Cobb Chamber of Commerce

Advocacy

Election Information

After the 2016 General Election Primary on May 24, two  runoff elections were needed and scheduled forTuesday, July 26. Exercise your right to vote on election day, or cast your vote early or absentee! Early voting begins July 5, and all opportunities can be found here.

The upcoming election for the position of Chairman, Cobb Board of Commissioners, may be the most important local election in our lifetime, so as a business organization, the Cobb Chamber leadership encourages all voters to study the facts and make an informed decision. During the past four to five years, Cobb has experienced a dramatic turnaround in our local economy. This success is tangible to everyone and includes:

  • Tremendous job growth (20,000 jobs);
  • Three straight years of property tax rate cuts and now the lowest property tax in metro Atlanta;
  • Building a new stadium, and mixed use complex totaling over a billion dollars (without raising any additional tax rates to any Cobb homeowner);
  • Additional funding of $120,000,000 to the school system over the next 10 years directly attributable to the growth in Cumberland due to the Braves project;
  • Adding two badly needed additional lanes to I-75 for congestion relief in the future;
  • Over $750 million of local transportation and safety improvements due to the SPLOST
  • Implementing a police improvement plan with 80 new officers and millions of dollars in other public safety needs;
  • Implementing a comprehensive plan to keep Dobbins ARB from being closed through defense budget cuts; and
  • Opening the first public-private partnership commissary in the U.S., providing 60,000 authorized users this important military benefit

So, please consider your choices carefully among the two candidates. To make sure you and your employees have all the facts, and not the distorted information circulating around the county, Cobb’s Competitive EDGE has launched a website, CobbFacts.com, that addresses the real facts about SunTrust Park and The Battery Atlanta. Learn the truth about how this development has boosted our economy, the pedestrian bridge, traffic plans, parking spots and more.

It is not our intent to tell anyone who to vote for in this important election, rather our commitment is to educate our citizens with the facts to help them make an informed decision. The Cobb Chamber Government Affairs Committee conducted a questionnaire strictly for educational purposes as a service to the Chamber's membership. Unedited responses for the remaining runoff candidates can be found below. Please note: all candidates were invited to participate.

Regardless of who you might support, please go vote and encourage your employees and others to go vote.

For more information on Cobb County elections, candidates, dates and voter information, visit the Cobb County Board of Elections website.

Cobb County Commission Chairman

Mike Boyce
Mike Boyce

Tim Lee
Tim Lee

State Court Judge, Division 1, Post 3

Kellie Hill
Kellie Hill

John Morgan
John Morgan

 

Cobb County Commission Chairman


Mike BoyceMike Boyce (County Commission Chairman)


1. If elected/re-elected, what will you do to promote continued positive job growth and economic development opportunities in Cobb County?

One of the tenets of being a Republican is the belief in lean government.  To that extent, I'll work with the other members of the Board to minimize as much as possible government's involvement in people's lives.  It has been said repeatedly that people can make a living and hire more people if government stays out of their lives.  I'll work to that end.

2. What is your position on offering tax abatements to attract new businesses to Cobb County?
There are some areas where tax incentives can help in the redevelopment of blighted areas.  However, government should not reward property owners or investors who allow their properties to deteriorate to such a condition causing the need for tax payer assistance in redeveloping the property.

3. What specific solutions would you offer to solve Cobb County's transportation and traffic issues?
We must be mindful that the majority of County funding for transportation infrastructure is embedded in the 2016 SPLOST.  This reduces significantly the discretionary funding in the County budget to address any major transportation and traffic issues.

We would need to cooperate with federal and state agencies for any work on some of the major highways in the County, e.g. Cobb Parkway and Veterans Memorial Highway.  Specifically, I believe one of the most important projects on the table is the completion of the interchange of 3d Army Road and I-75.  This would provide needed relief for citizens living in the west part of the County in accessing I-75. I would work strongly to encourage federal and state agencies to move this project along.

Whenever fiscally feasible, I would propose improving the many congested intersections by adding sufficient additional turn lanes within existing right of ways whenever possible.

4. Do you support the expansion of public safety as the County continues to grow? How should this be done from a budgetary standpoint?
I believe that our public safety personnel who fight fires and drive our patrol cars should be our highest paid categories of employees.  They protect our life, limb and properties.   In order to keep the best of the best, we should ensure that our first responders are the top paid public safety employees in Georgia.  My endorsement by the local chapter of the Fraternal Order of Police is recognition that I am best qualified to achieve that goal.

Additionally, our Sheriff and Public Safety Director will be asked by me to make a proposal regarding the structure the County needs to protect our citizens.  I shall be deeply influenced by their advice.

5. What is your view or position regarding Community Improvement Districts (CIDs)?
During the last year I visited and spoken with elected officials and businessmen in Greenville, SC and Boise, ID that have self-taxing districts similar to the Cobb County's CID's. Both cities have seen successful economic growth because their membership has been approved by affected taxpayers and the funds raised from additional millage imposed and collected from property owners have been used for the improvements within the boundaries of their respective CID's. For the same reasons, our County has its own success stories in the Cumberland and Town Center CID's. Cobb County government should continue to provide assistance to them whenever possible.  

6. What is your position on Special Tax Districts in Cobb County?
Any Special Tax Districts should be approved by at least 75% of the affected property owners. 

7. What elected leader past or present do you admire and why?
Ernest Barrett. Our County has been blest with having many fine leaders. However, Ernest Barrett defined what it meant to be a public servant and it was his vision that established the road map for making Cobb the prosperous County that it is today.

8. Cobb has a history of rising above petty politics and working together to solve problems and getting big things done. What will you do to promote active engagement, with all sectors of the community, to continue Cobb's forward movement?
Many people have commented to me that that the relationships between the members Board of Commissioners is the worst it has been since we have had a 5 member Board. This toxic atmosphere is a direct result of the Chairman's open lack of respect for members of the Board. I think this is a disgrace.

To begin the healing process, I would make every effort to provide the leadership that brings the Board of Commissioners together on issues and to work diligently to reach a consensus on the issues where the members are divided. I would insist that all disagreements be heard in a respectful and dignified manner.

Additionally, I am committed to ensuring that our County employees provide the best possible service and assistance to all our citizens, that all residents are protected and have a voice in our government and the direction of the future of our County. It will be my goal that Cobb is the premier County in Georgia to work, play, and raise the next generation of our citizens. 

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Tim LeeTim Lee (County Commission Chairman)


1. If elected/re-elected, what will you do to promote continued positive job growth and economic development opportunities in Cobb County?

I am proud that during my tenure as Chairman, I have put in place County policies and practices that facilitated the attraction and retention of 19,000 jobs, 42 company relocations or expansions and generated over a $1 billion private investment to Cobb County in the last 5 years. Cobb County’s conservative fiscal leadership, low taxes, investment in public safety, efficient permitting and development processes department and strong partnership with Cobb EDGE foster a business friendly environment.

Under my leadership, Cobb County’s economy is stronger than ever and we are bucking the trends. As businesses are fleeing suburban areas across the nation for urban cores, they are moving to Cobb.  Job growth is at a record high in Cobb County.  For the first time in more than a decade, 5 new Class A office towers are underway. The unemployment rate is the lowest in the region and the lowest it has been since 2008. 

This is just the beginning.  Moving forward, I will work in partnership with the business community, the Chamber and Cobb EDGE to build on the momentum and economic success Cobb has experienced. With these partnerships and my conservative leadership, the future is bright in Cobb County.  

2. What is your position on offering tax abatements to attract new businesses to Cobb County?
One of my top priorities as Chairman has been to protect the taxpayers of this county both by keeping taxes low and attracting economic growth that will expand the tax base, and again, help us keep taxes low. With this said, my record proves that I am supportive of all economic development tools that help attract high-quality economic growth to Cobb that has a long-term benefit to taxpayers.

3. What specific solutions would you offer to solve Cobb County's transportation and traffic issues?
Under my leadership, Cobb has realized an unprecedented investment in transportation improvements. Right now, there is a record investment of more than $1 billion dollars in transportation improvements across the county. These investments have been made possible through 2 SPLOSTS and partnerships with state and federal governments with projects like the reversible lanes on I-75.

In my next term, I am going to continue my record of successfully leveraging partnerships to ensure ongoing investment in transportation improvements to manage congestion and enhance mobility throughout the county.

4. Do you support the expansion of public safety as the County continues to grow? How should this be done from a budgetary standpoint?
Our number one responsibility as a county government is to protect the people of Cobb County. That's why I have made public safety the top priority as Chairman. Under my leadership we have implemented a police improvement plan that is adding 80 new police officers and reforming pay and shift schedules to attract and retain the best-trained officers. I partnered with the District Attorney, Sheriff, police and our legislators to implement some of the toughest anti-gang initiatives in the Southeast. This has all been done with maintaining a conservative, balanced budget and cutting taxes 3 times. Moving forward, I will continue to make public safety a top budget priority, and we will continue expanding public safety to keep Cobb County safe.

5. What is your view or position regarding Community Improvement Districts (CIDs)?
Community Improvement Districts play a vital role in our community. They have been invaluable partners in improving our county and attracting the unprecedented economic growth we have seen in recent years. They also play a key role in offering innovative transportation solutions. You can trust that I will continue to support our CIDs throughout the county.

6. What is your position on Special Tax Districts in Cobb County?
Special districts are a tool to spur economic growth and investment. This is another example of how to leverage public private partnerships to improve communities.

7. What elected leader past or present do you admire and why?
Johnny Isakson. On any given issue, Johnny has the innate ability to identify and engage the right stakeholders, quietly developing a path forward to solve issues without fanfare or the need for public recognition.  He does what he does for the benefit of the public good…and because it's the right thing to do.

8. Cobb has a history of rising above petty politics and working together to solve problems and getting big things done. What will you do to promote active engagement, with all sectors of the community, to continue Cobb's forward movement?
That is what this race is about. It is a choice between electing an angry politician or a leader who has a proven record of working with all stakeholders in the Cobb to deliver results. As Chairman, I believe my record speaks for itself. I have proudly worked with all parts of our county to accomplish big things. Just look at what we have accomplished in the last 5 years-- $1 billion in transportation improvements, $1 billion in private investment, 19,000 jobs and 42 company expansions and relocations, an unprecedented, conservative private-public partnership with the Atlanta Braves, a police improvement plan and tough, new anti-gang initiatives. All of these things were accomplished by working together. At the end of the day, compare the records. I have worked with others to take Cobb to new levels of success, and we cannot afford to elect an angry politician who wants to undo it all. 

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State Court Judge, Division 1, Post 3


Kellie HillKellie Hill (State Court Judge, Division 1, Post 3)


1. What is your level of business experience?

I am a small Cobb County business owner and am responsible for overseeing the management of daily operations. Prior to beginning my legal consulting practice, I was the managing attorney within a private firm and a member of the executive team for a governmental agency before that. Each of these roles included the responsibility of managing human and financial resources. In addition to my management responsibilities, I handled white-collar cases as an assistant district attorney. Many of those cases involved the exploitation of business practices. This required an understanding of how businesses, some of which had multi-million dollar budgets and hundreds of employees, were run. It was necessary for me to have the ability to understand the complex inner- workings of those businesses and develop an understanding of how those practices were manipulated to the extent that allowed me to communicate how a crime was committed to a jury of lay people. I will draw upon all of my business experience when dealing with cases that have business related elements. My background as a trial attorney responsible for understanding and communicating the relationship between business practices and the law is most synonymous to the level of expertise that will be required of me as a judge.

2. What procedure or process would you use for moving cases on the docket?
I would propose a system where cases are generally prioritized by age and type. Criminal cases, where individuals are in custody, would be handled first. The process for dealing with all other cases, both civil and criminal, will be prioritized by the age of the cases. Oldest cases will be placed on the court calendar first with the newest cases being added to the end in the order in which they are filed. The number of weeks dedicated each month to handling the different types of cases, will be dictated by the total number of civil versus criminal cases assigned to my court. Finally, cases will be moved efficiently and will not be delayed capriciously. I will be a judge who is committed to being on the bench and having consistent calendars where cases are heard and handled. I will make timely rulings on pending matters, with an eye towards allowing all parties to have closure and a final resolution as fairly and expediently as possible.   

3. What is your level of legal experience? (Trial, Litigation, etc.)
I have twenty-five years of relevant legal experience. I've been a trial lawyer my entire career and have handled both criminal and civil cases. I served as a prosecutor, defense attorney and plaintiff's attorney. I have handled misdemeanor and felony cases as well as personal injury. I have a background in all areas of the litigation process in each type of case that will come before me as a state court judge.

4. What is your position on creating a business court and domestic relations court in Cobb County as has been done in other jurisdictions?
I am not opposed to creating specialized courts such as a business court and a domestic relations court, assuming the county has sufficient resources to maintain such courts and has the numbers of cases to justify the application of such resources. The creation of these courts will allow cases to move more efficiently because each court will have the ability to devote all of its time to handling and focusing only the specific types of cases assigned to that court.

5. What are your ideas on how to improve efficiency and reduce the length of time civil disputes are pending before the court?
Courts are most efficient when they hold the litigants accountable. The culture fostered in my courtroom will be one where I would expect and require the parties to be prepared and ready to proceed. I will not grant the delay of a case without a legitimate reason. I will listen to each side and make timely rulings on matters pending before the court.

6. What United States Supreme Court judge do you most admire and why?
The Supreme Court Justice that I most admire is Thurgood Marshall. I admire him because he was a trailblazer. His legal career and dedication to civil rights was exemplary. His victory in Brown v. Board of Education resulted in the desegregation of public schools. This decision impacted my life personally. It was a major part of the foundation in our country that allowed me, years later, to have an opportunity to attend and receive my law degree from The Rutgers University School of Law.  Thurgood Marshall was the first African-American justice appointed to the United States Supreme Court and served admirably. His career and service are inspirational to me.

7. Describe the type and nature of cases you handled in private (or public) practice?
I've handled civil and criminal cases in private and public practice. The nature of the civil cases I handled in private practice was personal injury. I handled matters that involved wrongful deaths or injuries resulting from the negligence of individuals or businesses. The nature of the cases I handled in public practice involved misdemeanor and felony crimes. Each type of case I handled involved serious allegations and high stakes. The outcome of the civil cases had the potential to result in a disposition involving millions of dollars and the outcome in a criminal case could result in costing someone his/her liberty for a period of years or life.

8. Are you a member of GDLA or ATLA? What other legal related organizations are you a member?
I am not a member of GDLA or ATLA. I am a member of: The Georgia Bar Association; The Cobb County Bar Association; The Atlanta Lawyers' Club; The Association of Black Women Attorneys; The Gate City Bar; The Northwest Georgia Bar Association and; The Georgia Association of Women Attorneys.

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John MorganJohn Morgan (State Court Judge, Division 1, Post 3)


1. What is your level of business experience?

I have been practicing law for 26 years. As a partner in the law firm of Gentry, Smith, Dettmering, Morgan, Schnatmeier & Collins, LLP, I have handled a variety of cases. For over 20 years I have represented plaintiffs in civil disputes, business owners in licensing disputes, contractual disputes as well as landlord-tenant issues. Since leaving prosecution in 1997, I have not only handled a wide variety of business litigation issues, but I have also been a business owner, which speaks to a higher level of “business experience.” Four of my partners and I own a building located just off the square here in Marietta. As a property owner and partner in a business, rather than simply an employee of a large firm, I am intimately familiar with the issues that accompany ownership of real estate, a business and all of the inherent issues that surround these interests, such as worker’s compensation expenses, business license requirements, property insurance, tax consequences, management of employees and payroll procedures, partnership agreements, and corporate agreements. I have truly enjoyed being a small business owner in the Cobb Community for almost 20 years, and my firm is proud to be an active member of the Cobb County Chamber of Commerce.

2. What procedure or process would you use for moving cases on the docket?
Cobb County State Court handles approximately 90,000 criminal and 8000 civil cases each year. While the judges, clerks, and prosecutors in Cobb County balance this caseload very well, improvements can always be made. First of all, criminal calendar calls are extremely time-consuming and labor intensive. A defendant’s attorney (and often the defendant) must appear in court to make an announcement concerning the status of their case. These calendars occur approximately every seven weeks, and often well over 100 cases may be scheduled for each one. The process of calling through each name and receiving a verbal response from each attorney is extremely time-consuming. In many instances, the attorneys merely wish to announce that they are ready for trial. Allowing the announcement to be made prior to the calendar call through email or mail would greatly reduce the necessity for multiple appearances by an attorney and alleviate the court’s docket as well. A reduction of the number of hours spent on criminal cases affords civil litigants greater access to the court. Additionally, in the civil arena I would require that pre-trial conferences be completed on the date of the pre-trial hearing. All too often the parties appear for a pre-trial conference only to announce their need for more time to finalize issues. The parties should resolve all pre-trial issues at the hearing date or be prepared to resolve them in a pre-trial conference with the court.

3. What is your level of legal experience?
I have been practicing law for 26 years. After graduating from the Mercer University School of Law in 1990, I passed both the Florida Bar and the State Bar of Georgia. My roots have been here in Cobb County since 1992 when I was hired as a prosecutor in Cobb County State Court, which handles general civil litigation and misdemeanor criminal cases.  Not a week has gone by in the last 24 years that I have not been practicing law in some capacity in Cobb County State Court. As a Cobb County Prosecutor, I was responsible for prosecuting crimes such as domestic violence, DUI, theft cases, and drug offenses. I was also an instructor at the North Central Georgia Law Enforcement Academy where I assisted in the training of police officers in the legal system.

After over five years of public service, I left prosecution and went into private practice. I opened a law firm right here in Marietta, and for the past 20 years my practice has focused primarily on general civil litigation and criminal law. Since I have been in private practice and most recently as a partner with Gentry, Smith, Dettmering, Morgan, Schnatmeier & Collins, LLP, I have handled a variety of cases.  I have represented plaintiffs in civil disputes, business owners in licensing disputes and individuals charged with various criminal offenses.

Shortly after leaving prosecution, I was privileged to be asked by Judge Toby Prodgers to fill in for him on occasion as a Judge in Cobb County State Court. As a result, other judges in jurisdictions such as the City of Marietta, City of Powder Springs, and Cobb County Juvenile Court began requesting that I fill in for them as well. I am also honored and humbled to be the only candidate seeking to succeed the Honorable Irma Glover (my former judge as I was the first prosecutor assigned to her courtroom when she took the bench in 1995) to have received the endorsement of both your current elected Solicitor General, Barry Morgan, and the Cobb County Fraternal Order of Police. These endorsements and experience in the capacity of Judge, Prosecutor, and private attorney make me uniquely qualified to be your next Cobb County State Court Judge.

4. What is your position on creating a business court and domestic relations court in Cobb County as has been done in other jurisdictions?
Domestic relations issues as they pertain to divorces fall under the exclusive jurisdiction of the Superior Court. Crimes of domestic violence, as they relate to domestic relations issues, fall under the jurisdiction of both the Superior Court and the State Court. If the domestic violence offense rises to the level of a felony, it would be handled exclusively in Superior Court while, if it is categorized as a misdemeanor, it would generally be handled in State Court. Since I am a candidate for State Court rather than Superior Court, I will address this question as it pertains to State Court.

With regard to a business court, we are very fortunate in Cobb County State Court in that there currently is no backlog of civil cases on any of the State Court dockets. As will be discussed in response to question number 5 (infra) there should never be a delay in scheduling a case (whether it is a business dispute or a personal injury issue) onto a trial calendar in Cobb County State Court because in Cobb, unlike many jurisdictions, an attorney can stipulate the case to a pretrial calendar without the need for consent from the other party.  Once the Clerk is notified that the discovery process has been completed, the case will be automatically placed on a pretrial calendar.  Almost half of a Superior Court calendar is occupied by divorce cases and felony cases. Both of these types of cases can be very time consuming if they require a jury trial. While State Court often handles a greater volume of criminal cases than Superior Court, those cases are often far less complex and take significantly less time to conduct a trial. While the civil cases handled in both Cobb Superior Court and State Court are often equally complex, the State Court docket often addresses civil cases more expeditiously due to the lack of felony cases and divorces.  While I am not opposed to the implementation of a business court, we are fortunate in Cobb County State Court that we do not face the challenge of a backlog of cases that perhaps would necessitate such a court, as may be the case in other jurisdictions.

As this question relates to domestic relations, as mentioned, State Court does not hold jurisdiction over divorce issues. However, State Court does handle domestic relations issues as they relate to crimes involving domestic violence. In Cobb County, the State Court presently utilizes a domestic violence court. Run by the Cobb County Solicitor General’s office, this program is designed to handle incidents of domestic violence involving individuals that have not previously been arrested. Because of their “first offender” status, these individuals are often eligible to participate in a diversion program. Essentially their case is diverted from criminal prosecution, and they are offered an opportunity for their charges to be dismissed provided they have never been charged with a criminal offense before and are willing to participate in a domestic violence intervention program. Once they complete the program, a State Court Judge will sign an order, presented by the prosecutor, dismissing the charge(s) against them. If they do not successfully complete the domestic violence program, their case is returned to State Court for prosecution. Because this program has been proven to be very successful, I am a strong advocate for it.

5. What are your ideas on how to improve efficiency and reduce the length of time civil disputes are pending before the court?
Of all the jurisdictions in Metro Atlanta, Cobb State Court currently has in place the best system for expediting trials. There should never be a delay in getting a case onto a trial calendar in Cobb County because in Cobb, unlike many other jurisdictions, an attorney can stipulate the case to a pretrial calendar without the need for consent of the other party. Once the Clerk is notified that discovery has been completed, the case will be automatically placed on a pretrial calendar. Some jurisdictions have begun entering Scheduling Orders, but they are not necessary in all cases. In order to further increase efficiency, I would suggest offering a telephone conference to any attorney who, at any stage of the litigation, advises that some special issue has arisen or might arise.  If all of the issues cannot be resolved via the telephone conference, at that point a Scheduling Order can be utilized to resolve those remaining issues. I am highly cognizant that litigants, whether in a business dispute or a personal injury matter, desire closure when it comes to litigation. Many businesses and litigants are often frustrated by the delays precipitated by the filing of unnecessary motions on the part of recalcitrant parties. When frivolous motions present themselves to the Court, I would be willing to award attorney’s fees (as the Civil Practice Act mandates, but which is not often applied) in discovery disputes. Also set forth in the same Civil Practice Act is the requirement that hearings cannot be held within less than 30 days. As a result, I would strive to set necessary hearings to take place within 45 days. I would endeavor to move the Court’s business in the same manner I have moved my cases in private practice: work with counsel, settle the cases that can be settled, and try the ones that cannot. 

6. What United States Supreme Court Justice do you most admire and why?
Without doubt, Antonin Scalia is the justice I have admired most on the U.S. Supreme Court.  He served on the Supreme Court for almost 30 years and was known as a brilliant jurist.  No other Justice on the Court played a more important role in shaping American Jurisprudence during his tenure than Justice Scalia.  He believed strongly in the strict interpretation of the U.S. Constitution and was steadfast in his position that it was not the role of the courts to modify the plain meaning of the document to reflect the political and cultural climate of the day.  Justice Scalia was a staunch opponent of judicial activism and believed that, as a general rule, changes in the law should come through the legislature and not through the judicial branch.  He also believed strongly in state’s rights and limiting the power of the Federal government.  I also always enjoyed reading his opinions because he used some of the most colorful language of any of the Justices, especially when he was writing a dissenting opinion. Our current government faces a monumental task as they seek to fill the vacancy created by the immense loss of his presence on the Supreme Court of the United States.

7. Describe the type and nature of cases you handled in private (or public) practice?
At the beginning of my career, I was a trial attorney for the Cobb County Solicitor General’s Office. In this capacity, I prosecuted a variety of criminal cases with a specialty in prosecuting drunk drivers and those charged with domestic violence.  In addition to training new prosecutors, I taught criminal law and procedure at the North Georgia Law Enforcement Training Center to law enforcement officers.

Since I have been in private practice and most recently as a partner with Gentry, Smith, Dettmering, Morgan, Schnatmeier & Collins, LLP, my caseload has varied from representing plaintiffs in civil disputes, business owners in licensing disputes, and individuals charged with various criminal offenses.  I also serve on occasion as a judge pro hac vice in Cobb County State Court and as an Associate Municipal Court Judge in the City of Marietta, the City of Powder Springs, and the City of Woodstock.  In these courts, I preside over cases involving misdemeanor offenses, traffic offenses, and various ordinance violations.  I regularly sit as a judge pro tempore in Cobb County Juvenile Court as well.  
My current scope of experience allows me to appear in Cobb County State Court on a daily basis. 

8. Are you a member of GDLA or ATLA? What other legal related organizations are you a member?
I am not a member of GDLA or ATLA. However, I have been a member of the Cobb County Bar Association for 24 years, and I am proud to say that I am a founding member of the Marietta Lawyers Club since 2008.

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