I am not an official member of The Marietta Daily Journal family, although I have been around long enough to be considered the weird cousin who shows up at the annual reunion and always spills gravy on his shirt.

I have been on this pages for more than two decades. Longer than anyone else save my friend and favorite Baptist Dr. Nelson Price, who has been writing for the MDJ so long that rumors are that his first columns were chiseled in stone. I must remember to ask him about that someday.

In all this time, I have never been told what to write or not to write. I call ‘em like I see ‘em and leave it up to the editors to deal with the aftermath. I wouldn’t want their job because I have been known to cause an aftermath or two.

So, when I say I am proud to be even an ancillary part of the MDJ, it is because –well – I am. Especially when the paper awards its prestigious Citizen of the Year Award for 2020 not to an individual but to a most worthy group of citizens – Cobb County’s frontline healthcare workers.

In making his announcement at the Cobb Chamber of Commerce's annual meeting at the Cobb Galleria, MDJ Publisher Otis Brumby III paid tribute to the extraordinary challenges faced by healthcare workers and their dedication during the COVID-19 pandemic in Cobb and throughout Georgia.

Brumby said, “Based on what we have all lived through, this decision was as easy as it was obvious. For what they’ve done and what they continue to do, we honor these who treat the sick, rescue the ailing, administer the vaccine, and in hundreds of other ways helped Cobb County emerge from this pandemic.”

The Cobb County Citizen of the Year is as good as it gets and it has been gotten by some outstanding individuals over the past 58 years including former U.S. Sen. Johnny Isakson, former Gov. Roy Barnes, former Georgia Supreme Court Chief Justice Harris Hines, former Marietta Superintendent of Schools Dr. Emily Lembeck and the late Dr. Betty Siegel, president of Kennesaw State University, among a host of other outstanding luminaries.

This singular recognition puts frontline health care workers, as my momma would say, in high cotton. It is a well-deserved patch and one they have earned. To date, there have been almost 76,000 reported cases of COVID-19 in Cobb County and over 900 deaths, including 5 on Monday.

Whether we stayed home, washed our hands and practiced social distancing or second-guessed the accuracy of the numbers, refused to wear masks and pooh-poohed vaccination shots, health care workers didn’t have either luxury. They put their lives and, by extension, the lives of their loved ones on the line daily.

They did so not knowing the full extent of what they were dealing in terms of the magnitude of the disease, trying to cope without adequate supplies, protective equipment and an overabundance of misinformation and hysteria. Still, they soldiered on. Doctors, RNs, LPNs, EMTs, emergency room personnel, hospital staffs, patient advocates and hundreds of their colleagues. I can only imagine the pressure they have been under.

Where in the past some well-deserving Cobb Countian was called up to the podium to receive the Cobb County Citizen of the Year award, on Monday frontline workers from Metro Atlanta Ambulance, Wellstar Health Systems, Cobb and Douglas Public Health, Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta, Northside Hospital, and Kaiser Permanente took to the stage to represent the county’s thousands of healthcare workers who have been at the forefront of the pandemic battle.

In paying tribute to these heroes and their colleagues, Brumby said, “We’re honoring a group of Citizens of the Year, so we thought a plaque or trophy would not be appropriate. Rather, we will commemorate the 2020 Citizens of the Year by placing a marker within the sidewalk in front of the Strand Theater on the Marietta Square.” There it will remain to remind us of all of a group of brave men and women who answered the call when we needed them.

My mentor, the late Jasper Dorsey, a Marietta native who was vice president of Southern Bell’s Georgia operations (and the 1973 Citizen of the Year) taught me a lot about the business world. He also taught me a lot about life. One of his tenets was that we should all leave this world better than we found it.

Our frontline healthcare workers in Cobb County have done just that and the Marietta Daily Journal has rightly chosen to recognize their efforts with the 2020 Citizens of the Year award. I may be the weird cousin who always spills gravy on his shirt at the annual reunion, but I am proud to be a part of the MDJ family on this day.

You can reach Dick Yarbrough at dick@dickyarbrough.com; at P.O. Box 725373, Atlanta, Georgia 31139 or on Facebook at www.facebook.com/dickyarb

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