MARIETTA, Ga. -- "I'm running to give the voters a choice," Bill Byrne said.
Byrne's campaign office is an old converted pharmacy with a row of greeting cards still covering one wall. His run against incumbent Bill Lee for Cobb County Chairman is a bit of déjà vu. He held that same position from 1992 through 2002. He resigned to run for Governor and lost to Sonny Perdue. Byrne and Lee are now headed to a runoff.
Byrne's recent suggestion to form a new city out of east Cobb County has attracted attention outside of his district.
"As the economy begins to come back and the development begins to come back, historically it has always begun in East Cobb and a domino effect begins to happen for the rest of the county," he said.
When that does happen, he says East Cobb residents should be posed to play a larger role in their own future.
Other new cities, such as Brookhaven, have broken away because of service dissatisfaction. That's not the case here. Byrne says he believes Cobb County provides good services. Under his plan, Cobb County would continue to provide services for the new city under a $1 contract. He says there would be no additional cost to new city residents or other Cobb County residents, because the small cost to run the new city government would come out of the county's current budget. East Cobb independence is based on the need for residents to control their own future.
"Cobb County Board of Commissioners today has total control over the growth issues in that area. My concern was to give people in that area of East Cobb more control, direct control, over what their future growth can bring to that area," Byrne said.
He said he's just launching the discussion, not yet suggesting any kind of legislation. He said it's about bringing new ideas to the table, and this is one we would bring as Cobb County Chairman.
Incumbent Tim Lee said it's an idea, just not a good one.
"To create a whole new level of bureaucracy, a whole new level of tax structure, a whole new expense to a set group of people just so they can have some minor influence on issues just so we can solve some we can really solve today around a conference table. I just think it's ill-founded, not thought out," Lee said. "There's really no groundswell for this type of solution, if you would. It seems to be a solution looking for a problem."
There is no vote on an East Cobb City yet. It's way too early in the process. If it ever moves forward, it would depend on a swell of local support and then legislative action.
The runoff between the two candidates for Cobb County Chairman is August 21. Early voting is already underway.