Citizens are saying so long to three of the 15 state representatives who serve parts of Cobb County in the Georgia Legislature.
Republicans Rich Golick and Earl Ehrhart chose to retire this year, while Sam Teasley was defeated in the general election.
Their departure unquestionably diminishes the county’s influence in the statehouse. Golick is chairman of the House Judiciary Committee (Non-Civil), Ehrhart is chairman of the committee in charge of funding Georgia’s universities and Teasley is majority caucus vice-chairman. The Democrats replacing Golick and Teasley will not likely receive chairmanships under the Gold Dome, Democrats being the minority party. And while Ehrhart is being replaced by someone who shares his and west Cobb’s conservative values — his wife, Ginny Ehrhart — it’s unlikely she’ll receive a chairmanship without any seniority.
The Democrats who won Golick’s and Teasley’s seats caused the Cobb Legislative Delegation to flip to majority Democrat, the implications of which remain to be seen.
The longest-serving Republican in the Georgia House, Ehrhart was one of only 35 House Republicans upon his election in 1988 at the age of 28. As one of the early Republicans in the Democrat-controlled Legislature, Ehrhart helped crack the hold of long-reigning, yellow-dog Democrat House Speaker Tom Murphy, eventually seeing victory when the GOP took over the House in 2005. Ehrhart was then appointed the first Republican rules chairman in the state’s history. The institutional knowledge he takes with him as he departs the Gold Dome is irreplaceable.
Golick, a Smyrna Republican who has served in the House since 1999, says from a local standpoint, one of the bills he’s proudest of authoring and passing is the Cobb County Property Taxpayer Reassessment Relief Act, which passed in 2000. The legislation provides that if a homeowner’s assessment goes up, then their county homestead goes up by the exact same amount. So that line on a homeowner’s property tax bill will not go up based on the reassessment. By now, Golick estimates it has saved Cobb property taxpayers around $300 million.
From a statewide standpoint, a bill Golick is proudest of is the Private Property Protection Act and accompanying constitutional amendment voters approved in 2006. The legislation was in response to a U.S. Supreme Court ruling that government could seize private property for economic development purposes, but the high court also ruled that states could legislate otherwise if they saw fit. Then-Gov. Sonny Perdue opted to protect private property in Georgia, and Golick carried that legislative package for him as his floor leader. Golick described it as a very difficult fight behind the scenes, but they prevailed, and that Georgia law protecting private property is among the strongest in the country.
First elected in 2010, Teasley said two things he is most proud of is the work on criminal justice reform and honoring his commitment to the taxpayers to fight for a lower tax burden. With Teasley, the door was always open, said former Cobb GOP Chair Rose Wing.
“He was there to be reached and to have a listening ear. He never took anything lightly. It was important to be there for a vote. He took the job seriously and whatever the vote was he stuck with it and he never avoided an issue by not showing for a vote,” Wing said.
State Sen. Lindsey Tippins, R-west Cobb, who chairs the Cobb Legislative Delegation, called Ehrhart, Golick and Teasley honorable men.
“All of them that we’ve lost, if they tell you something, you could go to the bank on their word, and that’s important to be able to trust people. Even though you may not agree on their stand, you at least know where they are and have the expectation that they stand behind what they say,” Tippins said.
Closer to the local level, west Cobb Commissioner Bob Weatherford was defeated in the Republican primary after serving a single term on the commission, although his prior service includes 12 years on the Acworth Board of Aldermen. And Republican Cobb school board members Susan Thayer and Scott Sweeney are stepping off the school board — Thayer, opting not to run after a single term, while Sweeney, who served two terms, was defeated by Democrat Charisse Davis. Democrats now have three seats on the seven-member Cobb Board of Education.
Most of the time, it will take even the best-intentioned people who serve on a school board 18 months to two years to find out how things work, said Tippins, who served on the school board prior to the Senate.
“Sweeney is a great loss,” Wing said. “I think that institutional knowledge will be missed.”
As for Weatherford, the west Cobb commissioner said he’s proudest of working to ensure more police officers are on the force, more officers have the ability to have take-home patrol cars and improving the pay of law enforcement. And while there’s a lot more do, Weatherford said it’s much better than four years ago.
“You might not like it, but Weatherford will give you a straight answer, and I think Weatherford worked hard at trying to be a good commissioner,” Tippins said.
We’d be remiss not to mention U.S. Rep. Karen Handel, R-Roswell, who barely had a chance to unpack her office furniture in Washington upon her election last year before being defeated by Democrat Lucy McBath in this year’s general election. Handel’s is a conservative voice in Washington who has been replaced by a liberal one.
The elected officials who will no longer be representing our county at various governmental levels all deserve our thanks. It’s not an easy thing to step into the public eye and subject yourself and your family to the slings and arrows of public life. But without such service, our democracy would grind to a halt.
The victors stepping in to replace these retiring or defeated officials would do well to remember the examples of their predecessors and how they served this community with character, dignity and achievement.
“Government is a trust,” the American statesman Henry Clay said, “and the officers of the government are trustees; and both the trust and the trustees are created for the benefit of the people.”