Wednesday, October 23, 2019

Rep. Lucy McBath, D-Marietta 

First-term Democrat Lucy McBath is outperforming her potential Republican challengers in collecting campaign donations in the early stages of the 2020 race for Georgia’s 6th Congressional District.

The district encompasses parts of east Cobb, most of the northern Atlanta suburbs and the northern parts of Fulton and DeKalb counties.

McBath has the highest campaign contributions of the candidates vying for the seat as listed by the Federal Election Commission.

Her contributions, other than loans, topped $623,091 in this year’s third quarter spanning July, August and September, commission records show.

McBath’s campaign has attracted $1.6 million since the start of this year, per the commission.

Her nearest rival in the financing stakes is Republican Karen Handel, who McBath ousted in 2018 by just under 3,000 votes. Handel received $252,385 in campaign contributions in the last quarter, and $700,799 since the start of the year, the commission shows.

Karen Handel

Handel herself won the seat by a narrow margin in June 2017 when she defeated Democrat Jon Ossoff in a special election runoff, gaining 51.8% of the vote to Ossoff’s 48.2%, succeeding Tom Price, who resigned prior to his ever-so-brief stint as U.S. Secretary of Health and Human Services.

State Sen. Brandon Beach, R-Alpharetta, is in third place in the campaign contribution contest with $166,625 donated in the last quarter and $525,632 since the start of the year, according to the commission.

State Sen. Brandon Beach

In fourth place is Republican Marjorie Taylor Green, who started collecting campaign contributions in April, per the commission. Since then she has received $125,441, of which $102,090 was contributed in the last quarter of July, August and September.

Majorie Taylor Greene

The commission shows Republican Nicole Rodden is in fifth place, contributions wise, banking $8,915 in the last quarter and $69,329 since April 1, when her campaign funds started.

Nicole Rodden

Why is McBath doing so much better than the Republican challengers?

“Part of it is the power of incumbency,” said Kerwin Swint, director of Kennesaw State University’s School of Government and International Affairs. “Incumbents almost always out-raise challengers, and so that’s part of the story I think.”

Name recognition and the power of her office to raise money is not the only thing she has going for her.

“I also think that Lucy McBath and the 6th District is a premiere race for Congressional Democrats. That is, they really want to hold on to that seat, it being a formerly Republican stronghold. Of course it was featured prominently in the Handel/Ossoff runoff, so people nationwide know about it, and so Democrats are, I think, highlighting that seat and getting donors to contribute.”

Swint said while he hasn’t looked at the disclosures in details, he also thinks it has to do with her stance on guns.

“I can only assume that she’s drawing money from some anti-gun individuals, groups and so on, and so I think that’s part of her appeal also,” he said.

Also, consider that McBath faces no competition from her own party, while the Republican hopefuls are splitting conservative dollars four ways. When totals are added $1.4 million have been contributed to GOP campaigns while McBath has raised $1.6 million this year.

JAHA ON JAIL: School board members generally have enough on their plate that they don’t wade into foreign territory. But that’s exactly where Cobb school board member Jaha Howard ventured when he decided to sound off about the county jail.

Steering out of his school board lane, Howard took to social media to protest the treatment of inmates and the staffing levels at the jail.

“HELP ME FIND ANSWERS!!!” Howard’s Facebook post reads. “Imagine being FOUND DEAD just 4 days after entering jail on a drug possession charge. Imagine the ENTIRE jail is already on complete lockdown! Imagine getting only 15 minutes A DAY to leave your cell to shower for OVER A MONTH. Imagine having more questions than answers. Imagine being the 4th person to die this year. Imagine a jail being severely understaffed and officers being injured. This is HAPPENING NOW in Cobb County jail! Kevil Wingo was just 36 years old. Rest In Peace. #BeLight.”

Jaha Howard

Wingo, of Atlanta, died on the morning of Sept. 29, after being transported to Kennestone Hospital, according to Cmdr. Robert Quigley with the Cobb County Sheriff’s Office.

According to jail records, Wingo was arrested Sept. 24 and charged with cocaine possession. Quigley said at the time that Wingo “experienced a medical emergency … while in custody.”

In response to Howard’s Sunday social media blast, Quigley declined to comment on Wingo’s death, saying the joint investigation between the Cobb County Sheriff’s Office and Cobb Medical Examiners Office is ongoing. He did confirm the reports that the jail was on lockdown.

“The lockdown at the detention center is in place for the safety of our staff and inmates and not for the reasons claimed by Jaha Howard,” Quigley said.

IVORY TOWER RANKINGS: Kennesaw State University, the third-largest university in Georgia with more than 35,000 students, failed to make the list of top 10 colleges and universities in Georgia, according to a recent study conducted by personal finance website WalletHub.

Asked about this, the university’s communications department pointed to a list of U.S. News and World Reports’ national rankings, among them where KSU placed first in the state for online Master’s of Business Administration and online graduate information technology program. The list also placed KSU at No. 293 out of 381 on its “2020 Best Colleges” list.

For reference, here’s the list from WalletHub:

Georgia Institute of Technology

Emory University

University of Georgia

Wesleyan College

Georgia College & State University

Mercer University

Oglethorpe University

Piedmont College

Brenau University

Berry College

HOTEL RIBBON-CUTTING: Visitors to the Kennesaw area will soon have a new place to stay. Chattanooga-based Vision Hospitality Group is set to cut the ribbon on a new dual-branded hotel, Home2 Suites & Tru by Hilton in Atlanta NW/Kennesaw Town Center, Nov. 7.

The company broke ground on the 170-room hotel in 2017.

The Tru by Hilton brand is designed for short-term travelers while the Home2 Suites brand is intended for extended stay guests. The hotel boasts features including large communal spaces, mobile check-in, a social media wall, fast charging stations, a fitness facility, an outdoor saltwater pool and 24-hour business center.

The new digs are at 2975 Ring Rd., a stone’s throw from Town Center Mall and a short trip from Kennesaw State University.

POLITICAL PLATTER: Mableton’s Edwin Mendez, fresh out of college, has decided to put his degree in political science to good use.

Edwin Mendez 

Mendez, 24, a Democrat, has announced his decision to run for a seat on the Cobb County Board of Commissioners and fix the “huge lack of representation of the working class, the Hispanic community (and) the immigrant community” in Cobb.

If elected, he would replace District 4 Commissioner Lisa Cupid, a Democrat who is running for county chair against Republican incumbent Mike Boyce.

The son of immigrant parents, Mendez was raised in Cobb County.

“Much of my childhood,” he said in an email, “you could see me and my brothers out with family or friends playing cops and robbers around Mableton Manor or Castlewood on Discovery Boulevard.”

At St. Thomas the Apostle Catholic Church in Smyrna, Mendez served as youth minister. In that role, he supervised adult and teen volunteer teams and put together a Latino youth success seminar and a teen leadership development program. At Georgia State University, he was a legislative intern in the state House Judiciary Committee, and he has served in the Georgia National Guard since 2014.

Mendez has put unity and justice at the center of his campaign, casting himself as a voice to the voiceless. His platform includes support for nonprofits, paying county employees a living wage, creation of a human rights commission, ending Immigration and Customs Enforcement presence in the county and expansion of public transportation and home ownership programs.

“If we truly want to change the future of the district, we cannot do that solely by investing in future residents,” he wrote. “We need to invest in (residents) who have made District 4 home for years.”

Mendez joins a crowded field. Other candidates vying for Cupid’s District 4 seat next year include Monica DeLancy, Elliott Hennington, Sheila Edwards, April McDonald, Monique Sheffield and Angelia Pressly.

Candidates for Powder Springs City Council went head to head Thursday night, taking on such issues as downtown and workforce development, infrastructure needs, trail construction and creation of a diverse tax base, to name a few.

The debate attracted scores of residents, along with some former and current elected officials, who cheered for some candidates’ responses to submitted audience questions and scoffed at others.

Patrick Bordelon

One of the less-than-enthusiastic responses came early. During Patrick Bordelon’s opening statements, the Post 1 councilman and mayor pro tem running for reelection made a comparison that seemed to miss with the crowd:

“I’m serving as city councilman, at-large Post 1, finishing our first term. I’m also currently serving as the mayor pro tem for the city of Powder Springs, which makes me the Mike Pence of Powder Springs,” Bordelon said, the crowd responding with sarcastic laughter and some groans.

When it was Mayor Al Thurman’s turn to make his introduction, he capitalized on the opportunity to have a little fun with the comment:

“Don’t get it twisted. I’m not Donald,” Thurman said, referring to President Donald Trump. He was rewarded with laughter and applause.

Mayor Al Thurman

Another apparent miss with the audience came at the hands of Guenevere Reed, one of three candidates for the at-large Post 2 council seat, held by Councilwoman Patricia Wisdom. Reed, a retired, single mother of three moved to Powder Springs about 20 years ago from New York after her husband was murdered. In calls Thursday for more resident input in city goings-on, Reed said she supported the creation of a city of South Cobb, saying it would be good for Powder Springs.

“There have been rumors and efforts regarding forming a city of South Cobb, which would include Mableton, Austell and Powder Springs. I think that would be wonderful to have South Cobb cityhood,” she said, prompting confused scanning of the room from some in the audience. “Cityhood means you could create your own entity, you can govern yourselves, you can apply for block grants and monetize what Cobb County’s identity is. … The population is growing. We need to build infrastructure, to build more affordable housing, more community and economic development, as well as social activities.”

Guenevere Reed

Reed also said cityhood would create long-lasting neighborhoods and get rid of “that gerrymandered map” that “doesn’t include the rest of Powder Springs.”

“They don’t have a say,” she said, without specifying what map she was referring to. “And like I said, (we should) create citizen (and) youth advisory councils to get input. I’m quite sure I’m not the only one that believes that we can do it, just like Marietta did. We can make a difference. We can have our own city.”

Ms. Reed may need a reminder she is running for Powder Springs “City” Council.

On a lighter note, Larry Thomas, candidate for the at-large Post 1 council seat provided a little comic relief late in the debate. Thomas, who all night countered claims of sitting council members and the mayor, calling for more accountability and transparency, agreed with Thurman on what an imaginary $1 million grant would be used for in the city. The answer for both Thurman and Thomas was a second community center like the Ron Anderson Community Center where the debate was held on the opposite side of town.

“Get the paramedics ready, because I’m going to agree with the mayor,” he said, cutting the night’s tension with laughs from the crowd.

Larry Thomas

DEVELOPMENT AUTHORITY: Seventeen long years of service to the Development Authority of Cobb County came to an end for stalwart Bob Morgan this week, when he received a certificate of thanks from Chairman Clark Hungerford.

Clark Hungerford

“He’s had a long, distinguished career here on the authority and I just wanted to take a moment,” Hungerford said.

Morgan, who has been the board’s vice chairman for the last eight years, only stayed at the meeting long enough to receive his certificate and a few brief well-wishes from his peers, citing urgent “tax returns to finish.”

His position on the board, an appointment by the Cobb County Board of Commissioners, has been filled by J.C. Bradbury, an economics professor at Kennesaw State University, whose first meeting was Morgan’s last.

Bradbury was warmly welcomed by board members at their Tuesday meeting in Cumberland.

“We’re glad to have you in here,” Hungerford told Bradbury, but the professor didn’t get a chance to contribute much to the board’s first real items of business, having to declare a conflict of interest and leave the room.

A proposal seeking up to $30 million in the authority’s revenue bonds was presented to the board on behalf of The University Financing Foundation, which would use the money to pay off almost $19 million of the bonds it was originally issued by the authority in 2010.

TUFF would also spend $3 million of the new bonds on security and access improvements at Georgia Tech’s federal defense research campus beside Dobbins Air Reserve Base in Smyrna.

As an employee of the Board of Regents of the University System of Georgia, Bradbury recused himself from the board’s consideration of this proposal and was not a part of the 5-0 vote in support of it.

“Can J.C. come back in so he can hear this? I know he can’t vote on it, but it might be good exposure for him,” board member and assistant secretary/treasurer Kevin Nicholas asked early on in the board’s discussion of the proposal.

But the board’s attorney, Dan McRae, explained that wouldn’t be acceptable without prior public notice of Bradbury’s conflict of interest, so the professor stayed in the corridor.

His introduction to the board did prompt several changes in its leadership, however.

With Morgan’s exit, the role of vice chairman was vacated.

Hungerford suggested board member Donna Rowe for the position, as “she’s been here the longest next to me.”

Hungerford also suggested that Rowe’s role as board secretary/treasurer then be taken by board member Jamala McFadden, citing McFadden’s good work and experience on the board’s grants committee.

In addition, Hungerford suggested Nicholas be appointed to the grants committee, and all his recommendations were unanimously agreed upon by board members, with the exception of McFadden who wasn’t at the meeting.

“She’s done a wonderful job in the grants committee, she’s very in-depth and cares about what we’re doing,” Rowe said of McFadden.

O CHRISTMAS TREE: If you’ve got a 23- to 25-foot evergreen tree and nowhere to put it, the city of Marietta would like to hear from you.

The Marietta Parks and Recreation Department is on conifer watch as it seeks a Christmas tree to be the centerpiece in Marietta Square this winter, and city staff is putting the call out to residents who might want to donate.

Almost any type of evergreen tree is acceptable, but Leyland cypress trees need not apply. Community engagement supervisor Maggi Moss said it’s nothing personal, but that species just doesn’t make a good Christmas tree.

“Their limbs are not sturdy enough, so whenever we put lights on, it droops,” she said. “It’s just really droopy-looking, not like a Christmas tree, more like a shrub. We really need a tree with sturdy limbs.”

Moss said the city used to get its yearly tree from a farm until prices spiked a few years ago.

“The good thing was the same year that happened, we had a retiree from Marietta who called us and said he had a tree he would love to donate,” Moss said. “So we went out and had a look, and it was perfect.”

Since then, the city has alternated between trees donated from residents and purchased from a landscaping company, but Moss said the city would love to start a tradition of showcasing a local tree’s talents each yuletide.

If you’ve got a tree you think could make the cut, you can email or call 770-794-5609. Moss will come to your place with an arborist and tree crew in tow for a tree audition. If your tree cuts the mustard, a Marietta Power crew will cut it down and dress it up for Christmas.

Moss said if a tree finalist does not appear in two weeks, the city will buy a tree from a landscaper.

Barbara Dooley had the crowd in stitches as she shared stories about life with her husband, Coach Vince Dooley, during last week’s tribute to the couple at Vinings Bank.

Barbara Dooley, left, and Kennesaw State University President Pamela Whitten.

Mrs. Dooley said when she was a student at Auburn, “he chased me for four damn years. And all I could say was ‘There’s this old man trying to date me.’”

When the two came to Georgia the first year, she had two babies under 2 and was pregnant with the third.

“He was home 52 nights that year because he wanted to get to meet all the Georgia people. And so when he was in south Georgia, one of my sorority sisters came up to him and said ‘Coach, did you marry Barbara Meshad? And he said ‘Yes.’ She said ‘Oh, thank god. Some old man was after her.’ He said ‘I’m that old man.’”

Mrs. Dooley called her husband a wonderful man, saying they’ve made it almost 60 years together.

“But it’s still day to day, I have to tell you that. I tell him not to get cocky. And I think the reason we’ve made it this long is he’s let me fly. He has not tried to control me.”

One thing about Coach Dooley is that he concentrates 100 percent on what he’s doing at any given time.

“If he’s reading a book, you don’t talk to him. If he’s writing something, he is focused. If he’s gardening, whatever he’s doing, he’s the most focused person in the world.”

That turned out to be a problem when, during football season, he couldn’t seem to remember her birthday.

“Never. Came the same time every year,” she said. “And so one year I cried and carried on, and he came out with a white handkerchief, and he said, ‘I‘ll tell you what. Next year, give me a week’s notice, and we’ll never have to go through this again.’ I said ‘OK.’”

So the next year she reminded him over breakfast as he was reading the sports section.

“I said Vincent, my birthday is next Thursday. He said ‘uh-huh.’ He didn’t move the paper. I said, ‘Vincent, you told me to remind you, and I’m reminding you Thursday is my birthday. He says, ‘Uh-huh. What do you want?’

Men, Mrs. Dooley observed, can answer their wives despite having no clue what they are saying.

“I said ‘I want a divorce.’ Well he lowered the paper. He looked at me. He said “You know, Barbara, I wasn’t planning on spending quite that much.’ So he’s extremely focused.”

Another thing to know about her husband is that he’s a lover of history, and has led various historical groups. On one occasion, the couple drove to Atlanta to a board meeting of the American Battlefield Association.

“These are big-time historians. So I ask him something in the car, something about Robert E. Lee, and he looked at me, and he turned and he gave me this disgusted look, and he said ‘You know, Barbara, if I were you I would just be quiet tonight so nobody would see how ignorant you are.’ Do you know what that did to me?”

She didn’t say another word on the drive in.

“We get to Atlanta. Bo DuBose’s. I didn’t say a word. I walked right in. I went to the bar. I got a drink. I found me a corner and I sat down. Didn’t say a word to anybody. Finished my drink and I went back to the bar. Finally they call for dinner and they put me next to the president, and they seat Vince across the table. So they’re talking history. Finally the president looks at me and says ‘Barbara, you haven’t said a word. What do you do?’ I said ‘I pole dance.’ Now Vince is across the table and he’s gone blank. I don’t know where that came from. I said ‘To be honest with you, I don’t know one thing about history, but I can get my left leg up on that pole!’ Well that took care of the evening. So the next morning we’re walking to breakfast and the president is running behind me. He grabs me and he says ‘Barbara, can you teach my wife to pole?’”

POLITICAL PLATTER: The dirt is being flung in the race between Smyrna Councilwoman Maryline Blackburn and challenger Travis Lindley. Around Town doesn’t like to be in the center of things, but the fracas originated from content in this column.

The Blackburn campaign is crying foul. Monte Bye, Blackburn’s campaign manager, sent over the following statement:

“In a full page advertisement in the October issue of the Bright Side Community Paper the Travis Lindley campaign grossly misrepresented a September 20th MDJ Around Town article in a brazen attack on the integrity of Councilwoman Maryline Blackburn. While we have run a positive campaign focused on the issues, we understand politics can be dirty. This however, is beyond the pale even for a career lobbyist and self-described political ‘operative.’ They used an uncorroborated attack by a Lindley campaign surrogate that appeared in the article and made it look as if it was a direct quote from the MDJ. To erroneously quote a news organization to further a false campaign narrative is egregious behavior at best and potential far worse. Smyrna’s Ward 3 deserves better.”

DUDE (LOOKS LIKE A LADY): Young Americans for Freedom’s Kennesaw State University chapter is hosting Michael J. Knowles on Monday. His lecture is titled “Men Are Not Women and other Uncomfortable Truths.”

According to the event, Knowles “will be debunking myths by the left, including the notion that men can become women.”

The event will be held at 7 p.m. in KSU’s Convocation Center. Doors will open 30 minutes prior.

HISPANIC HERITAGE: Recall that Smyrna Mayor Max Bacon recently vetoed a vote by the Smyrna City Council to hold a Hispanic Heritage Month celebration at the same time as another fall event.

The veto hasn’t deterred the Smyrna United Task Force, the group that had originally planned to sponsor the event. In a news release, task force leader Mara Johnson notes they have installed an outdoor exhibit of photos and stories from Smyrna’s Hispanic voices in honor of Hispanic Heritage Month. The exhibit will be on display through Oct. 27 at the 20th Century Veterans Memorial Lawn, 2800 King St., Smyrna.

“We believe that there is more that unites us than separates us, and by providing a glimpse into the unique lives and rich cultures here, we hope to build a more connected community,” Johnson said.

YOUR LOVE AMAZES ME: Five years in, it’s become a holiday kickoff tradition for hundreds of Mariettans.

Country music artist John Berry returns to the Marietta Performing Arts Center on Friday, Nov. 22, to start his annual Christmas tour.

Berry has recorded more than 20 studio albums — one platinum and two gold — and has charted 19 songs on the Billboard charts, including the 1994 No. 1 single “Your Love Amazes Me.”

“Christmas Songs and Stories with John Berry” comes to Marietta Performing Arts Center on Friday, Nov. 22.

If tradition holds, Berry will cover his hit country songs, plus some new ones, in the first half of the show. After intermission, he celebrates the season with Christmas tunes. (His rendition of “O Holy Night,” alone, is worth the price of admission.)

For those who follow the country crooner, Berry has been declared “cancer-free” after undergoing surgery in January on his throat, followed by chemo and radiation.

Berry and his band routinely spend a week rehearsing at the Marietta Performing Arts Center venue at Marietta High School before taking the show on the road. This year’s concert benefits MPAC.

Information and tickets:

Around Town caught up with retiring U.S. Sen. Johnny Isakson, R-Georgia, on Thursday during a Vinings Bank luncheon celebrating legendary Coach Vince Dooley, where he held forth on the issues of the day.

Around Town: Let’s talk about Syria. What do you make of the president’s withdrawal and now Turkey’s attacking the Kurds, our allies?

Isakson: This is my opinion. I don’t understand why it was so spontaneous, so quick and so counter to what everybody thought the policy of this country was. I’m no big (Turkish President Recep) Erdoğan fan by any stretch of the imagination, but I do think that by precipitously doing what he did in pulling our troops, he put a lot of the people who we’ve helped in danger, and put some of our people — we’ve got 1,000 people in Syria, America does, who have knocked out a lot of the bad guys who now are going to let a lot of the bad guys out of jail, and we’re going to have to confront them on the battlefield again. I don’t know what the strategy is. I don’t know what the reasoning was. I don’t know if it’s tied to what’s going on politically or not, but I think it’s too quick and too fast for what I know. Now he may know something that answers all those questions, that’s fine, but I don’t know it.

Q: On the impeachment, do you feel it’s appropriate for a president to ask a foreign government to investigate their election opponent?

A: As a United States senator, I’m going to be a juror in that trial. So I can’t discuss what I may or may not do or whatever the evidence may or may not be.

Q: You first ran for office in 1974 for commissioner. You lost that race, but at that time, Cobb County was majority Democrat and you were Republican.

A: Except for George Lankford and Carl Harrison. And then Ken Nix two years later.

Q: Now Cobb County in the Trump/Clinton election and the Abrams/Kemp election has gone blue again. You’ve lived through a full circle.

A: It’s my time to go I guess.

Q: What do you make of that? Is this a cycle that another person will live through? Is Cobb pretty much blue for the foreseeable future?

A: Well, if we have another cycle like this it will be somebody else, because I obviously won’t be around by then, but it’s politics at its purest, best form where the people have spoken. People got tired of Democrats running the state, and they got tired of liberal spending policies, and so they elected some Republicans. Then they got tired of us when we didn’t take the responsibility and do what we ran for to start with, so now they’re paying us back, and they’ll pay us back again if it doesn’t work. It’s the American system at its best. Everybody acts like its some super mysterious thing that’s happening. It’s American politics at its best.

Q: So are Republicans going to see Lucy McBath for the foreseeable future?

A: There’s no way to answer that question without taking the bait. I’ll just say she got elected on her own merit and she’ll get reelected on her own merit, if she gets reelected — that’s up to her and not me.

Q: Five hundred people have applied for your job. What do you make of that?

A: Nobody has ever done this before — said ‘apply.’ So I don’t know if this is a high number or a low number, but the number that’s going to be picked is one, so the governor is in a position of making 499 people mad and 1 person happy. That’s the problem with leadership. With it comes the responsibility of picking the winner.

Q: And you’ve said you’re not going to get involved unless asked?

A: Unless asked.

Q: Have you been asked yet?

A: Not yet. I imagine I will be but I may not be. I’ve done my job that people have asked me to do as well as I could and I trust this governor to do a good job.

Q: What’s the agenda for the rest of your year?

A: Unfortunately, the rest of the country’s agenda is whatever Nancy Pelosi and ... (U.S. Rep. Adam Schiff, D-Calif.). They’re calling the shots right now. Now when it comes to us, two thirds of the Senate has to vote to impeach. I don’t see now how you get two thirds of the Senate to do that. But you never know. There may be something that causes them to. I was here when this started under the Clinton administration. When I ran for the House, Clinton was being impeached. Now as I leave Congress 21 years later they’re trying to impeach President Trump. When somebody replaces me, 20 years from now somebody will try to impeach them. Like I said, it’s politics as usual and politics at its best. The good thing is in other countries they kill each other. In ours we just run against each other.

DISTRICT 37: State Rep. Mary Frances Williams, D-Marietta, has started her 2020 campaign with a reception Oct. 3 at the Bouldercrest Drive home of Tammy Clabby. The campaign event attracted 40 neighbors, friends and supporters. Hosts included Clabby, Cathy Pleake Brown, Nancy Davies, Cathy Bruning, Mike Binns, Janis Lemieeuz, Linda Spiers, Nancy and Steve Steele, Shelia and Mike Manely.

Williams’ Republican opponent, Rose Wing, meanwhile, will have a campaign kickoff from 5:30 to 7 p.m. on Tuesday with hosts Sens. Kay Kirkpatrick, Bruce Thompson, Lindsey Tippins; Reps. John Carson, Matt Dollar, Ginny Ehrhart, Ed Setzler, Don Parsons, Jan Jones and Bert Reeves, County Chairman Mike Boyce, Commissioners Bob Ott and JoAnnn Birrell, Nancy Bodiford, Bill and Babe Byrne, Vince Clanton, Joseph Cortes, Sue Everhart, Janet and Scott Johnson, Dawn and Tom McEachern, Jim Rhoden, Jason Shepherd, Sheila and Paul Brower, Brad and Michelle Carver, Chuck Clay, Nancy Coach, Rosan and Jim Hall, Reva Schuster, Toria and Bob Morgan, Elizabeth Rhodes, Kim and Paul Sherk, Leo Smith, Wendy Bunch, Tom Charron, David Connell, John Delves, Ed and Lydia Hammock, Bob Maynard, Sam Olens, Millie Rogers, Marsha and Howard Stemme and Johnell Woody.

To join the host committee, contact Cam Cameron at 404-368-3047. Address upon RSVP.

The primary will be May 19, 2020, and the general election is slated for Nov. 3.

In her weekly newsletter, Commissioner Keli Gambrill shared before and after shots of her new hair style. Gambrill donated her hair to an organization that provides free wigs primarily to pediatric cancer patients.

HEAD & SHOULDERS: In her weekly newsletter, Commissioner Keli Gambrill shared how she started donating her hair many years ago when a young lady she had known since she was an infant was diagnosed with cancer.

“Losing hair due to chemotherapy, radiation therapy or medical hair loss can be devastating – in addition to the challenges of overcoming the diagnosis. This year, I chose to donate my hair to Wigs for Kids, an organization that provides free wigs primarily to pediatric cancer patients,” Gambrill said, sharing before and after photos of her hair and giving a shoutout to Kaitlyn at A&J Hair Salon for the great new style.

To learn more, visit

Atlanta’s Jackie Gingrich Cushman, daughter of former Speaker Newt Gingrich, has a message for Republicans: Get to know some Democrats. Cushman, who has a new book out, “Our Broken America: Why Both Sides Need to Stop Ranting and Start Listening,” spoke to the Cobb GOP during its monthly Saturday breakfast in a talk filmed by C-SPAN.

A nationally syndicated columnist, Cushman said at the political level, we’re engaged in “a civil war, but with words” on a daily basis.

Take some advice from the Iron Lady, Margaret Thatcher, who advised: “‘First you win the argument and then you win the vote.’ I think too many times we try to rush through getting the vote without actually winning the argument,” Cushman said.

The Peach State is an exceptional place, one where she grew up and has raised her two children. There are those on the right, those on the left and those in the middle, residents who don’t have the time to pay close attention to politics because they’re busy with their jobs and families.

“There’s a middle in Georgia that may be new to Georgia or maybe hasn’t been around Georgia very long that quite frankly believes all the horrible things they hear about Republicans from the news media. Quite frankly that makes me sad … I know we’re loving people, but I’m saddened by the fact that we constantly get maligned nationally. I want us to think about collectively how to combat that.”

Watching the 2016 election returns with the sound muted at Trump headquarters in New York, Cushman said she could tell by the body language and expressions of the anchors’ faces that Donald Trump was going to win. When he did, there was a collective meltdown from the left, she said.

“I have to admit I made a little fun of that, and in retrospect I shouldn’t have,” she said, believing an opportunity was missed in learning why they were so upset and surprised and what Republicans hadn’t communicated properly.

“Because I think there’s this vast middle that has been led to believe that Republicans are terrible, which I know we’re not, that they’re so preconditioned to not like us, that we have to be the first one to reach out our hand. We have to be the ones to say: ‘You’re welcome here. We’d love to have you involved. Please come and join us. We need you. We need your input. We need you to be with us and I want you to be there.’”

A dangerous rise in tribalism, where “my tribe’s better than your tribe” must be combated, she said.

“I think the problem with that is we begin to see ourselves not as individuals — that we’re individuals that work together — but as members of a tribe even before members of a country. And that’s where it gets really dangerous,” she said.

According to Cushman, 64% of Democrats and 55% of Republicans report having few or no friends in the opposite party.

“Just think about that. That is frightening. Because what that means is if you have no contact with anyone else in the other party, you don’t understand how they think or what they care about or quite more importantly they think you don’t care about them and that’s where I think we are as a country.”

While Cushman said Republicans do care, “I also know we’re not communicating that in a way in which people understand. And while we can scare people to vote for us for a year or two, I’m concerned quite frankly about my children who are 20 and 19, and we can’t do this for decades. We’ve got to fix this. We must learn how to communicate effectively so people understand that we care about them and we care about America and that I think is our next challenge.”

A little intellectual curiosity is in order, she said.

“Even if you don’t learn anything about their position and don’t agree with them, you will learn about them as a person and then you can communicate with them, because if you don’t know what they care about, or if they think you don’t care about them, it doesn’t matter, the facts don’t matter if you are not going to be able to communicate. It is so important that we make sure that people understand that we care about them. That we want to listen to their problems. That quite frankly if we don’t listen to their problems we can’t help them solve them which I think is the only way to move forward as a nation.”

In pursuit of this intellectual curiosity, it’s important to be optimistic, she said, challenging the breakfast crowd to choose gratitude over grievance.

“Because the left has a lot of work on grievance. Let them have it. Let them grieve about who belongs to what group and who’s a current victim and how terrible things are,” she said.

Republicans must be grateful for living in the best nation on Earth, a nation with free speech, which they should use not to yell at the other side, but to articulate why the GOP is the better party.

“The left has a full-on terrible narrative about how terrible the country is and how terrible we all have been. I am not saying we are a perfect nation … We are not a perfect nation, but I do believe we are the best nation. I also believe if we constantly tear ourselves down we’ll never be able to move forward. Try it at home. Try to go home and tell your spouse how terrible they are. Does that work? No. Try to tell your child how horrible they are. You know what? They’ll believe it. And it’s terrible. I think we have an entire generation of people who we have told they can’t be successful, and unfortunately they have begun to believe it, and I think it’s a travesty, and I think we have to change it.”

A cheerful persistence is the way to go, she said.

“If you’re not persistent, you’re not going to get anywhere. But you also have to be cheerful, because if you’re not cheerful, no one wants to play with you.”

The final challenge she gave to the party faithful was one that may be the biggest. Find an issue you care about. For Cushman it’s homelessness, the environment, early education and financial literacy, but it could be anything from the symphony to the art museum.

“You find whatever you care about and you spend time with whoever cares about that same thing and you work together and you make progress and you don’t know if they’re a Democrat or a Republican, I’ll tell you what, they’ll be Democrats on that team and you will change their mind about Republicans,” she said. “Because they will see you working next to them, they will see you caring about people. They will see you caring about them and you will leave their life changed. We can’t sit back and pretend like the 55% of us that don’t have friends in the other party are OK. That’s not OK. We have to be in community with people, even people we don’t like. Because quite frankly if we didn’t, we’d sit alone by ourselves at home, which really isn’t a very good choice. So I think a little intellectual humility to know that we may have a lot of the things right, but not everything right, to know that we need to be part of this big system that doesn’t always work well, but works better than anywhere else in the world, and to understand that every time we’re out in public that we reflect not only ourselves and our country, but also our Republican values and our brand. Reach out to people.”

If you’d like to watch Cushman’s talk on C-SPAN, check that network’s schedule for an announcement on when they will air it.

AROUND TOWN: Mondays will never be the same, Chamber’s Loud says

D.A. Holmes shares personal, eye-opening experience

A long list of adjectives could be used to describe John Loud.

“Conventional” would not be among them.

So Cobb Chamber of Commerce members might want to fasten their seat belts in 2020 — the year Loud takes over as chairman. It won’t be business as usual.

Loud, who describes himself as a part-time employee of his Loud Security firm and a full-time volunteer with the chamber, vows things will be different when his term begins next year.

“There’ll be a little different energy that’ll go on next year,” Loud promised the Metro Marietta Kiwanis Club earlier this week. “A lot of fun changes and plans can be worked out when they give me a year and a half to focus and think about it.”

He mentioned a new chamber logo will be revealed before year-end and, of course, already known is that the business organization is moving into new digs on Circle 75 Parkway in Cumberland, across from SunTrust Park and The Battery.

But for those who have gotten into the routine of setting an early alarm every first Monday of every month, Loud’s next announcement was life-altering news.

“Next year there will be no such thing as a first Monday breakfast ... first Monday will go away.”

The chamber’s monthly breakfasts have become a staple — some would say a tradition — within Cobb’s business community. He did not elaborate.

Loud, along with former chamber president David Connell, crashed the Kiwanis meeting to hear Cobb’s new district attorney, Joyette Holmes who was the Kiwanians’ featured speaker.

In June, Holmes was tapped by Gov. Brian Kemp to fill the D.A. post vacated by Vic Reynolds who now fills his day running the Georgia Bureau of Investigation.

Holmes is the first African American and the first woman to head the D.A.’s office. She also earned those “firsts” in her previous position as Chief Magistrate judge. Loud and Connell framed a clipping of an MDJ editorial lauding the historic appointment and presented it to D.A. Holmes to mark her creation of more “firsts” in Cobb County.

Here’s an excerpt from the framed editorial presented to her:

“Holmes took the oath on a Bible held by her husband, Bridges, with their two daughters standing close by. Far from any hint of arrogance or self-adulation, she credited her family, court employees, numerous friends and advocates for their support. She spoke of the need for working together in ensuring public safety in Cobb. ‘It doesn’t happen without all of us,’ she said. Nor without divine blessing, she said. ‘I always talk about being specific in your prayers, but sometimes when you pray, you pray that God’s will be done, and that if this is the place for me to continue to serve, let that be,’ she said, ‘and I thank God that that was his will, and that I’m able to stand before you today as Cobb County’s next district attorney.’”

After being introduced by Senior Judge Jim Bodiford, Holmes told of an eye-opening experience that still impacts her today.

Holmes said after serving an internship with Cobb County Juvenile Court to complete her UGA degree, she had some time between graduating and law school and was asked to be a substitute teacher at Cobb County’s alternative school.

“(Teaching) was the most rewarding experience ever. If I had not, since junior high, wanted to be a lawyer, I probably would have stayed there and got my teaching certification because I just learned so much, not just about myself, but a little bit more about the world.”

The eye-opener came in a discussion with her class.

“You know, we grow up and we think we have experiences, but never really have experienced life in the way that some other people experience life. Sitting in class one day, one of the young students said to me, ‘My mom bakes cookies and sells the cookies out of the house.’”

“I’m thinking, yay, let’s get some peanut butter, oatmeal raisin and chocolate chips so we can have them in class the following week …”

Holmes said the room of mainly African American and Hispanic students was dumbfounded.

“They looked at me as if I had three heads. And they’re like, ‘Surely you don’t believe she’s talking about real chocolate chip cookies.’ I’m like, why would I not think that?

“She was talking about crack cocaine. Her mother sold crack cocaine out of the kitchen at home. It’s baked in cookie form and then crumbled in little baggies to be distributed.

“So of course my thought is they just are 15-, 16-, 17-year-old students. Why do they have that experience? Why is it a situation they can freely speak to me about as if it’s just everybody’s circumstance?”

She carries that story with her into the courtroom.

“So it was a new experience for me. And because I was an African American female, they expected that I had had that same experience. So the perspective I learned from being in that school for just six months has been everything in my role as a misdemeanor prosecutor, a felony prosecutor, a judge, and now the district attorney …”

RIP: The patriarch of the Bentley family, Fred “Bowtie” Bentley Sr., died early Friday morning in his home just outside Kennesaw on Pine Mountain.

He was 92, his son Randall Bentley reports.

Fred D. Bentley Sr.

The family is working on funeral arrangements.

A great-grandfather of three, Bentley was a pillar of this community, serving three terms in the Georgia House from 1951 to 1957 and one term in the Georgia Senate in 1958.

If you ever had a chance to sit in his office, you were immediately absorbed with the countless historical artifacts that filled the room from a rare 1818 engraving of the Declaration of Independence made for Thomas Jefferson to moldings of Abraham Lincoln‘s face and hands. But your attention then turned to the master storyteller as he shared with you stories from his life. Like the time legislators were running out of time to pass an appropriations bill. The bill had to sit on a desk for one hour to give all the lawmakers a chance to read it, but there wasn’t an hour left in the evening’s session. So Bentley and his colleague Denmark Groover decided to add a little more time to the proceedings.

“He held my legs while I leaned over” the rail and turned back the clock, Bentley once told MDJ with a laugh.

There is not enough ink to list the number of projects and organizations he founded and nourished.

While in the Legislature, he worked to bring what is now Kennesaw State University to Cobb County. He chaired the Cobb Chamber of Commerce, authored the city of Kennesaw’s famous gun law, and helped to found Charter Bank and Trust, the Center for Family Resources and the Marietta/Cobb Museum of Art.

He founded the Bentley firm in 1948 and was the last surviving member of the original Cobb County Bar Association.

Bentley was integral in bringing about the multimillion dollar Kennedy Interchange in Cumberland. The Legislature named the Akers Mill Road Bridge over Interstate 75 after him.

A renaissance man who donated books and artwork to Kennesaw State’s “Bentley Rare Book Room,” he will be sorely missed.

POLITICAL PLATTER: Jackie Gingrich Cushman, daughter of Newt Gingrich, is the speaker at the Cobb GOP’s monthly breakfast from 8 to 10 a.m. Saturday. Her book “Our Broken America: Why Both Sides Need to Stop Ranting and Start Listening” will be available for sale and she will be signing copies after the breakfast.

HISTORY: The Marietta Gone with the Wind Museum will host author and historian Brad Quinlin from 1 to 3 p.m. Sunday, Oct. 13. Quinlin will discuss the rich history of Brumby Hall, as you walk among the grounds and gardens before returning to the solarium for light refreshments, a talk and book signing. RSVP to ... The Kennesaw Cemetery Preservation, meanwhile, is hosting “Stories of our Past: From the City Cemeteries of Acworth and Kennesaw” by Abbie Parks and Andrew Bramlett at 7 p.m. Tuesday, Oct. 8 at the historic depot in downtown Kennesaw.

DURING A CAMPAIGN fundraiser at Williamson Bros. Bar-B-Q Monday evening, County Chairman Mike Boyce turned his comments to the man he ousted from office: former Chairman Tim Lee, who died Sunday after complications from cancer.

“Tim was an extremely honorable man who believed what he was doing was right, and I’m really, really sad for him and his family. He died way too young. He was only 62.”

Lee died with courage, Boyce said.

“And from my perspective, you can’t say anything better about a truly honorable man, a great leader, and there’s no doubt about it, SunTrust stadium will be his legacy, and that’s not a bad legacy to have. And we have carried on that legacy.”

Boyce said when he was sworn into office, he sat down with Lee to inquire what was needed to make the project a success.

“And he gave me some ideas, and we carried it out and right now the development down there plus the Braves, it’s truly been visionary on both the Braves part, the county’s part, the CID’s part, everybody’s part, and it’s really working out to the benefit of the county. We’re not there yet as far as raising the revenue we need to make it a wash with the county taxpayer, but we’re well on our way, and I think we’re going to get there faster than anybody thought. So it’s a real tribute to Tim and his courage to get this to the board, and I wish nothing but deepest sympathies to his family and his friends.”

To follow Boyce from the time he was running as a candidate to serving in elected office has been, well, let’s just call it interesting. Those who have followed him will recall that Boyce’s principle campaign plank was criticism of the way Lee handled the Braves deal. As a candidate, Boyce argued over and over again that Cobb voters should have been afforded a referendum on the bond for SunTrust Park. But again, that was when he was Candidate Boyce, not Chairman Boyce.

About a dozen people turned out for the fundraiser Monday. One asked Boyce who his challengers were.

“I know that for sure we have a Democratic opponent in November next year in Lisa Cupid,” Boyce said. “Look, formally we don’t qualify all of us until March when we have to lay our money down, but she and I have been upfront with each other. She told me a number of months ago that she was going to run for chairman on the Democratic side, and I thanked her for letting me know that. I’m still waiting to see if somebody else on the Republican side is going to put their name in the hat, but you all saw what I went through last time. To run against an incumbent you have to get out there really, really early and we are what? Five months away from qualifying? And we’re seven months away from running for the primary. So if there’s going to be somebody out there, they’re late in the game.”

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

Boyce said the fundraiser was one of a series he was holding throughout September and October. He spoke of the sound financial footing the county was on with its credit rating agencies. He also spoke of the services being restored from the lean years of the recession from libraries to ballparks, as well as hiring more police officers and giving them more pay.

“And not just policemen but also the firemen, the sheriff, all the first responders that I believe deliver the No. 1 priority to the county, which is to provide public safety.”

Boyce said he was not only committed to continue restoring public safety capabilities, but also to add on to them “and next year’s budget we’ll be doing some more of that, too. So right now we’re in a really good place.”

Working with the school system, the Cobb Chamber of Commerce, Cobb Travel and Tourism and the other agencies, Boyce said they were all working to deliver enhanced quality of life in the county.

“I can honestly say right now it has never been better and it has never been better because the people in this county, they trust us, they work with us, and they know we’re going to deliver our commitments and our promises to them and I see that every day as I get out there and talk to people.”

HEARD ON THE CAMPAIGN TRAIL: Boyce and Cupid aren’t the only commissioners up for reelection next year. Commissioner Bob Ott is also up. Ott has refused to say what his plans are. Will he run again for his District 2 seat? Run for chairman? Run for mayor of the city of East Cobb if that community opts for cityhood? Not run at all? He notes he will make the announcement in January. As one GOP operative told Around Town, by not saying whether he will run for chairman, “he is keeping a lot of potential challengers out of the race.” To which Boyce must undoubtedly be grateful.

STREET SALES: Everyone loves a garage sale, but what happens when it’s not hand-me-down clothes and outgrown toys for sale, but laundry detergent, deodorant and toilet paper?

Rusty Roth, Marietta’s development services director, told the Council’s Judicial and Legislative Committee that some residents buy retail goods at low prices and sell them for a profit out of their homes.

“From what I understand, a lot of people who are into couponing buy multiple items and products and then resell them at their garage sales,” he said.

Councilwoman Cheryl Richardson brought in a photo she took in her ward of tables stacked with goods in front of a home. The photo appears to show detergent, cleaning agents, shampoo and more.

“I don’t want to limit what people are allowed to do, but if you look at this picture, this was a pop-up store, and don’t stores have to have business licenses?” she said. “So all of the things that this would have required someone to do are not done under the guise of it being a yard sale.”

Councilwoman Michelle Cooper Kelly said she sees things differently.

“The picture is not most desirable, but eyes of the beholder,” she said. “But I often worry that when we start getting into restricting peoples’ abilities to do things, and we’re asking staff to regulate what you can sell at your own yard sale, we’re kind of encroaching on government overreach.”

A proposed policy regulating such sales could be considered on Oct. 10.

THE GOVERNOR’S MANSION: Former Gov. Roy Barnes was one of the speakers at the South Cobb High School Class of 1959’s 60th reunion on Saturday where he shared tales from his life.

Barnes said the protocol for when a new governor is elected is for the old governor to leave the governor’s mansion about a week before the inauguration to allow the new governor to get settled.

“That’s when they do their painting and all that other stuff. It was time for us to move and so Marie, we had a little Ford Explorer, and she put packed chairs and stuff on and just drove to the governor’s mansion … looked like the Beverly Hillbillies.”

Mrs. Barnes called her husband, who was at the Capitol involved in budget hearings, to say come on over to the governor’s mansion that night rather than their home in Mableton. He arrived for his first night in the mansion late.

“I went upstairs and Marie says ‘There’s nothing to eat in this place.’ I said, ‘What do you mean?’ She said, ‘Well, they gave everybody off, you know and there’s just nothing to eat.’ She said, ‘I went downstairs and looked in that big refrigerator, and all that’s in there is butter.’”

Barnes told her he’d call his brother and sister-in-law, Ray and Jackie Barnes, and invite them over.

“So I called Ray up and said ‘Ray, would you and Jackie like to come up to the governor’s mansion? We just moved in today.’ He said ‘Yeah, I’d like that.’ I said, ‘Well, stop by Kentucky Fried Chicken and pick up a bucket of chicken and come on over here.’

“Well, they came on in and Jackie set that bucket of chicken down on the counter and she said, ‘You’ve only been in public housing one day and we’re already having to feed you.’”

Cobb County Chairman Mike Boyce kicks off the first of several fundraisers for his reelection campaign tonight at Williamson Bros. Bar-B-Q in Marietta.

Boyce, a Republican, is up for reelection next year. To date, the only challenger to have announced is Commissioner Lisa Cupid, a Democrat. 

“Many people know that I have informally announced my campaign for reelection as the Chairman of the Cobb County Board of Commissioners. Our message is simple: Proven Leadership, Proven Results,” Boyce wrote on his Facebook page Like Mike 4 Cobb. “Fundraising is essential part of any campaign. You can contribute on the web site or attend any of the following fundraising events, all of them at Williamson Brothers at 1425 Roswell Road in Marietta.

Tonight’s event is from 6-8 p.m.

“There will light food and drinks and yard signs and the famous car magnets for everyone. I am again asking for your support. I look forward to seeing and listening to you,” Boyce wrote.

The following fundraisers, each one from 6-8 p.m. are scheduled for:

  • Monday, October 7
  • Tuesday, October 8
  • Wednesday, October 9
  • Thursday, October 24

The idea started as a simple email.

Former Cobb Chairman Tim Lee and wife Annette wanted to reach out to a group of close friends and supporters to share the latest on Tim’s fight against cancer.

But as the idea was discussed, more people got involved and the message grew from a simple email to a three-course dinner in the confines of the Delta Club at SunTrust Park.

Lee is known as the man who brought the Atlanta Braves to Cobb County — an accomplishment applauded by many, vociferously derided by some. The feat cost him his reelection bid as county chairman.

Lee and Annette moved from Cobb when he took the post of economic development director in Habersham County. Around August of last year, he was diagnosed with esophageal cancer. Chemo, radiation and surgery at first appeared to do the trick, but midsummer the disease resurfaced, prompting another battle round for Lee and his family. He was admitted to the hospital this week, but remains in good spirits and hopes to be released soon.

It was fitting Monday night’s fete was hosted by the Braves organization in the building that Lee helped bring about.

Among the guests were friends, family (son Christian and daughter Angila Dixon sat at the head table), colleagues and the entire Braves front office:

Braves Chairman Terry McGuirk; Derek Schiller, Braves president & CEO; Mike Plant, Braves Development Company president & CEO; and John Schuerholz, vice chairman emeritus.

Among the tokens of appreciation showered on the former chairman were a bat, baseball and jersey, items autographed by Braves players, coaches, executives and the legendary Hank Aaron.

In his comments to the audience, Lee explained the genesis of the evening:

“Obviously, I have some health issues and moving forward it’s going to be harder and harder to keep in touch with people that we love. And we started getting worried that there were some rumors out there that my arm was cut off, the dog ate my bones and my wife ran off. But that wasn’t the case. Yeah, I’m getting sick. We wanted to know the best way to let people know who had been part of our lives since 1980 ... the people that will always be with us and support us when you didn’t need anything. There’s hundreds of thousands of people out there who are thinking tonight I could have gotten it wrong, ... (but you’re) the people that stood up, stood behind us, encouraged us and made sure that we kept everything on the track. We wanted to recognize that, but we also wanted to let you know how we’re doing.

“So what started out as an email evolved into ... let’s make some phone calls, then it was a cocktail party until finally it became a full-on dinner. If you ever want to keep something low-key, don’t give it to Kellie (Brownlow, Lee’s former deputy chief) and Mike (Plant).”

Several supporters took the microphone to thank Lee for his public service. Here is a sampling:

U.S. Sen. Johnny Isakson:

I’ve watched you make the decisions that were tough. I know a little bit about that business because of the business I’m in in Washington, we make some tough ones, too. We also make some dumb ones. But we make some tough ones. And the Atlanta Braves would not be here without Tim Lee.

... I wish I could tell you how many times I met with Tim and he asked me “You think I should do this or that? I want to do the right thing, I don’t care what anybody says.” When confronted with a difficult decision, he did what was right. ... He built the finest facility and the finest complex and the finest future of professional athletics anywhere in the world. Everybody in the world’s coming here to see what we did. God bless you, Tim.

Braves Chairman Terry McGuirk:

You know, Tim, I don’t think I’ve ever met a man of higher ethical standards than you. Really, the stuff we went through together ... I was lucky enough to work 30 years with a guy named Ted Turner. He was a genius and I don’t throw that word around very casually. This man (gestures toward Lee) is a genius.

And I don’t think there’ve been many places in life that I’ve come across a more amazing set of decisions than what Tim Lee made during that time. The Atlanta Braves are forever beholden to you. All of Cobb County is. Fifty years from today, they’re going to look back and say, Oh my God, Tim Lee did this.

Former Cobb Chairman Sam Olens:

You know, in elected life, you know a lot of people that are in it for themselves, a lot of people that are looking to get ahead in political office. Tim is the star that always did it for the right reason. He always did it for his community. He always did it to improve his community. And I’m sure that the family wished that he was home more nights than he was ‘cause he was going everywhere, right? Tim is the best public servant and God bless you and your family.

Former Cobb Commissioner Bob Weatherford:

You don’t understand what this man went through. You don’t understand what I went through. You don’t understand all of what the naysayers said. Yet, this man had a vision. ... People to this day still are complaining about the price. ... and they’re like, why did you do that? I said, well, I don’t know, if you had $380 million and you could get $1.2 billion back, would you do it? That’s what we did. And it worked out great. So thanks for your vision and your friendship.

Thomas Huff, president Aviation Development Group:

I sat down with Chairman Lee — Commissioner Lee, at the time — and rolled out this plan with his guidance to build hangars and develop the airport, build a restaurant. ... the Braves being here is astronomical compared to what happened at the airport. But Chairman Lee had the vision to see how even little, small companies could make a difference. At the time in Cobb County, $300,000 (was what) the taxpayers were paying a year for the airport. And 17,18 years later, it’s a $112 million economic engine to Cobb County. It’s the Cobb County International airport. And that’s because of Tim Lee.

Deane Bonner, former president of the Cobb NAACP:

We had heard about the fact that the Braves were coming to Cobb County. Tim invited Mike (Plant) to meet Deane Bonner because she wanted to know what to do about the Braves in Cobb County. When Mike was sitting in the room, I said to Mike, now, if you are coming to Cobb County, we want some of those jobs. ... I’m talking about the people that we serve every day, the underserved ... From that day to the day the Braves broke ground and we had the Braves here in Cobb County, they fulfilled that mission. They gave our community jobs.

David Connell, former Cobb Chamber CEO and Southern company executive:

First, there was the Bell Bomber plant. It obviously changed Cobb County. And I learned that Ernest Barrett was a great county commission chair and he put infrastructure in this county that allowed us to grow. But as Bill Kinney, longtime writer for the Marietta Daily Journal said, the impact of the Braves stadium will be bigger on the future of Cobb County than was the Bell Bomber plant. And the one thing I’ve learned in this whole process is legacy is important to all of us. History is important to all of this. Tim Lee has changed the history of Cobb County. It’s changed the history of this state. He’s changed the history of this world. And very few people can say that.

This Around Town ends with the beginning — the invocation delivered by Sam Matthews, retired senior pastor from Marietta’s First United Methodist Church. Matthews, who has spent a significant portion of his retirement sitting in SunTrust Park cheering on the Braves, has some considerable pull … and isn’t reluctant to use it:

“And Lord, we recognize your profound justice, your equal love and grace for all of your children. Never, ever favoring one above another. Nevertheless, in the days and weeks ahead ... on the playing fields where our beloved Braves will compete. We ask that you lean just a little bit to our side ... and we think that will make all the difference. If not for us, oh Lord, do it for Tim. Again, oh God, we are a grateful people. Amen.”

Marietta’s Alex Guthrie performs on “The Voice” Monday night.

Marietta’s Alex Guthrie must have been in music heaven as pop stars Gwen Stefani and Kelly Clarkson attempted to woo him to join their team in NBC’s singing competition, “The Voice” Monday evening.

Guthrie already has a local following from his performances in area venues. He saw a national audience after being cast as a singer in a commercial for American Family Insurance. As part of the commercial twist, Jennifer Hudson surprised him and sang with him. Hudson, “The Voice” reports, encouraged Guthrie to try out for the show.

During his performance, Guthrie sang Al Green’s “Love and Happiness” before the audience, as Stefani, Clarkson, John Legend and Blake Shelton sat with their backs to him for the blind audition. The idea is for the celebrity musician to pick a singer solely based on what they hear.

Clarkson was first to turn around in her chair, followed by Stefani.

“What’s your name, man?” Shelton asked him after his performance.

“My name is Alex Guthrie, I’m 25 and I’m from Marietta, Georgia,” Guthrie said.

Legend asked if he performed a lot, to which Guthrie said he did full time.

Clarkson then sought to convince him to join her team over Stefani’s.

“You’re all cool and rock and roll, and I know she looks real cool and rock and roll, but just look over here. Look this way,” Clarkson said.

In response, Stefani told him while she and Clarkson have many similarities, “I know how to work with someone like you. Because you’re taking the things that you love and trying to cross pollinate it, and I feel like I’ve done that my whole career, just steal from here, here, here, here … I feel like I can help you like organize it a little bit more.”

Guthrie played it cool.

“Alright, alright,” he replied, not revealing which pop star he would ask to be his coach.

Clarkson made another appeal.

“The fact that it was kind of a jam session was my favorite part because what you want to do on a show like this is build. You don’t want to blow it all on the first thing. You showed that you’re super talented and you have such a soulful vibe that’s so cool and chill. I would love to be your coach. Either way, you’re leaving with a jacket,” she said, holding up a jacket with the letters “Team Kelly.”

Stefani held up her own team jacket.

“So, fun fact,” Guthrie said.

“Oh wait, do we have a fun fact together?” Clarkson asked.

“Yeah, we do,” he said.

“Did she kick you in the head at a concert?” Shelton wondered.

“Better than that,” Guthrie said.

“Did she break your heart?” Legend asked.

“She did break my heart,” Guthrie said, provoking a gasp from Clarkson.

“A year and a half ago, I got to open up for you in Atlanta,” he told her. “You and I did not get to meet. But unless the radio host was lying, you told him I had the voice of an angel. So … I got to go with you.”

“You’re going to go with me?! Yes!” Clarkson cheered, adding, “I hate going up against Gwen because I love her, but I’m so excited that Alex is on my team.”

Marietta’s Alex Guthrie performs on “The Voice” Monday night. (Photo by: Justin Lubin/NBC)

ANOTHER ‘VOICE:’ Marietta Voice alum Zach Seabaugh placed fifth in the 2015 competition as a member of Team Blake. He was 17 then, but last week celebrated his 21st birthday with the release of a new single titled “Lonely Like That.”

Seabaugh, a Cobb native and graduate of Kennesaw Mountain High School, just entered his junior year at Middle Tennessee State University in Murfreesboro, where he is a student in the college of Music and Entertainment. He still finds time to write, record and tour. “I’ve been going to school ... then spending three to four days a week in Nashville writing with a lot of great hit song writers.”

Zach and his band are also on a college campus tour and will be playing at Fifth-Third Bank Stadium in Kennesaw Oct. 26.

Cobb school board member David Banks, pictured during the board’s afternoon work session on Sept. 19.

JUST RESTING MY EYES: During last week’s school board work session, board member David Banks made the highly controversial recommendation to end board member comments at the end of each board meeting, a tradition the board has engaged in as long as Around Town can remember. The argument is that the new board members, Democrats Jaha Howard and Charisse Davis, have made the comment section too partisan. The recommendation was successful with four Republicans voting in favor and three Democrats voting against. Yet only a few minutes after making that recommendation, some school board watchers say Banks seemed to lose interest in the debate. Critics have taken to social media to accuse him of sleeping through parts of the meeting. For his part, Banks tells Around Town he would never sleep at a meeting.

“I’m disappointed that a comment was ever made not knowing the facts. When you have dry eyes, which I hope you never do, sometimes you just shut them so the burning sensation goes away,” he said. “I may have my eyes closed, but there’s a reason for that. I’m hearing everything that’s going on.”

Cobb school board member David Banks, pictured during the board's afternoon work session on Sept. 19.

SAFETY RANKINGS: Security-based review, comparison and news site Security Baron analyzed FBI rankings of crime rates to find out what the top 50 safest cities are in Georgia, and what their safety score is. The analysis ranked Johns Creek as Georgia’s safest city and Cairo last on the list. Kennesaw came in at No. 7; Powder Springs at No. 22; Acworth at No. 23; Smyrna at No. 27 and Marietta No. 48 out of the safest 50.

SPEAKER CIRCUIT: Cobb District Attorney Joyette Holmes will speak to the Metro Marietta Kiwanis Club at its weekly luncheon Monday. The event starts at noon at First United Methodist Church. For more information, please contact,

POLITICAL PLATTER: Mableton attorney Terry Alexis Cummings announced she plans to challenge state Rep. Erica Thomas, D-Austell, in next year’s election.

Cummings said she has worked in the criminal justice and law enforcement fields for over 30 years, including a 25-year career with the Federal Bureau of Prisons. She also has taught as an adjunct professor for an online university. The Teaneck, New Jersey, native earned a Bachelor of Arts from Rutgers University and law degree from Georgetown University Law School. She and her husband, John, have lived in Cobb County since 2015. She said she is active in the Cobb County Democratic Party, the Mableton Improvement Coalition and the Legacy at the River Line Homeowners Association. Cummings took aim at the incumbent in her news release, referencing the national stink Thomas caused when she took to Facebook to say a shopper at a Mableton Publix confronted her over abusing the store’s express checkout line. Thomas claimed the shopper told her to “go back to where you came from” although it was eventually revealed that the shopper was a lifelong Democrat of Cuban descent. Many have since accused Thomas of crying wolf.

Terry Alexis Cummings

“I am running for the Georgia House of Representatives for District 39 because I want my community’s voice to be heard at the Capitol,” Cummings said in her statement.

“District 39 deserves a representative whose focus remains on the interests of the constituents we serve rather than unnecessary and divisive distractions. I am asking our community to join me in standing up for what is right, good, and decent about south Cobb. If given the opportunity, I will represent our community with the dignity and determination our families deserve. With the community’s support, I will provide the leadership that we need.”

TRIMMING THE FAT: A wail is sounding throughout the land ever since Gov. Brian Kemp’s order to state agencies to cut their bloated budgets, ever so slightly.

Some lawmakers, it has been reported, are “baffled” by the request. Given the scarcity of fiscal conservatives from sea to shining sea, that sentiment is understandable. At the federal level, the national debt has climbed to a dangerous $22 trillion — that’s trillion with a T — with no signs of slowing. Yet neither party is willing to do anything about it.

That Georgia has a governor practicing fiscal restraint untempted by the government pie brought to Atlanta by your pocketbook should be welcome news to conservatives.

“The real goal,” said Thomas Sowell, “should be reduced government spending, rather than balanced budgets achieved by ever rising tax rates to cover ever rising spending.”

Maryline Blackburn

In the latest chapter of Smyrna’s festival follies, Mayor Max Bacon believes Councilwoman Maryline Blackburn used her position to unfairly profit in spearheading the Smyrna Black Heritage Celebration earlier this year.

“She profited from that,” Bacon told Around Town this week. “What she did was she rented the community center at the employee rate and then she sold booths there. Her organization profited from it. That’s wrong.”

On Feb. 23, Blackburn spearheaded the “Unity in the Community” Black Heritage Celebration at the Smyrna Community Center, an event with food tastings, artwork, storytelling and cultural activities. Blackburn said by all accounts it was successful.

According to Bacon, the city charges different rates for the use of its facilities depending on whether the person is a resident of the city, lives outside the city or works for the city. The employee rate is the cheapest.

“Well the employee rate, that’s what she got. She got the employee rate, but yet she sold booths there. That’s what the thing was. I don’t think you should be allowed to sort of circumvent what the rules are to benefit you,” Bacon said.

As a result of her actions, Bacon said the city is looking into changing its employee rental policy.

Max Bacon

The mayor made his comments following Blackburn’s failed attempt to override his Monday veto. Earlier this month, the council voted in favor of jointly hosting a Hispanic Heritage Month celebration with the city’s annual Halloween-themed Casper’s Fall Fun Carnival. In a rare veto, Bacon nixed that decision, arguing that while he had no problem with a Hispanic heritage celebration, it shouldn’t be held at the same time as the city’s fall carnival. That decision drew criticism from Blackburn and others, but she lacked the votes to override the veto, only garnering support from Councilwoman Susan Wilkinson.

So what about these allegations of Blackburn profiting with her Black Heritage event? Around Town asked what she thought of the mayor’s accusations.

“Max Bacon is on his way out and it is time for him to just retire,” Blackburn said. “He’s done a good job with Smyrna and its development, and we’re very appreciative of it, but it’s time.”

Blackburn said in January, the Smyrna United Task Force offered an opportunity for Smyrna to present a Black Heritage Festival during Black History month, something the council chose not to support.

“So, I took it upon myself to move forward with the celebration at the community center, as an employee of the city and a resident of the city. I, along with a team of volunteers, volunteered countless hours to organize vendors, event entertainment, etc. to make this a very successful event,” she said.

If anything, Blackburn said she came out of pocket to make sure that the event was successful. Any proceeds that resulted over and above expenses were donated to a nonprofit charitable organization, Divas With A Cause, which she said supports a number of deserving charities throughout Atlanta.

“The issue at hand is simply that the mayor and council have failed twice to support, celebrate and embrace Smyrna’s diversity,” she said, quoting the city’s strategic vision plan: “Smyrna will be known as a city that celebrates our diversity.”

Blackburn said Smyrna is a city in which more than half of its residents are people of color. She also quoted Verna Myers in saying, “Diversity is being invited to the party, inclusion is being asked to dance.”

JOB INTERVIEW: Last week, County Chairman Mike Boyce sparred with Commissioner Keli Gambrill over her recommendation to appoint a Kennesaw State University economics professor to the Development Authority of Cobb County.

Mike Boyce

Gambrill accused Boyce of not treating her as an equal member of the commission because he successfully sought to delay the board’s vote to approve her recommended appointment, J.C. Bradbury, citing his need to sit down with Bradbury in order to decide whether he’s worthy of serving on that board.

Boyce explained that he only learned the day prior that his vote was to be the swing vote in approving Bradbury’s appointment, with two commissioners in support and two in opposition.

“I don’t know this gentleman,” Boyce said. “I just need more time to sit down with this gentleman and talk to him because this is a very important appointment. I want to make sure that my vote is an informed vote.”

Boyce and Bradbury have since met, although Boyce still won’t say whether he will support him.

“Dr. Bradbury and I had a cordial conversation on Tuesday,” Boyce said. “I am continuing my review of this nomination and tentatively plan to announce my decision at the BoC meeting Tuesday night.”

PART OF THE JOB DESCRIPTION? Marietta attorney Kevin Moore has represented a slew of developers seeking to bring their businesses, services and neighborhoods to Cobb over the last 23 years. Likewise, he’s been booed and jeered over the cases he represents, often by homeowners with an acute case of the NIMBYs.

Kevin Moore

Tuesday was one of those days.

At a Cobb County Board of Commissioners zoning meeting that morning, Moore asked that the commission postpone a rezoning application from his client, Kerley Family Homes, proposing 50 town homes east of Floyd Road and just south of Floyd Middle School.

The case drew criticism from neighbors at the Sept. 3 planning commission meeting, and Moore told commissioners the developers wished to review the number of homes proposed and return with an updated plan.

Prior to Commissioner Lisa Cupid’s recommendation to postpone the case, she held up a laminated piece of paper.

“Before I make my motion, I just wanted to address these, which were distributed. In all my days being here, I’ve never seen anything in such poor taste. I have never seen anything in such poor, inappropriate, adolescent taste,” Cupid said. “If this is going to be a part of how persons want me to consider their perspective with respect to how we zone (this case), it does not work in your favor.”

Lisa Cupid

Cupid later told Around Town the laminated pieces of paper displayed a “culturally insensitive” depiction of Moore. The culprit had edited a photo of the attorney to create something that disturbed the entire board.

She would not get more specific.

When the board convened in the meeting room at 100 Cherokee St. on Tuesday morning, the pictures were waiting at each of their desks, Cupid said.

Commissioner Bob Ott said the picture depicted Moore as a “dictator in military uniform,” ordering the board to approve the zoning.

“It was totally inappropriate,” he said.

For his part, Moore told Around Town he was unfazed by the image, which he said “is just not worthy of comment.”

“It was a derogatory shot,” he said. “Sometimes people get emotional about these items.”

While scores of people have been happy to display their discontent with the proposals Moore brings to the county, scores more have become friends, Moore said.

As far as being on the receiving end of sometimes unfair and disproportionate bellyaching, “it’s part of the job description,” he said.

FUNDRAISING: Endeavoring to keep Georgia in his column, it was standing room only at the Strand Theatre on Tuesday for a fundraiser for popular Gov. Brian Kemp. Notable local hosts rolling out the red welcome carpet were Marietta Mayor Steve Tumlin, State Rep. Bert Reeves, Sheriff Neil Warren, Marietta artist Lucy Browning, oil executive Kim Gresh, local businessmen John Loud and Jay Cunningham, Downtown Marietta Development Authority Chairman Tom Browning and Strand General Manager Andy Gaines. Over a 150 guests eagerly greeted Gov. Kemp. And for an hour the governor with his million-dollar smile circulated the venue personally speaking to everyone.

Before the fundraiser, Kemp visited with the MDJ, attended a ceremony at the accountability court for Cobb Superior Court and visited the new facilities at WellStar Health System.

THE CITY OF SMYRNA will host its annual Casper’s Fall Carnival next month, just don’t expect to see any tamales, mariachi or Frida Kahlo paintings on display. Those absences are the result of a dispute that’s unfolded over the last couple weeks involving the celebration of Hispanic Heritage Month in Smyrna.

The idea to celebrate Hispanic Heritage Month in Smyrna was suggested by the Smyrna United Task Force, a group Mayor Max Bacon set up to promote diversity in the Jonquil city.

Max Bacon

Councilwoman Maryline Blackburn says the task force has attempted to convince the city to host a number of events celebrating various minority groups, but each time a proposal has been brought forward, it’s been met with a cold shoulder.

Maryline Blackburn

Earlier this month, the Smyrna City Council voted 5-2 to hold a Hispanic Heritage Month celebration jointly with the city’s annual Casper’s Fall Fun Carnival, a Halloween-themed event with costumes, inflatables and carnival games, on Oct. 11.

The two opposing votes came from council members Charles “Corkey” Welch and Derek Norton, who is running to replace the retiring Bacon as mayor in November’s election.

Contrary to the council’s wishes to hold the two events simultaneously, Bacon nixed the idea with a rare veto, deeming the double festival not in the best interest of the city.

Norton told Around Town he agreed with the mayor.

Derek Norton

“I thought they shouldn’t be together, and honestly if we’re talking about inclusion and togetherness, I think we should sponsor one big multicultural event rather than several, you know, each group on a different day,” Norton said. “I really think we ought to do one big one, and I think we did that previously, but I’d like to bring that back, so it’s not that I’m against recognizing any one group, I just think it ought to be together in one big celebration.”

During Monday night’s council meeting, Blackburn’s attempt to override Bacon’s veto fell flat. Her motion to add the matter to the council agenda failed 5-2 with only Councilwoman Susan Wilkinson in support.

Susan Wilkinson

Addressing the council during the public comment part of the meeting, Pat Burns, a member of the task force who identified herself as a 30-plus year resident of Smyrna, said the first thing that comes up when Googling “Casper” is a mattress company.

“Casper is as outdated as spats, spittoons, President Eisenhower and some of the apparent values of our elected leaders,” Burns said, arguing that much time was spent in developing Smyrna’s comprehensive vision plan, which calls for a city of inclusiveness.

“Now it appears you approve only status quo events like Casper, St. Patrick’s Day, Christmas, Jonquil, but not what our Unity Task Force has suggested, be it black history, Pride or Hispanic recognitions. The vision plan, your vision plan, has been rubbished. Casper is a ghost relic from the 1950s where an arrested development is stopped up. Your vote shouts the message, shouts the message, that honoring a ghost relic that kids don’t even know is more important than the residents you represent and even Smyrna’s vision plan.”

The council exchanged views over the topic at its work session last week where Blackburn urged her colleagues to reconsider Bacon’s veto.

“The mayor established this committee, and they’re trying to bring things that relate to diversity and inclusiveness. You know, at some point we’ve got to stop cutting them off at the knees, you guys,” Blackburn said.

Jennifer Bennett, the city’s communication’s director, said Smyrna used to have an event called Spice of Life that incorporated any number of cultures from different foods, African dancers, mariachi bands and the Georgia Ballet. Why not resurrect that concept with one inclusive festival that brings everyone together rather than piecemealing individual events hither and yon? she suggested.

“I don’t take kindly to the piecemealing,” Blackburn countered. “There’s an identity thing that comes along with each one of these functions that we do whether it is the Hispanic Heritage Month Celebration or it’s gay pride celebration or its African American celebration. We don’t have to group them all together. We can have an identity for each one of them in a community that is as diverse as we are and we need to start implementing the inclusiveness of it. This is just embarrassing to me.”

Regardless, Welch said he would be much more supportive of a multicultural celebration than holding an event for a particular race or ethnicity.

“Then let’s not do Christmas, Corkey,” Blackburn interrupted.

“I’m talking,” Welch fired back. “What I would be more supportive of is a group celebration (rather) than bringing one individual race or ethnicity or religion or anything together and sponsoring it as part of the city with city taxpayer money because I think it’s going to come back to bite us in the tail eventually,” he said.

In reply, Blackburn said, “Has it come back to bite Atlanta, Roswell, Duluth, Savannah?”

Answered Welch: “I’m not talking about Roswell. I’m worried about Smyrna, Georgia, and that’s all I’m worried about.”

Charles “Corkey” Welch

For his part, Bacon tells Around Town he would be happy to hold a celebration of Hispanic heritage on a different day.

“I just think the Halloween event is going to be for kids, and I think theirs is going to be a much larger event, plus you know they never informed us what they were going to do. We never got any information. No information,” he said of the task force.

As for allegations that he or the council were opposed to holding events for minorities, Bacon dismissed that as a misconception.

“If anybody supports diversity, it’s me. I mean look, we have a city administrator, African American female, probably the very first one in a town this size,” he said.

Bacon said Smyrna has kept up with the times and believes it’s a great place to live.

As for Blackburn, “I don’t know. It’s almost like she’s just got a chip on her shoulder about something,” he said.

FUNDRAISER: A reception benefiting Cobb District Attorney Joyette Holmes’ re-election campaign will be from 5:30 to 7:30 p.m. Wednesday at Moore, Ingram, Johnson & Steele’s offices at Emerson Overlook. RSVP to Joyette Holmes at or Keegan Amdal at

SPEAKER CIRCUIT: Vic Reynolds, director of the Georgia Bureau of Investigation, is the speaker at Friday’s Cobb County Republican Women’s Club. He will be speaking about the Gang Task Force, Crimes Against Children and the Elderly and Human Trafficking. The event begins at 11:30 a.m. at the Marietta Hilton Conference Center.

For more information, please visit the organization’s website at

Mike Boyce

County Chairman Mike Boyce says he plans to start fundraising for his 2020 reelection campaign this month, with mailers scheduled to go out next week. At present, his wife, Judy, is serving as his campaign chair.

“These kinds of campaigns, because they’re not really well funded, we have to do it like we did last time. Now I’ve got some feelers out for a campaign manager,” he said.

In the May 2016 Republican primary, Boyce received 49 percent of the vote to Tim Lee’s 40.4 percent and Larry Savage’s 10.5 percent. That prompted a runoff in which Boyce trounced Lee with 63.9 percent of the vote. There were no Democratic challengers in the general election that year.

“We’re going to do a soft rollout at the end of this month, early October for those who supported our campaign last time. I’ll also have some small engagements at my home for people, and then I have another plan for another set of donors later in October,” he said. “But my plan is to raise as much as I can before Thanksgiving, and then I’m done.”

Following Thanksgiving, he plans to campaign door to door in January with the campaign influenced by how much money he brings in.

“But as you saw last time, we raised $160,000. My campaign is not about money. It’s about an army. And I have over 200 people that are waiting to go knock on doors,” he said.

As far as Around Town’s heard, the only other candidate in the race for chairman is Democrat Commissioner Lisa Cupid. Boyce and Cupid have a good relationship and often vote in concert. How then does he plan to distinguish himself from her in the race?

Lisa Cupid

“I think that’s her problem, not mine. Because I’m the chairman of the board and look, I believe in collectively sharing credit, and I try as long as I can about talking about ‘we the board,’ but the people look at the board, look at the chairman, they look at the whole board, so you live and die by the accomplishment of the board, the chairman does, and I’m very proud of this board.”

The biggest difference between this race and the last one against Chairman Tim Lee is he’s not running against an incumbent.

“You know, it’s much different this time because, first of all, I have a record to run on and I believe everyone who wants to run again has to run on that record,” Boyce said.

What is his proudest achievement regarding that record?

“Boy, there’s so many. It would have to be what we’ve done for the whole staff, including the police, the first responders. That was the big thing,” he said, noting the 7% raise they received, in addition to an incentive bonus.

There’s been some chatter among Boyce critics about him pulling out at the last minute to allow Cupid to run for chair unopposed, the chatterers pointing to how Boyce flirted with running for Congress, but did not follow through.

Boyce dismisses that argument, saying he “absolutely” plans stay in the race.

“When I came back from Iraq in 2008, I considered it but I didn’t qualify (against then-U.S. Rep. Tom Price), thank the Lord. I didn’t know the congressman like I know him now,” he said.

Boyce said he’s using political consultant Robert Lee, just as he did last time around.

“For my guru, he’s my strategist,” Boyce said.

Readers will recall Robert Lee made waves in 2015 when as chairman of the Georgia Young Republicans, he described GOP presidential frontrunner Donald Trump as a fascist, comparing him to Benito Mussolini.

Boyce said he’s still looking for a campaign strategist to handle the day-to-day work in addition to Lee.

“I haven’t found one yet. But I don’t need one right now because I’m just simply raising money,” he said.

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

ART OF NAVIGATION: Atlanta Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms knocked ’em dead during her address to the Cobb Chamber of Commerce on Monday morning, which saw her take on the issues of the day.

Her introduction was unique, to say the least.

Former Georgia Attorney General Sam Olens introduced Atlanta’s 60th mayor by laying bare her inheritance of a city in the wake of a slew of scandals and federal investigations. Those scandals included city workers accepting bribes.

Before getting down to business at the podium, Bottoms analogized stepping around her dog’s own business in her home to some days on the job.

“(I) navigated stepping around poop this morning,” she said, with a rumble of laughter following. “I thought, ‘This is just what it feels like to walk into city hall some days.’”

Just after, she said she was “most excited” to be in Cobb because she’d heard Six Flags Over Georgia Park President Dale Kaetzel would be in attendance. Bottoms said she’d once held a job at the park selling “Cherry-Berry” frozen treats, a job the mayor said was “the best job I’ve ever had in my entire life.”

A bartering system between food stations was in place there during her tenure, she revealed.

“You gave out a Cherry-Berry ice cream, and you’d get a hamburger for lunch. Now, I’m sure none of you all did that at your teenage jobs,” she said grinning. “One morning, a friend came by and I gave her — I loaned her — a Cherry-Berry ice cream pop. And unbeknownst to me, there were some supervisors lurking in the bushes waiting to catch wayward teenagers giving away products.”

Her Honor said she’d never been so scared as when she was called in to talk to her supervisors. But the fear wasn’t of her boss, she said.

“My mother had just dropped me off, so I was afraid that I was going to have to call her to come right back and get me,” she said. “I knew what my mother would do to me would’ve been worse than anything that would happen (at) Six Flags.”

In the end, Bottoms got to keep her job at the ice cream stand.

“It all worked out because here I stand as mayor. (That) federal investigation doesn’t have anything to do with me,” she said, once again, to laughter and applause.

And when she mentioned her city’s decision last year to end an agreement between Atlanta and U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, the crowd gave a more contained round of applause.

“Thank you for your applause, Cobb County,” the mayor said. “I got booed in Buckhead.”

Atlanta’s decision last year to end the city’s relationship with ICE meant the Atlanta City Jail would no longer accept ICE detainees at its facility. Immigration staff in the city said then that the decision was in response to what they said were troubling reports of families being separated at the U.S.-Mexico border, as well as in Atlanta.

Atlanta Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms addresses the Cobb Chamber of Commerce on Monday morning.

POLITICAL PLATTER: Karen Gitau, who is challenging Kennesaw City Councilman James “Doc” Eaton, recently introduced herself to the council, sharing about her father who ran for office in her home country in the 1970s. She came to Kennesaw from Kenya in 1995 upon acceptance to Kennesaw State University.

Speaking to the MDJ afterward, she said has been attending meetings regularly and has noted a focus on the homeowners in Kennesaw, while renters are often forgotten. She said she feels this segment of the population needs more representation. Gitau is concerned that elected officials aren’t thinking in terms of the people who work in the downtown service industry who have to commute to an area lacking in public transportation.

“Rent is going up and what is happening is that many people are moving farther out of Kennesaw. If they rent, the term ends, you move because you can’t afford to renew … in terms of family, how many people can afford it if the rent goes up?” Gitau said.

Antonio Jones is also running for Post 1 in the Nov. 5 election.

Chairman Mike Boyce explains to Commissioner Keli Gambrill why he wouldn’t vote on her appointment to the Development Authority of Cobb County during Tuesday’s meeting.

WHATEVER HAPPENED TO district courtesy, the practice of elected officials deferring to the decision an elected official wants to happen in her district?

Like maintaining promises against raising taxes, it appears to be a dead custom in Cobb County, as evidenced Tuesday when County Chairman Mike Boyce sparred with Commissioner Keli Gambrill over her recommendation to appoint a Kennesaw State University economics professor to the Development Authority of Cobb County.

Development authority members are appointed by the commission, and each commissioner has the opportunity to recommend a person for approval.

Gambrill accused Boyce of not treating her as an equal member of the commission because he successfully sought to delay the board’s vote to approve her recommended appointment, J.C. Bradbury, citing his need to sit down with Bradbury in order to decide whether he’s worthy of serving on such an august body.

Dr. J.C. Bradbury

Gambrill took offense, saying no other recommendations by commissioners to appoint members to the development authority had come under such scrutiny before, and she believes it’s because Bradbury’s point of view is in contrast to existing authority members.

“This is coming across as pure patronage and politics at its worst on this board,” Gambrill said, adding that commissioners have had at least two weeks to look at Bradbury’s resume and decide whether he’s qualified.

“All I’m asking to do is appoint someone who many on the development authority consider controversial because he holds a different opinion,” Gambrill said. “That’s what voters of District 1 expect. ... Why are we so afraid of having someone of a different point of view being appointed to this board?”

Boyce explained that he only learned Monday his vote was to be the swing vote in approving Bradbury’s appointment, with two commissioners in support and two in opposition.

“I don’t know this gentleman,” Boyce said. “I just need more time to sit down with this gentleman and talk to him because this is a very important appointment. I want to make sure that my vote is an informed vote.”

Boyce did not say which commissioners oppose Bradbury’s appointment and chastised Gambrill for complaining about his motion to delay the vote for two weeks until the next board meeting on Sept. 24.

“I could have just let you sit out here and hang,” he told Gambrill. “I knew yesterday there were two votes in opposition and there might have been a third so I asked you to walk the hall to see if you’re going to have the votes, and that was a professional courtesy to you.”

Critics of the development authority, a board chaired by Vinings Bank executive Clark Hungerford, maintain that its members, and the commissioners who appoint them from Boyce to Bob Ott, simply rubber stamp whatever tax incentives the developer du jour requests.

As a former county commission chairman once said, the idea is to give tax breaks to developments that make the area a better place, but you don’t want to give away the candy store. That several commissioners don’t want a new voice on the development authority who will serve as a counterweight to the rubber stamp crowd merely lends weight to the view that we have a commission and development authority that has no problem unlocking Cobb’s candy store of tax incentives and hollering “Sooey!”

OUT OF TOWN: Speaking of the commission, the board will go to Blairsville in Union County for a retreat in early October, despite Chairman Boyce telling the MDJ there’s no pressing reason for holding the team-building event outside Cobb, 100 miles away from constituents.

Mike Boyce

“Anybody can attend,” he said. “I’ve had every other retreat here in the county.”

Boyce said the retreat at the Blairsville community center will start on Oct. 2 and finish on Oct. 4.

“If you have it right here you’re always being pulled by local issues, whereas when you’re up there you’re pretty much committed to the whole program there and not distracted by the local issues here,” he said. “This gives us some time to do some team building and address some of our important issues as we move forward.”

Like railroading Commissioner Gambrill’s appointments, for example.

RUMOR MILL: It’s a piece of gossip that seemingly won’t die. Like Bigfoot sightings or Elvis is still alive.

Thus, we expect the whispers that Marietta City Schools Superintendent Grant Rivera will be leaving the Gem City for a bigger pond will surface once again.

Grant Rivera

The rumor crescendoed over Memorial Day weekend that Rivera would be taking the superintendent position at Atlanta Public Schools. The problem with the theory then was it appeared at the time that APS Superintendent Meria Carstarphen was firmly ensconced in her position. Monday’s announcement that the board will not renew Carstarphen’s contract puts the Rivera rumor back on fertile ground.

Around Town looked into the matter the last go-round. Rivera was adamant in his denial.

“No truth to any rumors. I’ve been contacted in the past about multiple superintendent vacancies and I’ve told each person the same thing: I love this city and school district. I truly can’t imagine a better place to raise a family and serve as superintendent.

“My hope today remains the same as it did my first day on the job — to be the superintendent and hand my daughter her diploma when she graduates at Northcutt Stadium.

“Bottom line: as long as it’s up to me … I’m not going anywhere.”

Just to be sure, AT again asked Rivera the question in light of the Carstarphen news:

“I have no interest in any superintendency other than Marietta City Schools,” he said. “As a superintendent, I am honored to serve the MCS BOE, our students and staff, and the community of Marietta. Equally as important, as a father, I look forward to watching our two girls grow up in this amazing school district and city. For our family, this is home.”

Most believe the Yeti does not exist, that Elvis died while seated on a Graceland commode and that Superintendent Rivera is staying put. Still, there are those that love to spread a juicy rumor without regard to fact or fiction.



U.S. Sen. Johnny Isakson wears his love of the Georgia Bulldogs like a badge.

So one would not expect to find in his Cumberland offices a blue-and-gold sign that reads “Play Like a Champion Today,” the iconic slogan of the Fighting Irish of Notre Dame.

Staff member Maureen Rhodes, who happens to be a Class of ’09 alumna of the South Bend, Indiana, school, prominently hung the Dame paraphernalia above her desk, viewable to all perusing the Isakson camp’s hallway.

In typical open-minded Isakson fashion, the retiring senator has allowed the contraband to remain. But with the No. 7 Irish invading Dooley Field at Sanford Stadium on Sept. 21 to take on the senator’s beloved No. 3 Dawgs, one must understand even the benevolent senator’s goodwill has its limits. Isakson uttered the same line he does about all UGA-related activities, “Go Dawgs! And if you don’t, go somewhere else.”

BEFORE SMYRNA MAYORAL hopeful Steve Rasin reached for the microphone at his campaign launch party, he picked up the sax.

Rasin, who is retired from a career in the Navy and commercial aviation, serenaded the crowd gathered at the Taylor-Brawner House on Thursday evening before turning on the R&B song “Wake Up Everybody,” and encouraging them to sing and clap along.

There are five candidates in the nonpartisan race to replace retiring Mayor Max Bacon in the Nov. 5 election: Alex Backry, Ryan Campbell, Laura Mireles, Smyrna Mayor Pro Tem Derek Norton and Rasin.

State Rep. Erick Allen, D-Smyrna, who was in the crowd Thursday, believes the race is between Norton and Rasin.

Norton certainly has some heavyweights in his corner. Bacon has predicted Norton will succeed him. And the invitation for a Norton fundraiser at the Georgian Club last month listed U.S. Sen. Johnny Isakson, Attorney General Chris Carr, Bacon, and former Gov. Roy Barnes.

Derek Norton

Meanwhile, among those who turned out for Rasin’s campaign launch party were Michael Murphy, assistant for special projects to County Chairman Mike Boyce; Smyrna Councilwoman Maryline Blackburn; Cobb SCLC President Ben Williams and Donnie Cochran Sr., the first African American commanding officer and flight leader of the Blue Angels.

“I think you have a wonderful opportunity to elect a leader that will put the people first,” Murphy said in his introduction of Rasin, urging those in attendance to host coffees with their friends and neighbors to get to know him. “I’m pleased to have the opportunity to be able to support Steve Rasin and I hope you will do what needs to be done and that is to get the world out and let people know.”

Rasin weighed in on some of the issues of the day with Around Town following the event.

The solution to the controversial Sterigenics plant near Smyrna, he said, is to shut it down.

“That’s what I believe the solution is. I really do. I mean, based on what I’ve seen, the company can’t be trusted,” he said.

What about the solution to area traffic congestion? Rasin said he supports bringing MARTA into Smyrna.

“There’s a lot of people who live in Smyrna who could use MARTA to get to work. There’s a lot of people who don’t live in Smyrna who have a harder time getting to work. I just don’t think the Cobb County transit system has been enough,” he said.

A graduate of the Naval Academy, father of three, and grandfather of one, Rasin describes himself as a trailblazer. He said of the 1,450 people in his 1970 class at the Naval Academy, 25 were African American. Of the 903 graduates four years later, only nine were African American. Following graduation, he was sent to Corpus Christi, Texas, were he trained recruits to fly. His next assignment brought him to California, where he met his wife of 39 years, Dianne.

He left active duty in 1982 and entered the Navy Reserve, taking a civilian job with Lockheed Missiles & Space Company where, after 11 years, he was laid off, which brought him to Atlanta and a career in commercial aviation. He said he retired from the Navy Reserve in 2002 and from commercial aviation in 2017.

“As a pilot, as a father, safety is my No. 1 issue. We need to be safe in our homes, our schools, our businesses, our community,” he said. “Here in Smyrna our biggest concern right now is that Sterigenics plant right outside the city limits. Nothing escapes bad air. Nothing escapes toxic air. We need to let our government officials know. Personally I think some of them are sitting on their hands.”

Rasin called for a city government that is reflective of the city’s diversity, of a government that was transparent and one that helped small businesses thrive. People want a government that stays out of their wallets and out of their bedrooms, he said.

“They want to be safe at home and not be looted, be safe in our cars and not get booted and walk down the street and not get shooted,” he said, a line that garnered laughter and applause.

Tania K. Robinson

POLITICAL PLATTER: Cobb County Democrat Tania K. Robinson, a financial planner, has announced she will challenge state Sen. Horacena Tate, D-Atlanta, in the May 19 Democratic primary.

Tate garnered the nickname “Horacena, Have you Seen Her?” in a previous race against Travis Klavohn, who claimed she was missing in action regarding her elected duties.

“I believe it is my time to connect the community to the Capitol,” Robinson said in a press release. “To legislate around the issues that face our district and find solutions. To bring accountability to the seat and our government. Our District 38 residents want and deserve change and true representation under the Gold Dome.”

An official kickoff event for Robinson’s campaign is scheduled for later in September.

Horacena Tate

ZONING & MARVIN GAYE: Cobb County Planning Commissioner Fred Beloin and the board’s chair, Judy Williams, locked horns when what was supposed to be a shoo-in case came before the five planning commissioners Tuesday.

As reported by the MDJ’s Thomas Hartwell, Beloin questioned and withheld his support for a rezoning request from the county for 1.5 acres of county-owned property at the northeast corner of Barrett Parkway and Macland Road, citing the county’s ability to skirt rules that would be required of any other applicant appearing before the board.

The rezoning was for the purpose of potentially enhancing resale value of the surplus property. The county was not required to submit a site plan or any details about plans for the property.

Williams, on the other hand, said she believed it was not the planning commission’s job to decide what would ultimately be a Cobb County Board of Commissioners decision.

“Why should the planning commission, a recommending body with no authority to outright approve or deny applications tell the county commissioners what to do?” Williams said, challenging Beloin to phone Cobb Commissioner Keli Gambrill, who appointed him to the planning commission, and tell her about his disdain for county procedure.

Fred Beloin

“Madame chairman, that’s a cheap shot,” Beloin replied.

On Thursday, Beloin sent an email to the MDJ and other members of the media, copying Gambrill and Cobb Commission Chairman Mike Boyce.

In his email, Beloin further questioned why the county would seek to rezone the property without providing any details and therefore absolve a future purchaser and developer of the property from coming before the board for review via a future rezoning case.

“PC member Gunther called this application the Marvin Gaye ‘What’s going on’ application because it was so vague,” he wrote. “County representatives admitted that the property’s Macland frontage is a ‘congestion point,’ ... At the end of the day, Cobb citizens just want to get home. Literally. They expect that a PC would actually plan (radical concept?) and try to correct and alleviate traffic bottlenecks in preference to maximizing the County’s return on an acre of surplus land.

“A majority of the PC agreed with me that the PC should actually plan. ... PC Chair Judy Williams is a nice person. She contended that the PC should give blank checks to the County in the form of rezoning approvals of its surplus land with no review by the PC. Four of us disagreed yesterday. Her point that we should just allow and trust the Board of Commissioners … to handle zoning with no meaningful input from the PC (save perhaps direct calls from each of us to our appointing Commissioners) promotes one standard for the rezoning and development of County surplus land and a more stringent review for the rezoning of purely privately held land. The County Code does not presently support that. If we want the (Board of Commissioners) to handle all rezoning hearings without input from the PC, then perhaps we should abolish the PC and save the taxpayers a few dollars.”

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