Andy Smith is a Republican candidate for the District 2 seat on the Cobb County Board of Commissioners. The seat is currently held by Republican Commissioner Bob Ott, who is retiring when his term ends.
The Courier spoke with Smith about his campaign.
Asked to tell a little about his background, he said, “I’ve lived in Cobb County 32 years. I’m a graduate of Georgia Tech in architecture.”
“I came to Cobb County originally when I started working here,” he said. “I own a construction management business, (I’ve) done that for 27 years, Smith-Todd company.”
“I’ve been married 25 years this past year,” said Smith.
“So I’m pretty embedded in the Cobb County culture,” he said.
He said that although district boundaries have change over time, he’s lived in the District 2 area for his 23 years in East Cobb.
“I’ve been on the Planning Commission for about two years. I also serve on the Transit Advisory Board in Cobb, and I’m vice chairman of the Neighborhood Safety Commission,” Smith said.
Asked why he is running, Smith said, “Well, … I think it’s really just a way to give back, a way to serve.”
Smith said that he had always been involved in community service, and realized as he got older he would not be able to continue the types of volunteer work he had been doing, such as disaster relief and Habitat for Humanity.
He said that was the reason he accepted a position on the Planning Commission.
Smith said that he had told Bob Ott that if Ott ever decided to leave the Board of Commissioners, that he would be interested in running for the seat.
“A lot of times people get into something because they see something wrong that’s been happening in the position that they’re seeking, but that’s absolutely not the case. I think Bob Ott’s done a tremendous job. I’d like to think, if I’m able to succeed him, that I’d be able to continue what he’s started.”
Land use and zoning
The Courier asked Smith if he had a philosophy or approach to zoning and development issues.
“You have to have a vision and … East Cobb is clearly in a preserving stage of development, and the same will be true of Vinings,” he said.
“There are fewer than 1400 underdeveloped or undeveloped acres of land in District 2, so you’re not going to have a rush of development like we’ve seen it earlier times in the county,” Smith said. “So my philosophy would be to preserve the existing neighborhoods and then allow development or encourage development in the areas suitable for higher density, like the Regional Activity Centers and to a certain extent, Community Activity Centers we’ve already established.”
He said preserving the character and density of established residential neighborhoods is his philosophy.
The Courier asked Smith if he had any thoughts on the controversial Sterigenics facility near Plant Atkinson and Atlanta Roads.
The Sterigenics facility became a focus of community concern in Smyrna and surrounding areas after an article jointly published by Georgia Health News and WebMD reported that three census tracts, two in the Smyrna area and one in Covington, had unacceptable levels of cancer risk by EPA standards, due to elevated amounts of ethylene oxide in the air.
[Editor’s note: this interview was conducted two days before the county issued a temporary order allowing the plant to reopen]
Smith said, “The only thing that they’ve been allowed to do to this point, as far as I understand it, is to do the testing that was going to determine whether its new recapture system … is going to be as effective as it is designed to be.”
“They haven’t been given any authority to begin sterilizing gowns again, and I think part of the reason for that, and something that I totally support is we’ve got to make sure the facility itself is safe,” he said.
Smith referred to the residential communities near the Sterigenics site.
“You can argue as much as you want about whether the residential should have been allowed to go in there. You know, that’s kind of moot now it’s there. So the risk is there because the residential is there,” he said.
Smith said the Sterigenics facility is also near The Garden, a homeless shelter, and that homeless shelters are an allowable use within industrial areas under Cobb County’s codes.
Transit Advisory Board
Smith talked about his position on Cobb’s Transit Advisory Board.
“You have a Transit Advisory Board. It’s a citizens board that’s been put in place to look into or review transit policies in the county and then bring suggestions to the Board of Commissioners,” he said.
He said the Transit Advisory Board doesn’t have the authority to spend money, but can influence decisions of the Board of Commissioners.
“For District 2, Ron Sifen, myself and Frank Savini are the are the three representatives,” he said, “and I think do a pretty good job for District 2 in trying to work together to make sure that what is being discussed in the Transit Advisory Board gets to Bob Ott.”
Smith said the biggest transit-related thing happening in District 2 is the proposed redevelopment of Cumberland Mall, which would create a bus depot on mall property near the site of the former Sears automotive facility.
“What they’re trying to do there is create a bus depot so that we can do a park and ride as opposed to just the transfer station that we’ve got behind the mall now,” said Smith.
“Well, you know, I will say that I think it’s the public safety issue that’s at the forefront of most people’s minds,” Smith said.
“In Cobb County we’re fortunate in some ways, because we can sit and watch our TVs in the morning and see all the shootings that are taking place in the other parts of metro Atlanta and be thankful that we live in Cobb County where the public safety folks do a terrific job,” he said.
Smith said he supports implementing the step-and-grade compensation plan adopted by the BOC, and that if a District 2 candidate were not committed to implementing the plan, the residents would want to know it.
Asked if he had any closing remarks, Smith said, “I’ve lived in Cobb County for 32 years, 23 in District 2. I feel like I really know the district. I’ve done community service, currently do public service, and I’m looking for a way to to give back more.”
“I think I’m the most experienced candidate that that I see out there, and I’m fiscally conservative,” he said.
“I want to look at not only the income side of each budget, but I want to see us spend more time on the expense side of each budget,” Smith said. “I think that should be a continuous process.”
“I know that effort must be put in there now, but that doesn’t mean that we can’t look at it harder. I just think with my experience, with my background and my track record of public and community service that I am the best candidate for this job.”
For more information on Andy Smith’s campaign and positions, visit his campaign website at Andy4Cobb.com