Cobb Chamber of Commerce

Member Services

Citizens of the Year

Citizen of the Year Awards are given to honor an individual whose impact through the years will be recognized and regarded with pride throughout the area as a role model. These outstanding citizens are chosen for their definable, exceptional deeds, with which he or she has made their community a better place to live. Awards are given to deserving individuals based on local area nominations.

For more information, contact Katie Guice at or 770-859-2334.

Congratulations to our 2020 Award Winners!


Acworth Citizen of the Year

Janet Paulsen, a speaker and advocate for domestic violence, is an engaged and active member of the Acworth Community who shows her passion for defending the defenseless in everything she does.

On the night of November 5, 2015, Paulsen’s then-husband attempted to kill her by shooting her six times. The shooting left her in critical condition, with a spinal cord injury that paralyzed her right leg. After years of invasive surgeries and grueling physical therapy, she began working as a domestic violence advocate and public speaker. She fought to close a loophole in state law that allowed some domestic violence perpetrators to keep their firearms, a provision that could have prevented her attack. She has spoken at many engagements on domestic violence, including the liveSAFE Resources Domestic Violence Candlelight Vigil in 2017, and in 2020 was appointed by Governor Kemp to the Georgia Commission on Family Violence.

Prior to the attack, Paulsen was heavily involved in her Acworth community, was the Vice President of the Acworth Baseball Association, and was even named Volunteer of the Year by the Georgia Recreation and Park Association.

To this day, Paulsen lives in the same house where she was attacked and nearly killed. She has made every moment count since that night she overcame and survived. Her two sons are football and baseball standouts at Allatoona High School and have both committed to playing baseball at the collegiate level—and she will be there to support them every step of the way.

East Cobb Citizen of the Year

Mitch Rhoden, President & CEO of Futren Hospitality, has been named East Cobb Citizen of the Year for his years of community service and stepping up to support his community during the COVID-19 pandemic.

In March, Rhoden speaheaded Operation Meal Plan, a small business and non-profit support initiative created to provide food to those in need, help local restaurants keep their workers employed, and provide a vehicle for citizens to help each other. Supported through a community-backed fund, local restuarants received orders in increments of 25 meals, which they delivered to non-profit organizations around Cobb who serve meals as part of their missions. The restaurants were paid at unit cost from Operation Meal Plan.

Since March, 21 participating restuarants provided over 11,000 meals to 23 non-profits. Through Operation Meal Plan, restaurants were able to keep their workers employed and Cobb’s local non-profits were able to provide food to those in need.

In his professional capacities, Rhoden is responsible for the management and operations of Futren Hospitality, Indian Hills Country Club, The Orchard Golf & Country Club, Woodland Hills Golf Club, the National Alliance of Private Clubs, and Highground Land and Hardscapes, as well as other corporate interests.

Since starting his professional career in 2001, Rhoden has been involved in many efforts to improve life for others. He is devoted to his family and spends a lot of time setting an example for his three young sons as a scout leader, and further gives back to that organization through board service. Rhoden has also been a leader within the Cobb Chamber, and has served in almost every possible volunteer role, including East Cobb Area Council Chairman; Membership Campaign Chairman; Marketing Chairman; Member & Community Programs Chairman; and Board of Directors Chairman in 2019.

Recently, he served as Chairman of the 2020 Cobb County SPLOST Renewal committee, working to ensure renewal of the special purpose local option sales tax that will ensure future funding for Cobb's parks, libraries, roads and other quality of life initiatives.

In addition to his volunteer service at the Cobb Chamber, Rhoden has devoted himself to several local non-profits. He currently serves on the Board of Directors for The Atlanta Area Council for the Boy Scouts of America, is an advocate for and supporter of Shepherd’s Men; is Past President of the Rotary Club of Marietta, and has served on the Board of MUST Ministries.

If there is an initiative underway in Cobb County with a mission to better the community, increase opportunities for businesses and residents, and to make Cobb the best it can be, Rhoden is likely to be involved, generously volunteering his time and talents.


Kennesaw Citizens of the Year

Cris Eaton-Welsh, owner of Eaton Chiropractic, is a crucial fixture within the Kennesaw community. From sitting on the City Council to founding the Swift Kids Running Club and the Kennesaw Grand Prix Race Series, Eaton-Welsh is passionate about promoting a healthy, happy and productive community. She was heavily involved in the fundraising efforts for Swift Cantrell Park, including championing its skate park, and served on the Cobb2020 Steering Committee to promote health in the county.

Cris Eaton-Welsh was named Chiropractor of the Year in 2009 by the Georgia Council of Chiropractors, named Citizen of the Year by the Kennesaw Business Association in 2013, received the Cobb Chamber’s Health Hero Award in 2013, and was honored as a Cobb Chamber Top 25 Small Businesses in 2016.

Eaton-Welsh is always eager to help someone find the resources to better themselves physically and mentally. She often hosts drives to meet the needs of her local non-profits. She is generous, loving and truly believes in lifting up those in need in Kennesaw.


Marietta Citizen of the Year

Lisa Crossman, Deputy Director/Director of Public Health at Cobb & Douglas Public Health, has been named the 2020 Marietta Citizen of the Year for her tireless advocacy within the Cobb community.
Lisa Crossman has personally served on the public health front lines, fighting COVID-19 from the very start of the pandemic. Through long hours and stressful circumstances, she has remained dedicated to slowing the spread of the virus and keeping her community safe and healthy. At a time when so many have hoarded resources and centered their attention on themselves, Lisa has shown a particular interest in serving the homeless and medically fragile populations of the community.

At the very beginning of the pandemic, she reached out to local nonprofit agencies to answer questions and offer expert advice on how to meet the needs of those they serve. She set up a hotline, prioritized their team members for testing, and served as a resource to help them craft policies and procedures to continue safe and healthy operations. As testing became more challenging, she crafted a partnership with MetroAtlanta Ambulance Service to offer on-site testing at area non-profits for clients and staff. 

Whenever an agency, organization or community member has called on her for support, she has responded quickly, effectively and calmly–a calm voice in the midst of chaos. She has been an advocate, protector, provider and cheerleader when her community has needed it most.

Beyond her 2020 achievements, Lisa has been heavily involved in her community from the start, including chairing and sitting on PTA groups, health committees and family planning organizations, among others. She has been heavily involved with Leadership Cobb, as well as pro-business organizations, heart health and child health councils, and the Cobb Chamber’s annual membership campaign.

Lisa Crossman has worked tirelessly to protect her community during the COVID-19 pandemic, as well as promoted and supported her community for more than 20 years. It is a personal passion for her to connect with her community—and Cobb County will continue to be a better and healthier place thanks to her dedication.

Smyrna Citizen of the Year

Smyrna Mayor Derek Norton was named the recipient of the 2020 Smyrna Citizen of the Year award at the Smyrna Area Council on Wednesday, July 28. Tim Gould, Mayor Pro Tem, presented the award.

Shortly after taking office in early 2020, Mayor Norton made several decisive decisions to help protect Smyrna residents and business during a very challenging and unprecedented global pandemic. With no easy path to follow, the mayor made tough choices to protect Smyrna residents, workers, city staff, first responders and businesses.

With his leadership and energy, the mayor led the formation of Support Smyrna, an initiative to help the city’s residents in need because of the coronavirus pandemic. Support Smyrna has raised over $125,000, received 1,500 individual donations, and given out 500 Kroger gift cards to community members. The initiative has not only helped residents in need, but creates a path for residents to contribute and help their neighbors.

Mayor Norton led the vaccine distribution through city’s Emergency Management Agency, one of two cities in the state that has ability to do so. Under his leadership 3,000 people have been vaccinated as the number continues to grow. Mayor Norton additionally helped Smyrna become the first city in Cobb County to pass a nondiscrimination ordinance so that all people, regardless of background, are welcome in Smyrna.


West Cobb Citizen of the Year

Mary Chatman, Executive Vice President/President of Wellstar Health System’s Kennestone and Windy Hill Hospitals, has spearheaded the fight against COVID-19 throughout Cobb and Northwest Atlanta.

Chatman currently works for Wellstar Health System, but has worked on the healthcare frontlines since 1988, with Vidant Medical Center and Memorial Health. On a daily basis, she displays effective leadership, fiscal management, program development, quality improvement and interdisciplinary collaboration—all crucial to Wellstar Health System’s organized fight against COVID-19.

Along with her work in healthcare, Chatman is deeply involved in Cobb County’s community life. She has volunteered with Girls Inc. and BUY Cobb, and serves on many local, state and national boards, including the Georgia Board of Nursing and the Georgia Hospital Association. She has been heavily awarded for her work, including receiving the 2020 STEM Award, 2018 Women of Excellence Award and Nursing Achievement Award—and was even recognized by MBA Diversity Magazine as a Top 50 under 50.

Through her leadership and hard work, Chatman has helped lead the battle against COVID- 19 throughout the region, and is a true hero in our community.