Georgians to ring in, or rally against, the Trump era

Staff writers Jennifer Brett and Tamar Hallerman contributed to this article.

Some Georgians are dropping everything for the can’t-miss spectacle of watching Donald Trump’s inauguration. Some are just curious to find out what will happen as the Trump era begins. And some want to send a message to Trump that they stand ready to fight his policies.

Scores of Georgians are headed to the nation’s capital this week to join the tide of an estimated 1 million people who will celebrate the New York businessman’s swearing-in ceremonies, while others will demonstrate for their causes.

For Atlanta resident Lisa Senters-McDermott, who is going to her first inauguration, there was never any doubt she would attend.

“It’s a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity, no matter who you voted for or your political persuasion,” said Senters-McDermott, an Atlantan who heads Jet Senters Aviation, a boutique private aviation firm. (She’s flying commercial to Washington, by the way).

Amy Smith, a clinical science specialist for a biotech firm, is also new to politics — and is no less enthusiastic about Trump. She met Donald Trump Jr. at a fundraiser in Dallas, then met Mike Pence and Tiffany and Ivanka Trump during their metro Atlanta campaign stops. Soon, she was an outspoken backer of Team Trump.

“I’m now involved with the GOP here in Atlanta,” said Smith, who said she took every road trip she made for work as an opportunity to talk up Trump with potential supporters.

“I talked to a ton of people and changed a lot of minds. Every color, every lifestyle, it didn’t matter,” she said, adding: “I think there was a divine intervention in our country that changed the direction of our country.”

For Brandon Roberts, who handles communications for Bartow County’s Sutallee Baptist Church, attending Friday’s inauguration is a matter of faith. He wasn’t an early supporter of Trump, but once he locked up the nomination Roberts jumped on board with both feet.

“I believe God had his hand in this election,” said Roberts, who is driving to Washington with friends from church. “I think that (Trump) will uphold Judeo-Christian values. I’ve been praying for him. I’m going to continue praying for him and all the people whom he will surround himself with.”

Behind the curtain

A team of Georgians has also been plugging away behind the scenes to make sure the transition occurs without a hitch as members of the Presidential Inaugural Committee.

Billy Kirkland, who ran Trump’s Georgia campaign, is assigned to help senators attending the ceremony while Jennifer Hazelton, the campaign’s Georgia spokeswoman, is handling celebrity attendees and is on the parade planning team.

Rayna Casey, an early Trump supporter who also helped organize his campaign in Georgia, is raising money in the Peach State for the inauguration. Her co-chair is Tony Simon, a lobbyist and former legislative aide.

And Peachtree City's Brian Jack, who served as Trump's chief delegate wrangler during the Republican convention last summer, is one of the president-elect's personnel gurus. He's in charge of placing Trump campaign staffers in key positions in the administration.

With Georgia’s legislative session off for the week, other politicians and operatives are making the pilgrimage to Washington. Seth Weathers, a GOP operative who was Trump’s first Georgia campaign manager, said he wants to be in the crowd to “see history in the making.”

“I knew Trump was the only choice for the GOP that could not only win but also implement the big changes our government needs,” Weathers said. “Witnessing it all come together at the inauguration will be an exciting time.”

A raft of Georgia dignitaries are going to the inauguration, including former President Jimmy Carter and ex-Georgia Gov. Sonny Perdue. Others are skipping the event. Democratic U.S. Rep. John Lewis, a civil rights icon, said he is missing his first inauguration in decades because he doesn’t “see this president-elect as a legitimate president.”

Aides in Republican offices said they saw substantial demand for inauguration tickets in recent months; many had to use lotteries to sift through the barrage of requests they received.

Emory Morsberger, a Gwinnett County developer with deep ties to Georgia’s GOP, said it took plenty of “soul searching” to warm up to Trump after the brutal primary. But his rising health care premiums under the Affordable Care Act — which Trump has vowed to repeal and replace — helped win him over.

“I’m looking for a decrease in the government’s intrusion into my life,” Morsberger said. “I’m looking forward to keeping more of the money I work four jobs to earn. I’m looking for tax policy where the federal government quickly repatriates $2 trillion American companies have overseas.”

Veronica Kessenich booked her airfare to Washington just days after the election for a very different reason. She will be among the droves of Georgians attending the Women’s March on Washington, which is expected to draw as many as 200,000 Trump critics to the National Mall.

“I’m not protesting against Trump,” said Kessenich, who runs the Atlanta Contemporary arts nonprofit. “I’m advocating for equality. I want to be a voice for people who are voiceless, who can’t travel and be heard. I see it as a duty — a calling — to be a participant in this march.”

The march organizers aim to “send a bold message to our new administration on their first day in office, and to the world that women’s rights are human rights,” and Kessenich wanted to add her voice to the chorus.

“It’s very important for us to come together. And it’s very empowering,” she said. “We know what we’re up against, and I think we’re only stronger together.”

As for Senters-McDermott, she’s ready for the protests to end and the unity to begin after a bruising election.

“Anybody who is the president of the United States, no matter who won or lost, deserves respect,” she said. “I respect the president and the presidency no matter who it is. I think it’s sad so many people don’t. As Americans, I think we should all band together and be behind the leader.”

Follow The Atlanta Journal-Constitution’s team of experienced journalists as they travel to Washington to cover the inauguration, the new administration and the Georgia angles you won’t find anywhere else. The AJC will have eight staffers on the ground in D.C. to document the events of this historic weekend. Starting with the Wreath Laying on Thursday afternoon at Arlington National Cemetery, our team will bring you live coverage of all the major moments from Inauguration Day and the Women’s March on Washington on Saturday. Check and for updates, and follow us on Twitter at or Facebook at