City, its history and introduced me to its leaders. He showed me firsthand the duties lawyers have to serve the community, and I assure you, Clem, that Justice Hines’ life’s work of courtesy, dignity and respect is already being carried out by these judges in the courtroom, and as long as the people of Cobb County return me to the bench, it will continue as well.”

The reference, of course, was to Doyle’s father-in-law, the late great Georgia Supreme Court Chief Justice Harris Hines.

Murphy also told tales on himself, sharing how his first non jury trial, an ordinance case in magistrate court, didn’t end the way he wanted. The case involved either a dog bite or a dog that was off its leash.

“The evidence going up — it was terrible. The dog, the teeth were showing. The dog was growling. Its name was Spike or Killer or Vicious. It was something terrible. But then I made the young lawyer’s mistake of asking one more question. I asked the question I didn’t know the answer to. And so I asked the victim, ‘Well, ma’am, what kind of dog was this dog that did this awful thing to you? And she said, ‘Sir, he was a 3½-pound Pomeranian.’ I just sat down. ‘The state rests.’”

GBI Director Vic Reynolds also received a shoutout for hiring Murphy when he was district attorney.

“It took Vic a while to bring me on board. Some of my friends in the solicitor’s office may remember that,” Murphy said. “I went over to the DA’s office so many times people were starting to think I was on pretrial diversion.

“Vic taught me when you mess up, you fess up. You learn from it, you get better, you move on. That’s what we’re going to do at Magistrate Court. Do the right thing. Work hard. Don’t worry about the politics. Do the right thing and everything else will take care of itself.”

He also praised his predecessor, Joyette Holmes, recently tapped by Gov. Brian Kemp as Cobb’s new district attorney.

“I’m thankful that you advocated, you went out on a limb and advocated that this office be a nonpartisan office in line with all the other judges and many magistrates across this state. This ensures that the court will remain free of any hint of politics. The only thing that matters in magistrate court is the law and the facts. So I thank you for that,” he said.

His appointment as chief magistrate was the greatest honor of his career, he said.

“Today’s a very special day, but it’s not a birthday party or a lifetime achievement award or a wedding, though weddings are a free service provided by magistrate court every day at 6 p.m. So if you’re out there needing a nudge, consider this the nudge. We’ll see you at 6 o’clock,” Murphy said.

As Holmes would say, magistrate court is the people’s court, Murphy said.

“Overall, our job is to make sure that all people in Cobb County are welcomed warmly, treated fairly and helped efficiently. So let’s get started. But let’s go have some cake first.”

A RABBIT SCARCITY is what launched the not-to-be-missed political event of the season.

That’s according to state Sen. Lindsey Tippins, R-west Cobb, who Sheriff Neil Warren asked to take the stage along with former Sheriff Bill Hutson at the 30th annual Corn Boilin’ at Jim Miller Park on Monday.

“For many years, Sheriff Hutson had a rabbit fry at the end of the season, and rabbits got about the same way as quail did in the state of Georgia — they got awfully scarce,” Tippins said. “So there wasn’t enough rabbit to have a rabbit fry so Sheriff Hutson said ‘I think we’re going to have a corn boilin’. I said I’ve heard a lot of things, tell me about a corn boilin?”

When corn matures, country folk would call it roasting ears. That is, the corn was ready to be roasted over a fire and eaten. Only, they didn’t pronounce it “roasting” ears, Tippins explained.

“Nobody never says ‘roasting ear’ unless they’re a Yankee. Around here it was always “rossen ears,’” he said. “Basically, that’s when the corn would come in and it was still soft enough to eat, because just old field corn would get hard and tough. A lot of people kept it for stock feed, but the ‘rossen ear’ stage was when it was young and tender. And a lot of them would roast corn.”

Three decades ago, Sheriff Hutson gathered a group of 40 or so friends at Johnny Woodward’s farm at the corner of Villa Rica and Macland roads for the debut corn boilin’.

“They had this fire outside and they had an old black iron washpot to cook all the corn in. We heated that washpot with pieces of firewood, which is the way they used to do the family wash because they didn’t have water heaters. It was a pretty primitive affair,” Tippins recalled.

The senator said he never will forget how Hank Floyd, a developer who went to work for Hutson, gave him a look after he’d enjoyed about four or five ears of corn at the inaugural event.

“Hank looked over to me, he said ‘Tippins, I ploughed a 1,200 mule that don’t eat as much corn as you do,” Tippins said with a laugh. “He’d get over there on the side and he was the first one to start cooking hoe cakes. He brought a little old griddle in there and he was cooking hoe cakes on a camp stove. This thing just kind of developed.”

Hutson said he planned to hold a larger event the following year and charge $10 a plate.

“The joke around town used to be well, don’t mess with Sheriff Hutson. Anybody who can sell a plate of boiled corn and pinto beans and cornbread for $10 a plate, they’re going to be smarter than you are, so you better not mess with him. Now that was 30 years ago.”

Tippins hasn’t missed one since the beginning.

“We really enjoy it. But more than that, we’re all blessed with having good law enforcement and safety in Cobb County,” Tippins said, noting Hutson left a long legacy of service to Cobb County, one that Warren has continued.

And lest you think it’s just Republicans who turn out, think again. Around Town spotted a number of prominent Democrats enjoying Monday’s corn boilin’, among them state Sen. Michael Rhett, D-Marietta, state Rep. Mary Frances Williams, D-Marietta, and Democrat Flynn Broady, who challenged U.S. Rep. Barry Loudermilk, R-Cassville, last year and now is running for Cobb District Attorney.

THE SHERIFF’S RACE: Much has been made about Sheriff Warren’s odds of being reelected given how blue Cobb County has turned in recent elections. For instance, state Rep. David Wilkerson, D-Powder Springs, chairman of the Cobb Legislative Delegation, has said Warren’s right-wing stance is now out of touch with the majority of Cobb voters.

But former Georgia GOP Chair Sue Everhart, who was among the hundreds at Monday’s Corn Boilin’, doesn’t see it that way.

“Wilkerson is way out on the left, and I like the sheriff, I like what he’s done. We’ve got crime down in Cobb County. It has stayed down in Cobb County, and as long as he keeps doing what he’s doing, I’m going to vote for him,” Everhart said.

Everhart believes Warren will indeed be reelected.

“And I’m going to help him,” she said.

HANDEL & THE OMNIMBUS: Marjorie Taylor Greene has pulled no punches in pointing out the flaws of fellow Republicans vying for a chance to challenge U.S. Rep. Lucy McBath, D-Marietta, in next year’s election.

One of the ways she’s going after Karen Handel, who lost the seat to McBath, is by pointing out how Handel voted in favor of the so-called omnibus bill while in office. In a recent Facebook video, Greene launched into a critique of Handel’s support of that bill.

Majorie Taylor Greene

Handel was sent to Washington to represent the district’s Republican, conservative values, Greene said.

“Well, let me tell you guys something, she didn’t do that. She went straight into Congress and broke a lot of her promises. She voted for the omnibus bill. And the omnibus bill, if you guys remember in 2018, you guys remember how upset I was about that bill if you were following my page,” Greene said. “You heard me talking about it. You heard me really railing against that heavy, heavy spending package. Well that omnibus bill was the most expensive spending bill in U.S. history. Karen Handel voted for that.

“It also funded Planned Parenthood. Karen Handel voted to fund Planned Parenthood. It also funded sanctuary cities. Karen Handel voted to fund sanctuary cities,” Greene claimed.

“It also did not fund President Trump’s border wall. Karen Handel, our congresswoman, didn’t fund President Trump’s border wall. As a matter of fact, I think she only supported him because he said he supported her. The rest of the time I don’t think Karen Handel really supports President Trump. I support President Trump, but I don’t think Karen Handel does, which is really unfortunate.”

Greene suggests this is why Handel lost to McBath.

“I supported Karen, I voted for her, but after she voted for the omnibus bill and she didn’t fund President Trump’s border wall, which we really need — it’s a big, big deal — she let all of us down and people were not motivated to go out and get her reelected when Lucy McBath ran against her this past November in 2018. So we lost our seat.”

Around Town caught up with Handel to ask about her support of the omnibus bill, given Greene’s critique.

Karen Handel

“First of all, fact check her, No. 1,” Handel said. “Secondly, let’s remember that Donald Trump signed the omnibus. If you pull my statement from back then it will be the same. There were a lot of things in it that I did not like. But I was not going to leave our military men and women in the lurch because it had the funding for them, and I wasn’t going to leave fellow Americans in the lurch who needed desperately disaster relief funding, so that’s the reason I voted for it. Experience matters and what I know and what I have experienced is that in Congress it’s either yes or no. It’s not other. And I simply wasn’t going to not be in the place of not supporting our military men and women in the much needed rebuild that we had to do and fellow Americans who needed the disaster relief.”

Handel also addressed the border wall.

“One thing on the wall, I would like to point out that the immigration bill that I helped get passed, I worked on a section of it, had $75 billion advanced for the wall and other security measures. That bill was defeated by the Freedom Caucus. So maybe, I don’t know where she’s going to be on that, but you know when we have one part of our party team up with the ultra left, that’s bad,” Handel said.

Smyrna Mayor Max Bacon’s three siblings turned out to hear his last State of the City address on Thursday. From left: Linda Kenney, Max Bacon, David Bacon and Jenny Ruth Williams.

Aside from dropping the bombshell news of his retirement, Smyrna Mayor Max Bacon was in usual form Thursday, having the crowd in stitches during his annual State of the City address.

Linda Kenney said she had the honor and privilege of introducing her “baby brother,” and in doing so delivered “The Top 10 Things You May Not Know About Max...or Don’t Care to Know About Max.”

What are they?

No. 10: He was born and raised in Smyrna.

No. 9: He is the second child of Arthur and Dot Bacon.

No. 8: When his younger brother David was born and he looked in the bassinet, he said, “That doesn’t look like the puppy you promised me,” Kenney said.

No. 7: Many may think Bacon is something of a space cadet, Kenney said, showing as proof a 1958 photo of Bacon at a Boy Scout exposition wearing a Sputnik hat.

Many may think Max Bacon is something of a space cadet, his sister said, showing as proof a 1958 photo of Bacon at a Boy Scout exposition.

No. 6: Max is very generous, especially on birthdays. Kenney showed a fake $10 million check he gave her for her birthday along with a packet of expired tuna fish.

A fake check Max Bacon gave to his sister on her birthday.

No. 5: He ran for City Council at the age of 31.

He ran for City Council at the age of 31

No. 4: “He never could get the best of Daddy. Even when he served on council with him. There was a regular fight on Sundays when we went to Sunday lunch where Max thought he could wrestle Daddy,” Kenney said, showing a photo of the older and younger Bacon squaring off. “As you can see, Daddy’s got his hands down and he’s getting ready to bring him to his knees … Probably voted against everything Max voted for when Daddy was mayor and Max was a councilman.”

Smyrna Mayor Max Bacon wrestling with his father, the late Arthur Bacon, who was also mayor of Smyrna.

No. 3: “Has a wicked sense of humor that sometimes can be inappropriate. So on behalf of the Bacon family, I’m here to apologize if he has ever offended and to tell you that he really didn’t mean anything evil or mean by it, that’s just his sense of humor.”

No. 2: “Max is quick to tell you that the success of this city is not due to him but instead it’s due to the citizens of Smyrna, the council people of Smyrna, and the employees of Smyrna, and it’s all of them working together that’s what has made Smyrna one of the top 50 cities in the United States.”

And the No. 1 thing about Mayor Bacon?

“You’re not going to find anybody in this city that loves this city and cares about its people and your quality of life (more) than Max Bacon,” she said.

Elected to the Smyrna City Council in 1979, Bacon was first elected mayor in 1985, the year his father, Smyrna Mayor Arthur Bacon, died in office.

Taking the lectern, Bacon observed that the Smyrna Community Center’s gym, which had been transformed into a banquet hall for the occasion, with black curtains, would be a great place for a funeral.

“Boy have I had a storybook life, living here, growing up here, born Oct. 10, 1948,” Bacon said.

“There’s not too many natives left, and that’s OK. We’re a very diverse community which I’m very proud of. It didn’t used to look like this back in the ’50s and ’60s,” he said.

Students at Campbell High School told him one of the things they like best about their school is its diversity.

“One of the students went to Pope High, which was about 90 percent white, and they said, ‘Smyrna is more like the world,’ and they felt like they could learn more, interact with people and felt like it was an advantage to them to come to Campbell,” Bacon said.

Bacon praised Smyrna’s schools. And while he enjoys going to the schools to read to children, Bacon said they have to be young.

“Third grade class and below is what I will read. Second grade class. Because I get corrected. It really sort of aggravates me.”

The mayor gave a shoutout to the city’s attorney, Scott Cochran.

“They’ve been our city attorneys, I want to say my dad appointed them in 1975, maybe something like that, and they have been our city attorneys since that time. I love Scott Cochran. I love to hear him give advice to eight elected officials, and every time he gives us serious advice, we do the exact opposite. When he says ‘The less you talk about this issue on the agenda tonight in the public hearing, the better off you’re going to be.’ So what does that tell you? Everybody gonna talk.”

The mayor also gave a shoutout to Porch Light Latin Kitchen, calling it one of the greatest restaurants in Atlanta.

“If you’ve not been to Porch Light, I can’t tell you. I love Puerto Ricans. Any Puerto Ricans in here?” the mayor said, surveying the packed room.

“One? It’s OK. Puerto Ricans, their food is unbelievable!”

Of Porch Light, Bacon said, “I swear if you go up there and you don’t get a good meal, I’ll pay for it. Now, I’m not paying for your drinks ...”

In his slideshow presentation, a photo of the mayor’s dog flashed on the screen.

“This is the only woman that has never left,” Bacon said, causing the audience to roar with laughter.

“I was thinking today, I’ve had three wives. You would have thought I could have kept one of ’em. ... I think if you asked all three wives they’d tell you they still love me — they just don’t want to have anything to do with me. … That’s OK. ... I’m paid up. … I loved my first wife, who was the mother of our children, I loved my second wife. I loved my third wife. … I don’t know ... just something happened.”

Bacon said he mentioned this not to hurt anyone. He really did love all three women, listing them off by name.

“It took (Smyrna) a while to get where we’re at. That’s what I’m trying to say is for those who just moved here a few years ago, it hasn’t always been like this. It was a struggle for all of us. Not just me. … It took us a while to get like this but I think that shows the character of Smyrna,” Bacon said ticking off all the achievements of the city under his tenure.

He couldn’t have done the job without his assistants.

“I’m surprised they haven’t had a heart attack,” he said in reference to the two heart attacks he had in 2016.

Toward the end of his speech, Bacon’s voice thickened with emotion.

“I was listening to a song today by Kenny Rogers which says something about when to hold ’em and when to fold ’em, and you get to a point in your life and you try to figure out when it’s time to fold ’em.”

At that moment, the heavens opened, unleashing a flood of rain.

“Is that the rain? This is a sign, ladies and gentlemen!”

His voice choked, Bacon announced he made the decision the day before not to seek reelection.

“Voters of Smyrna have been so good to me. For me to be in office this long has just been unbelievable,” he said. I’m going to be fine and the city is going to be fine.”

The room greeted him with a standing ovation.

A battle is coming next year, Cobb Sheriff Neil Warren warned the party faithful at the Cobb GOP’s Independence Day BBQ bash.

“They have already targeted the sheriff. Now that’s pretty bad when they’re already wanting to take on the sheriff. So we need to get together.”

Warren outlined what should be done.

“Ladies and gentlemen, the United States is the best country in the world and we cannot have a bunch of folks that do not believe in law and order and other issues that will take this country down. So we have got to stand up to these people.”

Warren said he was proud of the work President Donald Trump was doing.

“We have got to stop these gangsters, dope dealers from coming across our border,” Warren said. “We have got to secure that border. We have got to build that wall. We can no longer talk about it and go up to Washington and not do anything about it. We have got to stop it. We have got to stop bringing dope dealers, gang members coming across our borders and taking down our kids, our youth. They’re passing on some of the most dangerous drugs that you can find.”

Warren singled out U.S. Rep. Barry Loudermilk, R-Cassville, and former Cobb Sheriff Bill Hutson in his talk, thanking them for being fellow travelers.

“And he knows it’s time that we cannot sit back and lay down and take it easy. So I’ve even brought him out of his retirement from the mountains,” Warren said of Hutson. “He ... like me and a bunch of you folks are concerned about where this country is headed.”

Warren said he favors immigration.

“But they need to come the right way. So one more time: Build that wall,” he said.

“Build that wall!” the crowd shouted back.

“One more time. Build that wall,” the sheriff said.

“Build that wall!” the crowd chanted.

“And the last time. Build that wall,” Warren said.

“Build that wall!” they roared.

“God bless y’all,” Warren said.

For the last four elections, Democrat Gregory Gilstrap has challenged and lost to Warren in the sheriff’s race.

♦ In 2004, Warren beat him by 66%

♦ In 2008, by 59.8%

♦ In 2012, by 59.3%

♦ And in the 2016 election, by 56.22%.

Commenting on the 10-point gap Gilstrap closed between the 2004 and 2016 elections, state Rep. David Wilkerson, D-Powder Springs, chairman of the Cobb Legislative Delegation, said “I think a big part of it is the trending of the county being a Democratic county. That plus the name ID helped. Someone did briefly mention there would be a candidate. I definitely think it’s going to be a very close race this time.”

Wilkerson said he wasn’t aware of any Democrat to have yet announced for sheriff, but stay tuned.

As for Warren’s comment that they’re coming for him, Wilkerson said, “Our sheriff has taken a lead on the tough policies regarding law enforcement when it comes to illegal immigration. He’s going out of his way to attack fellow Republicans that are judges just because they may have belonged to a group that he didn’t believe in. I don’t think anybody is coming after the sheriff. I think it’s just the sheriff has been very vocal on what his feelings are.”

The question is, are those feelings compatible with Cobb County, Wilkerson said, answering that question by saying he doesn’t believe they are.

“I get along with the sheriff, but I don’t think his views on a lot of those extreme measures are compatible with Cobb in 2020, so I think it’s going to make it a very competitive race.”

David Wilkerson

ROADS & BRIDGES: At the same barbecue, state Sen. Brandon Beach, R-Alpharetta, who is vying for an opportunity to challenge U.S. Rep. Lucy McBath, D-Marietta, in next year’s election, gave attendees a specific example of what he’d done for Cobb County.

Prior to serving in the Georgia Senate, Beach was on the Georgia Department of Transportation board.

“I was instrumental with Gov. Deal in getting the North by Northwest Corridor built. It has saved time on everybody’s commute. It has been a huge success. Thirty miles of reversible lanes. We’re going to continue to build more of those type projects,” Beach said.

The senator also offered a commitment if elected to Congress.

“I will never, ever vote for a bill that sends billions of dollars to Afghanistan and the Middle East to build roads and bridges when we need to build roads and bridges here in America. I will make sure we keep that money here. I will help President Trump rebuild our infrastructure, rebuild our roads and bridges and get our country back in shape from an infrastructure standpoint. We will create jobs, we will secure the border and we will build infrastructure. That’s what I’m known for.”

ELECTION PLANNING: Last year’s midterm elections broke early voting records in Cobb County, and Cobb Elections Director Janine Eveler said her department is planning to add more capacity throughout the county for next year’s presidential election.

Eveler said nothing is concrete yet, but for now, the plans call for renting the Mansour Center near the Big Chicken as a second centrally located polling site, seeking out new polling sites throughout the county and expanding polling times and dates.

Eveler said the department is negotiating with the Mansour Center to rent space for three weeks and two Saturdays for the March 24, 2020, presidential primary, two weeks and two Saturdays for the May 19, 2020, general primary and two weeks and one Saturday for the July 21, 2020, general primary runoff.

The four regular satellites — the East Cobb Government Center, NorthStar Church, the South Cobb Community Center and the West Cobb Senior Center — are set to be open for two weeks and at least one Saturday for the March, May and November 2020 elections, and Eveler said a second set of four satellites could be opened for the third week as well.

Jim Miller Park will also be available for early voting for three weeks, including two Saturdays, in November.

Eveler said all locations are scheduled to be open from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. at all locations.

“Nothing is definite until we publish the information to the public,” Eveler said. “We make an early voting list available prior to each election and that’s when it becomes certain. We are still working out the reservations with the facilities for 2020.”

Eveler added that the elections department is recruiting new poll workers, and interested parties can apply at

Janine Eveler

APPOINTMENT: Gov. Brian Kemp has appointed former U.S. Rep. Bob Barr to the Judicial Qualifications Commission. The JQC has 10 members with three on a hearing panel and seven on an investigative panel. Barr succeeds Edward Tolley on the investigative panel for a term ending on June 30, 2021.

“Throughout his entire career, Bob Barr has served our country and state with the utmost integrity, earning numerous accolades and honors for his work ethic and advocacy,” Kemp said. “I am confident that Bob Barr will serve Georgians well on the Judicial Qualifications Commission, and I am truly honored that he accepted this appointment. He has the right background, expertise and temperament for this important role.”

Bob Barr

Commissioner Bob Ott for commission chairman? That’s who attendees chose at the annual Cobb GOP Independence Day celebration held at the Civic Center on Thursday. There were only two names to select on the straw poll for that particular office: Ott and County Chairman Mike Boyce.

Participants also had the option of filling in a write-in candidate.

Ott won with 103 votes to Boyce’s 79.

Around Town asked Ott what he thought about the results.

“Well, I think you’ve got to look at this event,” Ott said. “This is probably some of the most conservative Republicans in the county, and typically the conservative Republicans don’t like tax increases. They like limited spending, and I think that the chairman raised the millage last year, and I didn’t vote for that. And I’ve been kind of an advocate for cutting spending, so I think that’s really what you see.”

Ott, who is up for reelection next year on the commission along with Boyce, has not announced what his future political plans will be. He says to look around the first of the year for an announcement.

Still, the room gave him a message. Will that factor into his decision?

“Everything factors into your decision,” he said.

All elected officials and candidates running for office were given a chance to take the podium and deliver a stump speech, but when it came time for Boyce to deliver his, he was nowhere to be seen.

AT reached Boyce by phone after the event, asking if had heard the results of the poll. He said he had not.

“So Commissioner Ott’s running now?” Boyce responded.

To be determined. But what was his reaction to losing to Ott?

“Well, four years ago if I let straw polls decide for me whether I was going to run for chairman or not, then I guess I wouldn’t be chairman,” Boyce said. “I don’t respond to straw polls. I campaign and I campaign only.”

Following the program, Shepherd shared his thoughts on why Ott won the straw poll over Boyce.

“I think the Republican base is unhappy with Mike Boyce right now,” Shepherd said. “Just this week we’re having an announcement of another tax increase. We thought last year when the tax increase went through that that was going to be it. That was what was needed to shore up Cobb County’s finances. And that he needed to make a big increase in order to do that. And now the county is coming back and saying it wasn’t enough. The Republican Party is the party of tax cuts, not the party of tax increases. That’s one of our bedrock principles. And I think with the announcement this week that just has angered a lot of the Republican base.”

Shepherd previously said a third name would be on the poll for that question, that of Louie Hunter, a former commissioner who serves as director of legislative and governmental affairs for Cobb Sheriff Neil Warren. Hunter said he contacted Shepherd before the poll was put out to say he had decided not to run.

“It’s not my time to run,” Hunter said. “I feel like I can do more good work working now with the sheriff’s office without the time commitment that would take me away from my grandchildren, who, if you follow me on Facebook, you know that’s about all I care about these days. I’m enjoying what I’m doing. I think we can be effective with the Legislature. And Sheriff Warren is a good man and I hope to see him be reelected.”

The other only candidate to have announced for commission chairman at this point is Commissioner Lisa Cupid, a Democrat. State Rep. David Wilkerson, D-Powder Springs, chairman of the Cobb Legislative Delegation, said he was unsurprised by the straw poll results.

“The Cobb GOP is probably a little more conservative than the average Cobb Republican voter,” Wilkerson said. “Commissioner Ott would have to make the tough decision to give up his seat to run in an extremely tough countywide election. He would face a primary and general (election).”

We’ll see what Ott decides in January.

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