Stadiums, politics, money: Why Cobb County will have a historic 2017

The mossy dinosaur oaks of Marietta. The hallowed mountaintop views of Kennesaw. The signature yellow jonquils of Smyrna.

Those have been fixtures of Cobb County longer than any arena or mixed-use development or politico.

Saturday marks 184 years since Cobb was founded. County officials don't have anything planned, probably because they couldn't find that many candles.

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To save you the math and Googling: The county was founded in 1832 and named after Thomas Willis Cobb. He had the kind of resume you could only accumulate back in those days: U.S. senator, representative and superior court judge.

Cobb was one of the 10 northwest Georgia counties fashioned from Cherokee Indian land taken by the government. Word is that Marietta was named after Cobb's wife Mary Moore.

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The county's history is littered with everything from Civil War locomotive chases, to spats of phenomenal economic growth, to multiple instances in which the entire world was watching Kennesaw for its stances on guns and gays.

This may not be a special diamond or balsa wood or whatever year for the county, but it will be an important one.

We're talking big, meaty points on the timeline.

Just ask Mandy Elliott. She's been with the county for almost a decade as its historic preservation planner.

"2017 is going to be a year of change," she said.

Atlanta’s version of “Rosie the Riveter” works on a B-29 fuselage during World War II at the Bell Bomber Plant (now Lockheed) in 1940s Marietta. (AJC FILE PHOTO)

To her, there hasn't been this much growth in Cobb since the end of World War II when Dobbins Air Reserve Base was under construction and Marietta won the government bid for the Bell Aircraft Corporation — or Bell Bomber — plant.

So what's coming up that is going to be so momentous?

New spaces

If we're talking stuff coming to Cobb then consider, oh, you know, a Major League Baseball team building a $672 million stadium right at the county's front door.

And there's regularly a new commission chairman change, but the turnovers don't usually involve a candidate criticized for borrowing hundreds of millions of public dollars to build a stadium he didn't ask the community about before doing so. The bonds for SunTrust Park were issued in covert deals and without a public vote.

A look at SunTrust Park in Cobb under construction. It's set to open for the Braves’ 2017 season. BOB ANDRES /BANDRES@AJC.COM (Bob Andres)

If baseball isn't your thing, there'll be three new soccer pitches coming to Cobb.

But accompanying SunTrust is the mixed-use development dubbed The Battery that features shops, restaurants, apartments and office space.

Did someone say office space? When talking about that area these days, you'd be remiss not to mention the explosion of the Cumberland area with its gobs of office space.

New faces

It's not just the physical stuff that's changing. Those who make up the community are, too.

For the first time since 1976 when Georgia’s own Jimmy Carter swept the county, Cobb went to a Democrat this presidential election. Even Carter lost the county four years later.

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In her ultimate defeat, Hillary Clinton beat Donald Trump in Cobb by 6,800 votes.

This is the same county considered bread and butter for Newt Gingrich and Johnny Isakson. The county's registered voters this election were 59 percent white. Remember, it's the fourth most populated county in the state. Cobb was dependably red. Until now.

Leo Frank was convicted and had numerous appeals rejected. After Gov. John Slaton commuted his death sentence, an angry mob broke into the prison at Milledgeville and drove Frank back to Marietta, where he was hanged. He was posthumously pardoned in 1986. FILE PHOTO

Something Olens, something new

To see how much the county has changed, go back a century.

Go back to when a cabal hanged a Jewish pencil factory superintendent whose death sentence had been commuted in the death of a 13-year-old girl.

Leo Frank was broken out of his cell by the mob, taken to Marietta and murdered at daybreak. No one was ever charged for the act of anti-Semitism.

It is truly a dark spot in the history of Cobb. 

Now realize that Kennesaw State University recently had a Jew appointed as its leader.

Sam Olens left his position as state attorney general to become the university's voice.

He was appointed Oct. 12, which this year was Yom Kippur, the Jewish day of atonement and fasting. Fitting.

Sam Olens photographed in the attorney general’s office, which he held from 2011 through October. BOB ANDRES /BANDRES@AJC.COM (Bob Andres)

Whether or not you think Cobb is changing for the better, it's undeniable that this year is going to be one for the record books.

Don't worry if you forgot to get Cobb County a gift for its 184th birthday Saturday. Consider your taxes gift enough.

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