By CHASE BROWN
Created in 1832, Cobb County was named after state senator Thomas Willis Cobb. Cobb County was formed on Cherokee Indian land, with the Chattahoochee River running through the southern portion of the county and dividing the Creeks and the Cherokees. The county transformed into a primarily suburban county in the 1960s and 1970s, and it thrives today as a desirable place to live in the Atlanta area.
Currently, Cobb County is one of the most populated counties in Georgia, and is comprised of six cities: Acworth, Austell, Kennesaw, Marietta, Powder Springs and Smyrna.
Five commissioners govern the different districts in Cobb County. Helen Goreham, commissioner of the northwestern part of Cobb in District 1, was inaugurated in 2003 and is beginning her third term as commissioner. She recently accepted a certificate from the Georgia Clean Air Campaign on behalf of the Cobb County government. This was in response to her hard work on the environment.
Bob Ott is commissioner of District 2, otherwise known as southeast Cobb. Joann Birrell holds the position of Cobb County commissioner of District 3, the northeastern part of the County, and the newest member to the board is Lisa Cupid of District 4, covering southwest Cobb.
Cupid was recently elected, overtaking the incumbent, Woody Thompson, for his fourth term. Cupid’s goal as a newly elected commissioner is to get citizens of southwest Cobb more involved in the community.
The chairman of the Board of Commissioners is elected in a countywide election. Chairman Tim Lee has served as a commissioner for 11 years, and was elected chairman in 2010.
The Board of Commissioners appoints a county manager, who is the direct supervisor over all departments within the county. He reports directly to the board. David Hankerson, who joined Cobb County government in 1993 as a manager in the Development Control Department, now reigns as the county manager in Cobb. He was recently under criticism regarding his contract, but he was extended a three-year deal.
Active Involvement for Citizens
Cobb County strives to keep its residents actively involved in the community. The Cobb County Parks, Recreation and Cultural Affairs Department is one of many departments within the county that offers programs for citizens to be hands-on participants in their community.
The parks department was established in June of 1966, and has helped create a safe environment for leisure and recreational purposes for the last 45 years. Cobb County currently has 77 properties and 5,490 total acres of land for residents to utilize.
The county is not a money-making venture, budgeting about $18 million and only taking in about $5 million each year. The one way Cobb County is able to bring in a significant amount of revenue is through its cell towers. By leaving cell towers up in the parks, money is collected through the county. That revenue is one of the few ways the county is able to generate its total income and afford the upkeep of local parks.
Parks manager, Jimmy Barnett, has worked for Cobb County for almost 30 years and is very supportive of the ways the county generates money in order to renovate outdated facilities.
“When we first started our playgrounds they were so outdated they did not pass inspection, but luckily we have been able to replace them with the revenue we have brought in through the cell towers,” Barnett said.
The parks department prides itself in being the positive liaison between the county government and the residents of the county. It is known as the face of the county, as is seen year-round at all county and statewide special events.
“The parks provide a place for teamwork, leadership and a place to stay out of trouble. We are there to provide service to make the community a more fun place to live,” said Barnett.
Upkeep of these parks is not easy, and costs a lot of money. Luckily, the county is able to use inmates from the county jail, and community service workers. The parks department alone uses about 20 inmates and individuals with court-ordered community service daily at the different facilities countywide.
Cobb County has great communication between its representatives and its citizens. The county uses a general fund that serves as a way for officials to spend the money wherever it is needed the most.
“We have great cooperation between us and the community. If the people would rather have something else besides a park, like a place to fish, then it will happen. If the police department has something it needs that is more important than a park, then that takes priority,” said Barnett.
Pride in Recreational and Cultural Affairs
Cobb County is unique because it takes great pride in its Recreational and Cultural Affairs Department. Many recreational and arts centers in Cobb County offer a variety of classes for various age groups, and summer programs for children. Recreational and arts facilities are spread out throughout the county so residents are able to have these experiences wherever is most convenient for them.
Meryl Manfre works as a facility coordinator in the Cultural Affairs division. She coordinates all programs for her facility, along with community involvement at festivals and events around the county.
“Having a Parks, Recreation and Cultural Affairs Department really does enhance the quality of life here for Cobb County residents. It is something very important to Cobb County. It draws more businesses here into the area as well,” Manfre said.
The county sponsors many community events throughout the year, such as softball tournaments, BMX competitions and the Special Olympics. These events require extensive planning, committed staff and volunteers, and most importantly, a heart, for making the community as good as it possibly can be.
“What is unique about our department is that we do get to work hands-on with individuals in our community whom you don’t usually get to interact with. One of the most important things I have been involved in is the Special Olympics, because even though we are staff, it is a great way to give back to the community,” Manfre said.
Cobb County is one of few metro-Atlanta counties that focuses on involving the residents of the county in making the community the best it can be. The people of the county are citizens who take pride in their community, and that is what has made Cobb County successful for the last 181 years.