EAST COBB, Ga. — Bob Ott recently announced he’s not seeking reelection as Cobb County District 2 Commissioner, so 11Alive sat down with him to figure why the most tenured commissioner in the county is not running for a fourth term.
“When I originally ran, I said I was going to run for two terms, because I'm a firm believer that we need people to move on,” Ott said. “Then, the whole Braves thing came up and, since I voted for it, I felt obligated to see it through.”
He said the Braves coming to Cobb County was the most substantial thing that happened during his 12 years as commissioner, but it’s just one of many highlights. Ott is originally from New Jersey but moved to Cobb County in 1991. He said his political career started almost 20 years ago in his own neighborhood.
“I got involved in zoning behind my house,” Ott said. “They wanted 1,200 homes on 60 acres, and we fought it. They got 100. That's where I actually met my predecessor.”
He said that lead to a role as president of his HOA president, then president of the East Cobb Civic Association. From there, Ott got involved with the planning commission and eventually became the District 2 Commissioner in 2008. He was reelected in 2012 and again in 2016.
“It's one of those things where officially it's a part-time job, but in reality, it's a full-time job because it's 24/7,” Ott said. “My wife and kids put up with a whole bunch of emails and phone calls. It doesn't matter what time of the day it is, if something happens, you're going to get the phone call or the email.”
Ott is a pilot for Delta where he’s worked for 30 years. The FAA requires them to retire at 65, which Ott said is only a couple years away. That’s one of the reason’s he’s not seeking reelection as commissioner.
“With this job, I haven’t necessarily been able to do all the kind of flying I would like, because I would have to bid to be here on Mondays and Tuesdays or special events,” Ott said. “I'm very senior on my airplane and everything we do at Delta is based on seniority.”
He said he looks forward to traveling with his wife and enjoying his free time. Ott also said he’s pleased with the way things have gone in the county, and this feels like the right time to move on.
“I think we got a lot accomplished in the district,” he said. “We revitalized a lot of areas that were really kind of in a downturn. 2008 and 2009 was kind of the deepest part of the recession, and there were some really bad times. I had a lot of shopping centers that had one shop open or they were really in disrepair. Go today and they are all almost 100% full.”
When asked about highlights from his time as commissioner, Ott said he and his team implemented weekly newsletters which had never been done before.
“It was many years ago that I got an email from Tom Price when he was congressman, and it was a newsletter,” Ott said. “And I was like ‘that's a great idea. We should start doing that in the district.’ So we created the newsletter.”
He said they also started holding regular town hall meetings which proved to be beneficial, and they created four master plans throughout the district.
“Each one was unique in its own way,” he said. “The first one was Powers Ferry and it was clearly a redevelopment plan. If you go up and down Powers Ferry right now, there's all kinds of new construction. Then, we did Johnson Ferry which was really an aesthetics plan. Folks just didn't like the way it looked. So we actually did a visual preference survey, showing people this park bench and that park bench, this kind of tree and that kind of tree, and things like that. In Vinings, the folks have always been concerned about protecting what they have. And so, in a lot of ways, the master plan in Vinings became a protection plan. There were design guidelines and things like that. And the final one that will be coming in front of the board sometime this year is up Johns Ferry - Shallowford. We didn't really know where that was going to go and it has actually turned into somewhat of a protection plan too.”
Ott said the master plans was a big success because people like having a say in their community. They’re also considerable cheaper than hiring consultants, he said.
Ott also weighed in on the ongoing debate over East Cobb cityhood.
“That's been the big controversy,” he said. “And some people said ‘oh, you're behind it.’ The fact of the matter is, Georgia has an open records law. It's very specific. If you put in an open records request, the county has three business days to respond to your request. It has been my philosophy over the 12 years that if you as a citizen in the county and the district, if you send the request to the office of information, I'm going to get it for you. I don't really care if you filed an open records request or not, because, as far as I'm concerned, unless it's privileged information, you paid for it. You pay your taxes. If somebody says ‘hey, we need this information,’ I have not sent back and said ‘you need to do an open records request.’ So the folks with cityhood asked for some information which I gave to them. Now there are some out there claiming ‘oh, well you have been helping them.’ I help a lot of people with a lot of things. I live in the area that they're talking about, but I have tried to stay out of it. It's going to be an ultimate decision by the people if and when it comes to a vote.”
Ott said he still has a few things he’s hoping to accomplish before leaving office at the end of the year. Even after he’s gone, he won’t be far away.
“I'm not moving,” he said. “I still live here and I still love the county and want the best for it. Whoever gets elected, I'll be available to help and we'll still be involved in the community because you want to make sure the county doesn't start going in the wrong direction. I feel pretty comfortable that my team that I work with, my volunteers and people that have been with me from the beginning, we got a lot done that we wanted to get done, which is one of the reasons I made the decision it's time to move on. We're the ones that everybody reads about or throws darts at, but it's a team effort.”
Want more East Cobb news? Follow us on Facebook.