Photo: For the AJC
Photo: For the AJC

2017 Voter Guide: Cobb County

We asked candidates running in next month’s city, school and municipal elections to explain why you should vote for them. In addition to asking them questions about their experience and their stand on prominent issues, we asked some candidates to tell us which television character with whom they most identify. See where candidates stand on important issues, and who has a lot in common with Batman. 


City Council, At Large, Post 1

Name: Ollie B. Clemons, Jr. (i)

Ollie Clemons

Age: 61

Residence: Austell

Profession: Retired

What experience will help you in office? My 33 years of federal government and multiple leadership positions there and in church have been a great foundation. Also my past four years serving as councilmember and mayor pro tem along with more than 120 hours of municipal training have been very beneficial.

What issue got you into this race? I am running for re-election because I want to continue building on the good work that I have accomplished for the city of Austell.

Which current television character do you identify most with? None that I can think of



Name: Melanie Maria Elder

Melanie Elder

Age: 32

Residence: Austell

Profession: Supervisor

What experience will help you in office? The combination of my educational and professional background has trained me to communicate effectively and to evaluate complex situations. My ability to form relationships will assist with building connections to help Austell’s continued growth in regards to community and economic development. Most importantly, my passion to serve will allow me to support decisions that truly represent the citizens of Austell.

What issue got you into this race? There are four issues that encouraged me to seek election. They are:

- Addressing crime and ensuring Austell Police and Fire Department have needed resources to serve and protect the citizens of Austell; 

- Investing in our youth and advocating education;

- Beautifying our neighborhoods; and

- Stimulating economic development to attract business to Austell. 

The residents of Austell desire to have a thriving community to raise a family. I pledge to represent their voice. 

Which current television character do you identify most with? Charley Bordelon West of the television series “Queen Sugar.” On the show, Charley, is a mother, manager and strategist. She does her best to meet the expectations of all that depend on her. She is educated and uses her skills to save and manage her father’s farm after his passing.



City Council Ward 1

Name: Ikaika Anderson

Name: Marlin Lamar

Marlin Lamar

Age: 63

Residence: Dwontown Austell

Profession: Engineering superintendent, Hilton Hotels

What experience will help you in office? Born and raised in Austell, I have seen many periods of time the city has been through. Mostly good times. I grew up in a family business based in Austell that was in business here for 61 years. Being a businessman of Austell, my family and I were heavily involved in civic activities continuously. Being a civic leader has given me the opportunity to make very close relationships over the years with city officials and other business people throughout the city. Over the years, I have served on many boards and committees on behalf of the city. Currently, I am Chairman...[edited for length]

What issue got you into this race? There wasn't a specific or particular issue for entering this race, I just felt it was my time to serve the citizens of Austell. With my years of business experience and involvement with the city, combined with an opening within the City Council, I feel I can contribute positively to the city.

Which current television character do you identify most with? That's a tough one. I really don't watch much TV shows these days, other that the news or ballgames. I don't relate to any current TV characters. However, if I see a Seinfeld or Andy Griffith rerun on, I will choose to watch those shows.


Phone number: 404-808-4003

Facebook: Marlin Lamar

City Council Ward 3

Name: Trudie Causey

Name: Randy Green (i)


City Council, At Large, Post 3

Name: Pat Ferris

Pat Ferris

Age: 63

Residence: Pine Hill subdivision

Profession: Business development manager

What experience will help you in office? I have 17 years of experience as a former Kennesaw City Council member. I also have several years of service with the Kennesaw Planning and Zoning Board as well as years of participation in community leadership organizations.

What issue got you into this race? My major issue is that the citizens in Kennesaw are not being heard. Under the current meeting procedures, citizens are not allowed to talk about agenda items as they are presented. Many issues are voted on with little or no citizen input.

Which current television character do you identify most with? I rarely watch current television shows, so I don't have an answer for this question.




Name: Antonio "Tony" Jones

Tony Jones

Age: 28

Residence: Kennesaw Station

Profession: Small business owner

What experience will help you in office? Being a member of the Kennesaw Citizens Advisory Committee

What issue got you into this race? The city budget.

Which current television character do you identify most with? None



Facebook: @TonyforKennesaw

Name: Jeffrey Oparnica

Age: 29

Residence: Woodland Acres

Profession: Brewer

What experience will help you in office? An urban development and land usage education background coupled with an understanding of what attracts people to a city and keeps them there.

What issue got you into this race? Kennesaw is a city with many resources that have not been effectively utilized to make it one of Georgia's most loved. With numerous industry leaders, the state's second largest college, three breweries and a distillery, yet downtown Kennesaw is a ghost town. I want to help make Kennesaw a true destination in Georgia.

Which current television character do you identify most with? Ron Swanson from “Parks and Recreation”


City Council, At Large, Post 4

Name: Jimmy Devall Dickens, Sr. (i)

Jimmy Dickens

Age: 47

Residence: Revival on Main St.

Profession: Barber

What experience will help you in office? I have served on the Kennesaw City Council for the past two years. The experience and insight gained from serving as a City Council member will assist me in making informed decisions and policies to support our citizens and businesses. 

What issue got you into this race? I desire to continue the work that I have begun with my colleagues on City Council and the citizens of Kennesaw to make the city a vibrant community -- one that is brimming with industry and overflowing with opportunity.

Which current television character do you identify most with? Since I’m the head coach of my son’s baseball team I would have to say ... Coach Erick Taylor, the football coach of the Dillon Panthers, is a classic character from the television series “Friday Night Lights.” His team mantra, "clear eyes, full hearts, can't lose" evokes perseverance, optimism, and hope -- qualities that are indispensable to success in all of life's endeavors.


Twitter: Iamjimmydickens

Facebook: Jimmy Dickens

Name: Chris Henderson

Chris Henderson

Age: 35

Residence: Legacy Park - Lullwater

Profession: Senior research engineer

What experience will help you in office? I hope to utilize my 13 years of experience as an engineer and project director for Georgia Tech Research Institute to bring an analytical mindset and level headed decision-making methodology to the council. For example I look forward to improving fiscal responsibility by analyzing spending and operational trends while looking for ways to improve efficiency in operations without reducing services.

What issue got you into this race? Accountability of public officials is required to instill trust in the people they serve. Kennesaw is lacking accountability in some areas and I would like to see changes made to ensure all officials are held to standards by which the voters entrusted them to act. Additional issues of importance include fiscal responsibility and the high tax rate as well as ensuring the completion of the revitalization and redevelopment projects in downtown districts.

Which current television character do you identify most with? Jon Snow (”Game of Thrones”) since he is always honest and consistently does what is best for his people even though it may be difficult. Although never seeking power, Jon emerged as a natural leader and has accepted the responsibility and bears the weight of his position well.





Name: James V. Sebastian, Jr.

James Sebastian

Age: 67

Residence: Pintree

Profession: Broker/consultant - product warranty

What experience will help you in office? 

  • Kennesaw Councilperson - Four years
  • Chair, Kennesaw Citizens Advisory Committee - Three years.
  •  Business management - Forty years. 
  • Business owner ~ Twenty years.

What issue got you into this race? The continued need to implement a solid vision for Kennesaw that includes accountability, quantifiable goals, fiscal responsibility while providing key services and amenities required by the citizens and businesses to create the ideal quality of life.

Which current television character do you identify most with? “Designated Survivor,” President Kirkland (Kiefer Sutherland). A wealth of knowledge in one area does not easily transfer to another even though it is desperately needed. Trying to incorporate necessary and realistic deliverables as well as consequences into the governmental arena is a monumental task.



City Council, At Large, Post 5

Name: David Blinkhorn

David Blinkhorn

Age: 54

Residence: Summerbrooke subdivision

Profession: Materials management professional

What experience will help you in office? Thirty-five years of leadership experience working for some of the largest retailers in the country has taught me the importance of collaboration, team building, recognition, decision making, and communication. The residents of Kennesaw want to know that their concerns are being heard and considered in the decision-making process. My interpersonal skills will be invaluable to this council by fostering an environment of active listening and open communication with the city residents.

What issue got you into this race? My desire to help drive smart growth in the city was a determining factor in my running for office. Kennesaw is running out of buildable property within the city limits and needs to be more considerate of development that is proposed. I will be responsive to residents’ concerns and feedback before voting on zoning and development proposals brought before the council.

Which current television character do you identify most with? I most identify with Mike Rowe of “Dirty Jobs.” He attempts to do some of the dirtiest jobs done by some of the hardest working people and does so with respect and dignity. My parents taught me the same values of working hard at whatever you do and treat others with respect and dignity.




City Council Ward 1

Name: Greg Bieger

Greg Bieger

Age: 27

Residence: Atlanta Street

Profession: Technology and public affairs

What experience will help you in office? First and foremost my experience as a member of this community is invaluable when working towards Marietta's future. As someone who lives here I can understand the issues facing this city like any other member of our wonderful community. Secondly, my experience working in public affairs will help me navigate the committee meetings, city council meetings, and all other logistics at the state and local level on behalf of the community.

What issue got you into this race? It was not a single issue, but the desire refocus Marietta's government with future forward thinking. As I have walked through Ward 1 speaking with the voters I have found many new issues that need to be addressed. One that comes to mind is affordable housing. It is a new issue for Marietta but together I think we can find some excellent solutions that will help our city thrive.

Which current television character do you identify most with? Honestly, Jim Halpert from “The Office.” I know the show may have gone off the air, but it will never leave my Netflix queue. He is lovable and witty and incredibly humble. I would consider myself lucky to have as happy a life as he does on the show.




Name: Jay Davis

Jay Davis

Age: 69

Residence: Manget Phillips Estates

Profession: Retired consultant

What experience will help you in office? 50-plus years of business and life experience with diverse organizations and people. Currently serve on Planning Commission for Ward 1. As a "serial entrepreneur," I understand the importance of startup businesses to create jobs and opportunities for growth.

What issue got you into this race? My motivation is to use my skills to help Marietta achieve stable growth while remaining the place that people want to live, play and work. My wife and I have chosen this beautiful city to spend our remaining years and want to serve while we are able.

Which current television character do you identify most with? Chip Gaines of "Fixer Upper" and I have a lot in common. We both enjoy seeing houses and neighborhoods change for the better with a combination of hard work and a vision to improve.



Facebook: Jay Davis Marietta, GA

Name: Cheryl Richardson

Cheryl Richardson

Age: 56

Residence: Grogan Street

Profession: Attorney

What experience will help you in office? I believe my military experience will help me in office, because in the military I dealt with a diverse group of people working for a common goal. I believe that each of the members of the City Council is working to do the best first for their ward, and second for the city. Sometimes, the goal will be the same; sometimes it won't. When it isn't, is when it will be necessary to be able to work together to do what is best for the City.

What issue got you into this race? Economic development. I want to get involved with attracting businesses, both small and large, to the Marietta area. Marietta is a great place to live. Marietta is a safe, clean environment with exceptional schools. This is a good place for businesses. There are also several tax incentive zones in the city of which businesses can take advantage. It is easy to point out the residential developments, the recreational developments and infrastructure improvements. Now we need to focus on business development.

Which current television character do you identify most with? I generally do not watch television other than news programs or sports. Therefore, I have read about several characters on television today that are written as strong and dedicated leaders, while remaining kind, friendly and caring people. The character portrayed by Trace Ellis Ross or the one portrayed by Amy Poehler appear to be written as strong, balanced women, who display moral values, intelligence and commitment to themselves, their family and their goals.


Facebook: Cheryl Richardson candidate ward 1 

City Council Ward 5

Name: Reggie Copeland

Name: Ben Lyman

Ben Lyman

Age: 50

Residence: 717 Skyview Drive

Profession: Food wholesale distributor

What experience will help you in office? As a longtime former small business owner in the city of Marietta I had the experience of working with the city and its departments on many different levels and gathered some valuable knowledge that I believe will allow me to be effective in my role on the council. That coupled with my experience managing people, processes and situations in the private sector for myself and currently for a large food wholesale distributor allow me to come into the position with a fresh perspective.

What issue got you into this race? A genuine desire to serve the city and secure a brighter future for its residents

Which current television character do you identify most with? Tea Leoni as Dr. Elizabeth McCord (”Madam Secretary”).


Facebook: Ben Lyman for Ward 5 @ benlymanward5

Name: Ruben J. Sands (i)

Marietta School Board Ward 2, Ward 4, Ward 5: In Separate Guide

Powder Springs 

City Council, Ward 3

Name: Nancy Farmer

Nancy Farmer

Age: 74

Residence: Powder Springs

Profession: Retired

What experience will help you in office? I have been with Powder Springs government for years. I have served on the Downtown Development Authority, Planning and Zoning Board, Keep Powder Springs Committee, Senior Citizens Board, etc. My emphasis has always been to ensuren that Powder Springs grows responsibly and to preserve community atmosphere. I feel this can and should be done without overburdening the citizens with higher taxes

What issue got you into this race? I have attended many city meetings and open forums. Often I and other citizens have asked questions about the budget, expenditures, future plans/decisions . Sometimes ours questions have been met with resentment and suspiciousness and or not answered. I would ensure that all citizens’ questions and comments are respectfully answered. Transparency and accountability to the public must be more than lip service. Taxpayers must have more input for how their money is spent.

Which current television character do you identify most with? An investigative reporter.


Name: Nancy J. Hudson (i)


City Council, Ward 3 

(To Fill Unexpired Term)

Name: Maryline Blackburn

Maryline Blackburn

Age: 56

Residence: Huntington Trace

Profession: Non profit Executive (DWAC)

What experience will help you in office? Being a nonprofit executive, my talent and life experience along with my community involvement- Smyrna Public Safety Foundation and Smyrna Vision Steering Committee, will allow me to be a strong true voice for Smyrna, focusing on education, economic development, recreation arts, and transit.

What issue got you into this race? Smyrna has been home to me for the past 17 years. As I watch the continual growth in Smyrna with new businesses and residents, I see the need for affordable transportation options to ensure the best quality of life for all Smyrnans.

Which current television character do you identify most with? With a few exceptions, the intelligence, confidence, eloquence, character, style, passion and whit of Olivia Pope (”Scandal”) is someone I admire.



Twitter: @mlineblackburn


Name: Jeff Carter

Jeff Carter

Age: 36

Residence: Smyrna Heights

Profession: Commercial real estate

What experience will help you in office? My professional experience in commercial real estate has provided a great foundation of knowledge around commercial and residential redevelopment. I also have a great deal of experience working with other municipalities on zoning issues. Both of these will benefit me significantly in my role as a councilman. My personal experience as a husband, father, neighbor and friend connects me to the community and issues that matter for our residents and families.

What issue got you into this race? The driving factor behind my decision to get involved was not necessarily an issue but a desire to continue the progress that Smyrna has made over the past several years. Some of the opportunities that I plan to focus on while in office include improvements to our infrastructure to promote more walking and biking, increased city involvement in our education system, and smarter and more thoughtful redevelopment that benefits the residents of Smyrna.

Which current television character do you identify most with? I have always identified with Kermit the Frog for his optimistic view of the world, his great sense of humor and his ability to always recognize the good in people.



Facebook: Jeff Carter Ward 3

Name: Travis Lindley

Travis Lindley

Age: 42

Residence: Concord Lake Village

Profession: Business owner / partner, consulting

What experience will help you in office? I bring 20 years of public affairs experience with the state and federal government advocating on behalf of patients and the medical community. As a current member of the Smyrna Downtown Development Authority, I’ve seen firsthand how our city operates and I’m able to hit the ground running on my first day. I’ve got firsthand knowledge of how to bring people together, work with government, and deliver successful outcomes.

What issue got you into this race? As the only Smyrna native in the race, I want to see continued prosperity in our community. Smyrna is growing and change is all around us, and I want to ensure our growth is responsible. Now is the time to seek what our residents want in our community. I have the experience and connections to help lead the way.

Which current television character do you identify most with? Interesting question; however, I rarely watch TV as I'm out talking to the voters of Ward 3. 

I don't know about identifying with a specific character, but my favorite television show is “Seinfeld.”



Twitter: lindleyforsmy

Facebook: Travis Lindley for Smyrna City Council

Name: Marshall A. Moon

Marshall Moon

Age: 61

Residence: East Cobb

Profession: Associate pastor,worked for JB Hunt Transport for 28 yrs. Now work as a security/greeter.

What experience will help you in office? Being a minister helping people with their problems. Staying with them through good and bad times. Working on a full time public job. You learn to be a problem solver with communication skills.

What issue got you into this race? We need more communication between government and community. The people’s concerns should be heard and addressed.

Which current television character do you identify most with? Do not watch a lot of current T.V. Like political commentator Sean Hannity.He is straightforward and to the point. I believe plain speaking makes for a good understanding,

Name: Adam P. Taylor

Adam Taylor

Age: 37

Residence: Bank Street

Profession: Attorney

What experience will help you in office? In my law practice I have represented individuals who are victims of consumer fraud, unfair labor practices, and suffered physical harm from others. I have always taken pride in helping people. I feel I can bring my work ethic and determination to help the people of Smyrna. I work with policy issues every day and see how they affect real people, and this will help me better confront the issues facing the citizens of Smyrna.

What issue got you into this race? Education. I have a young daughter who will be attending Smyrna's schools very soon. I have a vested interest in seeing our schools succeed. Every decision I make as a member of the City Council will be made with our schools’ best interests in mind. With the passage of the E-SPLOST, a large financial investment is being made in our schools, and I will ensure we get the positive returns from that investment.

Which current television character do you identify most with? Jim Nantz. He is not really a character, he a sports broadcaster. I don't watch much TV, but when I do, it is usually sports programing. He is well informed and loves to talk about athletic competition. And so do I.




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