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LGE On The Move: The credit union’s plans for 2021

New Cobb Commissioners • Business Transition 360 • Nursing Leaders • Rugby ATL

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Contents Vol. XVII, No. 1 JANUARY/FEBRUARY 2021


Giving Members as Much Value as Possible


While many individuals, small businesses, and companies faced quite a few obstacles throughout 2020 — making the best of what they could during the COVID-19 global pandemic — LGE Community Credit Union continued to push through with relocating its new headquarters.





Find out what’s going on throughout Cobb County with our news updates and calendar of events.


Business Transition 360 (BT360) was born with an emphasis on reducing the stress with some “360 tasks” associated with a company in transition.


Nursing leaders from Chattahoochee Technical College and Wellstar Health are meeting today’s healthcare challenges.

Connect with local leaders who strive to make Cobb County a better place.

Cobb County has a new police training facility on the East West Connector. Take a look inside.


Get to know Rugby ATL, the professional rugby team that calls Cobb County home.


Dispelling myths regarding traffic stops


Today’s youth just aren’t getting enough education when it comes to finances, but Credit Union of Georgia and LGE Community Credit Union have solutions.

On the cover: left-to-right, row 1: Rodney Grizzle, LGE Chief Operations Officer; Carol Wagner, LGE Chief Administrative Officer; row 2: Murali Krishnan, LGE Chief Information Officer; Sean Ferrell, LGE Chief Financial Officer. Photo: LaRuche Creative 2


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foreSight COBB


New South Publishing Inc. President Larry Lebovitz Vice President John Hanna Publisher Jamie Ryan Account Executive Sherry Gasaway Editor Cory Sekine-Pettite

Often on this page for the January/February issue, I would reminisce about the year that was. But I don’t want to ruminate about 2020. Instead, I want to use this space to say, “thank you.” Thank you to all of the healthcare workers who are fighting to treat victims of COVID-19. In this issue, we call attention to local nurses and nursing education programs. Read that article beginning on p. 12. Thank you to all of the teachers who have powered through and found new ways to keep their students engaged while distance-learning. Thank you to every person who chooses to act responsibly and wear a mask while in public. It’s still our best defense against spreading the virus. Thank you to all of the people continuing to support local restaurants; and thank you to all of the restaurant owners who are finding ways to continue feeding the community. Thank you to all of the small businesses and charity organizations that have fought harder than ever to provide much-needed comforts and stability in unprecedented times. Thank you to my fellow journalists who have worked night and day to keep us all informed on every aspect of the challenges and triumphs of living through a pandemic. Thank you to all of the local, state, and federal agencies who have been working harder than most of us can appreciate to see us through one of the most difficult years in American history. And finally, thank you to all of the postal workers, delivery drivers, and other service industry people who have worked tirelessly to keep the rest of us from having to leave our homes too often. All of you — and everyone mentioned above — are saviors, heroes, and patriots. You each deserve a medal.

Photo by LaRuche Creative

Contact Cobb in Focus We want to hear from you! Share your story ideas and comments with our editor. Visit cobbinfocus.com or send your suggestions to: cory@newsouthpublishing.net or New South Publishing, Attn: Cory Sekine-Pettite 9040 Roswell Road, Suite 210 Atlanta, GA 30350

Associate Editor Amy Meadows Graphic Designer Jack Simonetta Contributors Lindsay Field Penticuff, Writer Christy Rosell, Writer Jennifer Morrell, Writer LaRuche Creative, Photography Production Coordinator/Circulation Amy Fine Controller Marilyn Walker cobbinfocus.com @cobbinfocus facebook.com/cobbinfocus Cobb in Focus™ is published six times a year by New South Publishing Inc., 9040 Roswell Road, Suite 210, Atlanta, GA, 30350. Direct all editorial queries to (770) 650-1102, ext. 100. Direct all circulation queries to (770) 650-1102, ext. 130. Direct all advertising queries to (770) 650-1102, ext. 142. All information herein has been checked for accuracy to the best of the publisher’s ability. No responsibility is accepted for deletions, omissions, errors and/or inaccuracies. Material in this publication may not be reprinted without written permission from the publisher. Copyright 2021 by New South Publishing Inc. All rights reserved. Printed in the U.S.A. For address changes, email afine@cobbinfocus.com.


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Sharper Focus Here’s a snapshot of what’s going on in your community. CCF: Food Needs Remain High and More Funding is Needed According to Cobb Community Foundation (CCF), more than 6.9 million meals have been provided to Cobb residents through various charitable organizations between April and December of last year. In response to a CCF survey, local charities estimated they needed an additional $675,000 to fund the necessary purchases of food through the end of 2020. In November, the Cobb Board of Commissioners was able to provide about $560,000 of funding through the CARES Act. For info on how you can help feed Cobb families, visit cobbfoundation.org/coronavirus-information.

New Park Named After Historical Figure in Acworth Acworth’s new Doyal Hill Park opened in December, and was named in honor of Doyal Hill, the first African American to serve on Acworth’s city council. Hill served for 12 years from the mid-1980s into the early 1990s. This event also featured the unveiling of interpretive history signage and public art celebrating the rich history of Acworth’s black community. The park is located at 4410 Cherokee St.

Steve Cannon Named Patriot of the Year Steve Cannon received the Patriot of the Year award (virtually) at the Atlanta Regional Military Affairs Council’s Military Appreciation Luncheon in November. Cannon is the CEO of the AMB Group and previous CEO of Mercedes-Benz North America. He founded the Johnny Mac Soldiers Fund to support a fallen West Pointer’s family, which has now raised more than $17 million to provide scholarships to veterans and family members, particularly children of our nation’s fallen and disabled.

MUST Ministries Partners with Bethesda Community Clinic The MUST Ministries Canton location is partnering with Bethesda Community Clinic to provide their Mobile Medical Unit offering free healthcare services to anyone in need. The Mobile Medical Unit will be at the Canton location on the first Friday of each month from 10 a.m. until 2 p.m. Every service offered in the Bethesda Community Clinic will be available on the fully equipped Mobile Medical Unit including primary care, chronic disease management, women’s health, pediatric care, sick visits, and physicals.

Powder Springs Honored by Atlanta Regional Commission

Howard Koepka Named Visionary Philanthropist

The City of Powder Springs and the Powder Springs Downtown Development Authority has received the 2020 Great Place Award from the Atlanta Regional Commission (ARC) for the city’s implementation of the Powder Springs Livable Centers Initiative plan and renovations to the town green and historic buildings, which includes the addition of Thurman Springs Park to the downtown area. “Town Green is now a true anchor for the vibrant Powder Springs community,” the ARC said in a news release announcing the award winners.



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Howard Koepka is the 2020 recipient of the James L. Rhoden, Jr. Visionary Philanthropist Award from the Cobb Community Foundation. The award recognizes and honors a Cobb business and community leader who makes significant contributions to our community through their gifts of time, talent, and treasure. Koepka’s work with the Cobb Community Food Fleet resulted in close to 100,000 boxes of food, the equivalent of about 1.4 million meals, being distributed since March in the wake of the pandemic.

Habitat for Humanity of NW Metro Atlanta Names Yvonne Byars to its Board Yvonne Byars, PMP, has been named to the Board of Directors of Habitat for Humanity of NW Metro Atlanta. She is a project management professional (PMP) and Salesforce certified administrator with more than 25 years of experience in corporate and non-profit organizations. She has been with MUST Ministries since 2017, and has served as senior director, MUST Neighborhood Pantry program and salesforce project manager. Byars also is chair-elect of Cobb Executive Women.

Joseph B. Atkins Appointed to the Cobb-Marietta Coliseum & Exhibit Hall Authority The Cobb County Recreation Board has appointed attorney Joseph B. Atkins to the Cobb-Marietta Coliseum & Exhibit Hall Authority. Atkins is Of Counsel at Downey & Cleveland. He previously practiced 13 years in the Cobb County Attorney’s Office, where he was both a deputy and an interim county attorney. His community involvement includes serving on the Cobb County Board of Ethics, Rotary Club of Marietta, Marietta Reads, and Peachtree Road United Methodist Church.

Bike Share is Back in Cobb The Cumberland and Town Center CIDs have partnered with a new management company to bring back their popular bike share programs. With Cumberland and Town Center’s combined 12 stations and 80 bikes, you’ll have more places to start and end your ride. Download the Movatic app to get started.

JANUARY Editor’s note: Due to evolving community needs, these events are subject to change or cancellation.

1/5 – 2/23


Cornhole Atlanta Winter League

Martin Luther King Day Celebration

Cornhole is back at The Battery Atlanta! The league includes a season-ending tournament with a championship trophy and other prizes. More info: cornholeatl.com

The Acworth Parks, Recreation and Community Resource Department will host the 8th annual MLK Day Celebration and 10th Annual Day of Service on January 18. Festivities will begin at 9:15 a.m. More info: acworthparksandrec.org


Pop-In For Family Fun Explore the Marietta Museum of History the third Saturday of the month with family fun activities. Cost per person is $5 and a family max at $20. More info: mariettahistory.org



My Family Is A Work Of Art Celebrate Black History month at the Smyrna Public Library with a reading of “Parker Looks Up: An Extraordinary Moment” by Parker Curry. Explore the artist featured in the book and use some of those techniques to create a portrait of your own family. More info: smyrnaga.gov


Georgia RV & Camper Show Check out the largest RV show in the state with a selection of new motor homes, travel trailers, 5th wheels, toy haulers, and more at Cobb Galleria Centre. More info: natcshows.com/rv

2/12 – 3/7

The Mountain Top Marietta’s Theatre In The Square and Actors Theatre of Georgia presents “The Mountain Top.” More info: theatreinthesquare.net


Polar Plunge The 2021 Special Olympics Polar Plunge, hosted by the Law Enforcement Torch Run For Georgia, will take place at Acworth Beach at Cauble Park. The Polar Plunge is the largest fundraising effort benefiting Special Olympics. More info: specialolympicsga.org


Pop-In For Family Fun Explore the Marietta Museum of History the third Saturday of the month with family fun activities. Cost per person is $5 and a family max at $20. More info: mariettahistory.org


First Annual African American Golf Expo And Forum The forum at the Marietta Hilton Hotel and Conference Center will be an opportunity to discuss the issues through an exposition showcasing the latest golf products and services, and through breakout discussion sessions led by national experts. More info: aagolfexpo.com COBB

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Get To Know The Cobb County Board Of Commissioners


n the November 2020 elections, Cobb County voters decided that — for the first time — they wanted an allfemale County Commission, led by newly-elected Commission Chair Lisa Cupid, who previously had served two terms as District 4 commissioner. Fellow Commissioners Richardson and Sheffield also are new to their positions, while Birrell and

Gambrill won re-election. Cupid is the first chairwoman and first black head of county government in Cobb’s history, as well as the first Democrat to hold the office since Ernest Barrett in 1984. With so many changes, Cobb In Focus wanted to provide this opportunity for you to get to know your Cobb County Board of Commissioners a little better.

Lisa Cupid, Commission Chair Lisa Cupid is Commission Chairwoman of Cobb County and has served on the Cobb Board of Commissioners for eight years as commissioner of District Four. Some accomplishments during her public service include championing Cobb’s newly instituted Sunday transit service, improving citizen education and engagement in government, and advocating for enhanced public safety measures, including the use of license plate readers, additional body cameras, and a public safety nuisance abatement program. Cupid is known as a strong advocate for the fair treatment of all of Cobb’s residents and stakeholders regardless of geographic, demographic, or economic standing. In her new role as Chairwoman, Cupid plans to be “all-in” for Cobb by strengthening a foundation of integrity, fostering intelligent decisions, being inclusive, supporting innovation, and investing in Cobb’s residents, infrastructure, and future. Cupid is an attorney and former mediator, policy analyst, and manufacturing process engineer. She resides in Austell with her two children and husband who is also an attorney, law partner, and former electrical engineer. Both are graduates of Georgia Tech and Georgia State Law. The Cupid family attends Buckhead Church.

Lisa Cupid, Commission Chair JoAnn Birrell, District 3 Keli Gambrill, District 1 Jerica Richardson, District 2 Monique Sheffield, District 4

Keli Gambrill, District 1 Keli Gambrill has been active in bringing responsible development to West Cobb for the past 13 years with People Looking After Neighborhoods. Keli recently served on the Green Meadows Preserve Friends group, Stout Park Steering Committee, and the 2040 Comprehensive Land Use Plan Committee. She has worked for several small businesses here in Cobb County and has a bachelor’s in accounting and finance. An avid equestrian and accomplished rider, Gambrill also is a judge for dressage shows. She is married to her husband of 20 years, Bob Gambrill, and they have one son.



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Jerica Richardson, District 2

Monique Sheffield, District 4

Commissioner Jerica Richardson represents the eastern part of Cobb County, which includes Smyrna, Vinings, East Cobb, Cumberland CID, and other parts of unincorporated Cobb County. Her platform is predicated on the idea that when we are connected, we can empathize, and overcome any challenge. Being a diverse metro county, her primary goal is to use the challenges the county faces to elevate conversations that communities around the country should be having. Such challenges on the horizon include rapid and diverse growth, balancing development demands, environmental stability and technology, discrimination, trust in law enforcement, recession-proofing the community, and long-term wealth gaps and inequality. She believes in working closely with the community and that there are only permanent interests in advancing the public welfare. As a private citizen, Richardson is a Georgia Tech graduate in biomedical engineering, and works full time as a program manager at Equifax. She also is a small business owner and author.

Monique Sheffield has been a District 4 resident for more than 20 years. She currently serves on the Lindley Sixth Grade Academy’s School Counseling Advisory Committee; is facilitator for Commissioner Lisa Cupid’s annual Cobb County HOA Bootcamp; and is the past-president of two HOA communities. Serving on the HOA boards was rooted in Sheffield’s desire to solve problems within her community. It is her belief that serving as HOA president builds compassion and tolerance for the unique situation of others. She also volunteers with Keep Cobb Beautiful and other civic organizations for litter pickup and beautifying her community. She is a graduate of Cobb 101:Citizens Government Academy and Cobb County’s Public Safety Academy. She served on the Board of Zoning Appeals from 2017-2019. Her time on that board provided a platform for Sheffield to connect with residents and business owners in the community on zoning appeals matters that are important to them. It allowed her to serve as a mediator to make decisions on zoning variance cases that were fair and equitable for all involved parties. She currently resides in Mableton with her husband, Eric. She is co-owner of Sheffield Realty Group, Inc., a boutique real estate brokerage located in Mableton, is a certified instructor with the Georgia Real Estate Commission, and has a bachelor’s in criminal justice.

JoAnn Birrell, District 3 Commissioner Birrell is a 24-year resident of the county and was first elected to the Commission in 2010. She has previously served in numerous community organizations, including as past chair of Keep Cobb Beautiful and the Neighborhood Safety Commission. During her first term, Birrell initiated the Keep it in Cobb Program and established the Canton Road Redevelopment Committee. She also worked with staff to amend the purchasing ordinance to include a local vendor presence clause and launch the How to do Business with Cobb seminars where business owners can learn how to become a vendor with the County and meet County representatives that make purchasing decisions. During her second term she continued to work on revitalization and economic development opportunities. She co-chaired the U.S. Army Field Band and Soldiers Chorus concert at Lassiter Concert Hall on Veterans Day. She also launched Superior Pets for

Patriotic Vets to pair homeless Cobb County Animal Shelter pets with military veterans and was on the steering committee in 2018 to honor Vietnam Veterans on the 50th Anniversary in Cobb. JoAnn and her husband, Dave, are members of the Catholic Church of St. Ann in Marietta where they serve as Extraordinary Ministers of the Eucharist and volunteers for Meals on Wheels. JoAnn also served as a board member of the McCleskey/East Cobb YMCA from 2012-2015. She currently serves on the board of the Lance Corporal Skip Wells Foundation. Birrell received the Outstanding Citizenship Award and the Lydia Darragh Medals from the Captain John Collins Chapter of the Sons of the American Revolution (SAR) in 2019, the Elected Official of the year award from Keep Georgia Beautiful in 2017, and the American Business Women Association’s Outstanding Community Service Award in 2016, among many other honors. n


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BT360: Efficiency at Its Finest How Business Transition 360 takes the pain and stress out of an office move By Jennifer Morrell


im and Cassie McCormack (majority owner), watched their parents work hard in their own businesses and for businesses like Allied and United Van Lines, Shelter Insurance, and others. The couple developed strong work ethics and desires to be in business for themselves at a young age.



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Tim spent 25 years in sales and senior sales for United and Atlas Van lines, while Cassie worked in the medical field before joining her parents to run their prosthetics and orthotics business for 10 years. When the recession hit in 2008, the McCormacks saw an opportunity. Businesses that were downsizing, “right-

sizing,” or transitioning were looking for help. This is where Tim and Cassie found their niche and their business, Business Transition 360. With strong backgrounds in serving clients at a high level in sales, finance, property management and marketing, they approached furniture manufacturers who

would consider them for resellers in the Southeast. In 2012, Business Transition 360 was born with an emphasis on reducing the stress with some “360 tasks” associated with a company in transition. Whether a company was downsizing, acquiring, merging, renovating, or redesigning, Business Transition 360 wanted to bring the solution to the client. “Our goal is to save clients time and money, and keep the retiring furniture assets out of the landfill,” Tim says. Among their first clients, Tim and Cassie started working with Jacobs Engineering as they were in an acquisition mode, buying firms in the Southeast. Once BT360 (now rebranded) put in place their project management tools and furniture repurposing program, Jacobs was sold and started using them for national projects. Over the course of three years, BT360 was providing Jacobs with project management, new furniture design, layout and installation, helping the firm save nearly 40 percent on workstation costs — shifting

Their mission when starting, as it is today, is to help businesses create highperforming office environments to recruit, retain, and build highly productive, efficient, and happy employees.

the company from a Knoll product to a similar Open Plan product. With a business transition event occurring every three, five, seven or 10 years, the strategy for helping clients had to include other accessorial services, such meeting planning tools, white board and vision board technology, training tools and furniture, furniture reconfigurations, and of course, expansion assistance when a company was outgrowing its space. Tim’s

background in being in the C suite and presenting in the C suite continues to provide an edge for the company to be on the radar of CFOs and HR executives looking for FFE help. Their mission when starting, as it is today, is to help businesses create high-performing office environments to recruit, retain, and build highly productive, efficient, and happy employees. Beyond this, the couple saw an opportunity to use the blessings of their business

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Business to help charities who were serving others during tough life transitional periods. After almost nine years of serving clients such as Fiserv, Veritiv, AT&T, Mark Spain, JLL, Cushman & Wakefield, Coca-Cola, Hello Fresh, and HD Supply, as well as favorite charities Atlanta Care Center, MUST Ministries, Goodwill, Rainbow Village and others, their success is evident in both the office furniture world and the charities that benefit from furniture donations, cash donations, or discounts for the creation of a nice office environment. One of the best examples of this happened a few years ago, when the facilities team at Fiserv contracted BT360 Solutions to decommission and repurpose thousands of assets at their East Jones Bridge Road campus. Senior leadership at Fiserv approved the idea of donating furniture from a 30-room campus hotel. As a result, MUST Ministries and other charities were blessed to furnish apartments for women and children coming out of abusive homes and relationships. “While decommissioning the Fiserv Jones Bridge Road Campus, we donated hundreds of thousands of dollars in furniture, hotel furniture, and technology to these charities,” Tim says. “Fiserv contracted us to decommission their six buildings with 14 floors of furniture during a nine-month contract. Most of the 2,000 workstations were sold to clients and wholesalers, substantially limiting what was dumped.” In another instance, United Methodist Children’s Home was leasing a new corporate home and needed to stay within a certain budget for the renovation. BT360 Solutions repurposed a Coca-Cola inventory at a substantial discount to help the designer and the church achieve a beautiful new office and training facility for their staff and those in need. With many reputable and professional furniture dealerships in Atlanta, BT360 has to be creative, responsive, professional, and outstanding at listening to the needs of their clients. Each and every employee within the company, from installers and movers to the executive team must complete certain service delivery programs and a communication skills course each year to ensure serving and dealing with customers in a specific, client-centric way. BT360’s staff 10


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BT360 Showroom

are absolutely passionate about getting buyers comfortable and even at a place of enjoyment when partnering on projects. The team makes a habit of reaching out to the leasing and property management executives that work in the buildings they enter to ensure a complete understanding of how a project will affect other tenants, keeping the managers up to speed on every facet of the furniture project. Property managers, executive leasing agents, and designers are great referral partners for furniture dealers.

The company now offers up to 60 lines of new furniture and six lines of reconditioned or gently used furniture solutions, as well as space planning, design, move management, and a unique furniture decommission consignment solution. For example, HD Supply benefitted by contracting BT360 to sell hundreds of workstations, recouping nearly $100,000 in furniture resales. The decommission consignment program works well when a large user of furniture has the time to exercise such a process. Obviously, you

Pictured left to right: Tim McCormack, Cassie McCormack, and Carol Sprouse.

Office furniture installation

have to have a sizable network of resellers or client prospects who might consider purchasing used furniture in larger quantities, but the solution saves a facility executive thousands of dollars in removal costs, hundreds of hours in managing the removal, and it keeps the cost down for the resale purposes of the assets. The overriding benefit from BT360’s standpoint is that they continue to reduce the furniture that ends up in landfills, and the company can offer select items to charities or it can repurpose assets for companies looking to save as they startup, expand, or renovate. As BT360 evolves, now employing a designer, a contract furniture installation team, a digital marketing expert, and innovative COVID safety tools, the company can now comprehensively manage any and all aspects of your next office furniture challenge. You can find more information at bt360solutions.com. “We consult on air quality, relevant to COVID,” Tim says. “Clients find it hard to believe their employees spend about 13.5 years of their lives in an office. Hence, we need to protect them while there.” The company regularly publishes blog posts about furniture updates, white papers, ergonomically correct seating, and office management ideas to keep your office teams engaged, happy, and productive. COVID-19 certainly has added a new dimension to the office furniture industry. Thus, BT360 Solutions invested in the team and the support to ensure it is at the forefront of safety tools now required by the CDC as companies reopen their offices. Learn more

at businesstransition360.com/prepareyour-office-post-covid19/. Whether you are concerned about air quality, screens for desk or cubicles, needed signage, or simply require a consultation (free) on better ways to manage in the post-COVID era, reach out to Tim, Cassie, and the rest of the BT360 team. Like any business in 2020, it has been both challenging and a blessing, as far as

Tim and Cassie can see. BT360 saw opportunity to consider how it could best serve businesses and people struggling with the economy, job loss, working from home, home schooling, etc. Whether it was the mission to help a company sell assets at limited cost, create a home office environment, doing Zoom calls to just listen and pray, or strategizing with executives to consider what their offices would look like in 2021, BT360 continued to manage, engage and serve one client, prospect or friend as needed. Cassie and Tim see their business and its growth and sustainability as a constant conduit for serving others. Like so many that finally take the step toward business ownership, they are extremely grateful for the economic downturn that motivated them into creating and building the Business Transition 360 brand and company. All told, they keep 40 employees and contractors routinely busy, creating good lives for their employees and contract partners at CWI Furniture Installation. They work from their home offices in Buford and have a warehouse in Fulton County and showrooms in Doraville and Midtown. n


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Local Nursing Leaders Enhance Healthcare In Georgia

By Christy Rosell


ur community spent most of 2020 learning how to live through a pandemic, and a spotlight was cast on nurses and the vital role they play in caring for people during some of their most difficult moments. We’ve heard countless stories of the impact of nurses when the worst happens and our loved ones end up in the hospital — alone — fighting for life. While quality nursing care was essential to saving lives far before a pandemic struck, the current crisis has highlighted the work of these heroes and brought to light very real challenges they face today. COVID-19 has further emphasized the



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ongoing need for compassionate, skilled nurses across our country and in our own community. So how do we ensure quality nursing care for the future? We had the opportunity to meet virtually with nursing leaders from Chattahoochee Technical College and Wellstar Health System to see how they are meeting today’s healthcare challenges, what they’ve learned from the pandemic, and how they’re preparing nurses to provide quality care long into the future.

Wellstar nurses offer compassionate patient care “The pandemic has shined a light on this

very human, very talented, and very necessary role our nurses play for our patients every single day, not just during a pandemic,” said Jill Case-Wirth, MHA, BSN, RN, senior vice president and chief nursing executive of Wellstar. Nurses provide care, but more importantly, they provide human compassion and connection, she pointed out. In addition to their vital role in medical care, they take requests for a favorite song, dial a beloved granddaughter, or hold a patient’s hand to offer support. Case-Wirth shared a story about a patient and his nurse at Wellstar Paulding Hospital. Like many fighting COVID-19, he was

“The pandemic has shined a light on this very human, very talented, and very necessary role our nurses play for our patients every single day, not just during a pandemic,” –Jill Case-Wirth, MHA, BSN, RN, senior vice president and chief nursing executive of Wellstar.

struggling to breathe and came to a point where he could no longer continue to do so on his own. His compassionate ICU nurse, Veronica [last name withheld], told him the doctor would come in to discuss intubation, the process when a tube is inserted through the mouth into the airway. Fully covered and practically disguised in PPE from head to toe, the nurse made a promise. “I told my patient that I’d promise to be by his side and even though he could not see my face because of the PPE, that I was smiling at him,” Veronica recalled. “And

through his labored breath, my patient simply said, ‘You are beautiful.’ I said, ‘Hey, how do you know that? You can’t even see me.” And he said, ‘I do see you, I see your heart, and you are my nurse. I’m not afraid.’ And in that moment, that was my ‘why.’” The patient fought for his life, and ultimately survived COVID-19. Later, he reached out to commend Veronica for the comfort she provided during what he called the toughest moment of his life. “During this pandemic, when loved ones have sometimes had to settle for the safety of Facetime

chats instead of in-person visits, our nurses have been a constant, reassuring presence,” Case-Wirth said.

Mitigating burdens and supporting resiliency Unfortunately, while some nurses have found their “why” — their purpose — validated during this time, countless others have experienced burnout, including physical and emotional exhaustion; decreased

During these challenging times, A.G. Rhodes continues to provide safe and compassionate care for our community’s older adults. Learn more:

www.agrhodes.org/coronavirus COBB

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Health job fulfillment; movement away from bedside roles; and even abandonment of the profession. Nurses are people caring for people, so providing care for the caregivers is a priority for Wellstar. “The pandemic has placed additional professional and personal burdens on nurses as they strive to meet complex clinical and emotional needs, providing compassion and companionship in the absence of family,” Case-Wirth said. “Many nurses find themselves giving everything they have to help patients, often denying self-care.” She said Wellstar implemented proactive approaches to address the stress, anxiety, and potential for burnout among its 7,000 nurses early in April. Resources included ways to mitigate burnout, such as “respite shifts” where nurses could work on nonCOVID floors, resources to improve their quality of life, and peer support groups.

and nursing partners at every level, are empowered to identify opportunities and procedures to be more efficient and effective. Case-Wirth explained this helps impact the future of quality care at Wellstar hospitals. One example of how a nurse can make a big impact comes out of Wellstar Cobb Hospital. According to Case-Wirth, an ICU nurse named Rosmery [last name withheld] led the way to put into practice an evidence-based manual on prone process for critically-ill patients with COVID-19. “This process has proven to be crucial for patient recovery and was implemented throughout our system,” Case-Wirth said. Another Wellstar initiative to improve patient outcomes is a new virtual nurse program. Highly trained rapid response nurses are paired with primary care nurses who monitor patient conditions, vital signs, and symptoms at patients’ bedsides.

Quality care process changes inspired by the pandemic

Finally, while this article has focused primarily on how Wellstar is improving quality in the wake of the pandemic,

Wellstar team members, including nurses

New nurse education

Wellstar has long-focused on education and onboarding new nurses. The health system plays a key partnership role with Georgia-based schools of nursing, including Kennesaw State University Wellstar School of Nursing, Mercer University’s Georgia Baptist College of Nursing, and the Wellstar Nursing Career Pathway Program for high school students. In these relationships, the health system provides faculty and clinical learning sites. Wellstar also offers a 12-month Graduate Residency Program that nurtures new nurses transitioning into practice during their first year and includes professional enrichment classes as well as acute, critical, and specialty training. Wellstar also partnered with Chattahoochee Technical College to institute a certified nursing assistant training program for existing team members who want to become dedicated caregivers and fill critical nursing support roles. The program introduces students to the role and responsibilities of the nursing aide, provides training required to serve as a


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“Nursing judgement is one of the most important parts to prepare that student to manage patient care. When you think of nursing, it is an application practice. In nursing education, it is our responsibility to allow students to touch, feel, and do. It’s like developing a muscle.” –Dr. Quetina Pittman-Howell, Ph.D., RN., dean of Nursing at Chattahoochee Tech

certified nursing assistant, and enables Wellstar employees to pass their Georgia certification examination. “We’re leading the charge to prepare nurses for long-lasting careers and making sure that nurses — past, present, and future — know that Wellstar values the vital role they play in providing compassionate care,” Case-Wirth said.

Chattahoochee Tech prepares nurses for the future, creatively “Our community wants to help our nation become healthier and deal with this pandemic,” said Dr. Quetina Pittman-Howell, Ph.D., RN. As the dean of Nursing at Chattahoochee Tech, Pittman-Howell saw applications for the nursing programs increase, even as new challenges present themselves for students and faculty. “In March, we got the email that we were going online 100 percent and at the same time, our partners said they were pulling all students out of the clinical setting,” Dr. Pittman-Howell said. “We’re the pipeline to practice. If we can’t get students out on time, this limits the number of qualified nurses we can provide our partners. It was very important for the faculty to work together to meet requirements for the accrediting body so our students could get clinical hours.”

Nursing excellence goes online Simulations — along with real-world clinical practice — help develop nursing judgement, a combination of concepts including critical thinking, evidence-based practice, and clinical decision making. To continue preparing students to provide excellent nursing care, it was critical to take these traditionally in-person methods online. “Nursing judgement is one of the most

important parts to prepare that student to manage patient care,” Dr. Pittman-Howell said. “When you think of nursing, it is an application practice. In nursing education, it is our responsibility to allow students to touch, feel, and do. It’s like developing a muscle.” After going virtual, nursing program faculty collaborated daily, creating critical opportunities for students to practice nursing judgement in nontraditional ways. Tech-savvy instructors translated their popular scramble classroom model to virtual, providing a mix of lecture and interactive learning. And, clinical rotations went online. “The faculty became the patients,” she remembered. “Students would log in and ‘care’ for us.” Thankfully, she said students are now back in clinical settings, gaining valuable bedside experience.

Teaching nurses to care for themselves The nursing program has an advisory board made up of nurses and community members who discuss the realities of the clinical settings to better impact students. And, like many members of the faculty, Dr. PittmanHowell is a practicing nurse. She noted that resilience is a topic they have discussed more often since the beginning of the pandemic. “Nurses are getting worn down,” she said. “We need to maintain the number of nurses at the bedside.” As a result, the faculty has begun to infuse resiliency into courses, covering topics such as coping with emotional family members who can’t see patients because of COVID-related visiting restrictions; recognizing feelings of burnout and stress that come with additional donning and doffing of protective equipment throughout the day; and the importance of self-care.

“We have to be focused as a profession on taking care of ourselves,” she said, noting that nursing school stress is good practice for the future. Faculty encourage students to plan blocks of time for themselves and take a breather, whether it’s through meditation, getting a manicure, or working on a project. “We must take care of ourselves to make sure every patient is cared for with integrity and decency and honor,” Dr. Pittman-Howell said.

Nursing growth Celebrating her tenth year at the technical college, Dr. Pittman-Howell reflected on the program’s growth. A decade ago, she was a professor in the yet-to-be-accredited program; there were just 18 students. “I had the opportunity to work with great faculty and we built it into a very competitive program,” she said. In 2020, Chattahoochee Tech’s RN program was ranked third in the state by RegisteredNursing.org and there were 416 applications for just 40 seats. “The caliber of our program puts our students at a huge advantage,” she said. “You can be an effective nurse when you go to a technical college.” n COBB

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Break The Cycle Of Financial Illiteracy

Take control of your future — and help your kids with theirs — through free online tools from local credit unions. By Cory Sekine-Pettite


ost of us learned about money on our own. Think about it: No one taught us about finances, budgeting, or saving for retirement unless we asked — or paid — someone for help. And in many cases, when we’ve asked for assistance it was because we already were in over our



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heads. Typically, our school systems neglect these subjects, and families don’t talk about money because — let’s face it — the average American household isn’t good about spending or saving money. So parents either avoid the topic or just don’t think they’re qualified to educate their children on the basic principles of managing money.

The Credit Union of Georgia, through programs such as its Cuga Kid’s Club, offers both online financial education for parents and kids, as well as customized courses for elementary to high school students that teachers can arrange with the company.

and young adults. We spoke with both companies about their programs.

Credit Union of Georgia

Many of our mistakes when it comes to finances are avoidable; we just need to be taught the skills. This may sound daunting, but it really isn’t. You can break the cycle of financial illiteracy with your children. There’s no shame in seeking outside support. In fact, you should. And two local companies offer a wealth of knowledge and experience to help you and your kids learn how to navigate the banking system, to invest, to save for retirement, plan for home ownership, and much more. Both LGE Community Credit Union and Credit Union of Georgia offer a plethora of online financial education tools geared toward children

The Credit Union of Georgia, through programs such as its Cuga Kid’s Club, offers both online financial education for parents and kids, as well as customized courses for elementary to high school students that teachers can arrange with the company. Additionally, it offers bank accounts that are specifically designed for children and young adults. These members receive rewards for saving, achieving good grades, celebrating a birthday, attending a Cuga Kid’s Club event (which, for now, are held online), and more. A Kid’s Club account can be opened for just $10. “This is a great tool to teach children about the benefits of savings,” said Amanda Arnold, VP of marketing & business development at Credit Union of Georgia. She added that the company originally was founded by educators for educators, so they know that teachers (and parents) need tools to help kids learn about bank accounts, budgeting, loans, getting ready for college, and more. Credit Union of Georgia was founded in 1960 to serve local teachers and school employees. It is a not-for-profit institution, which means that earnings go right back into member programs and services. The credit union offers seven branch locations, as well as multiple shared branches and shared ATMs. The institution’s online educational programs include topics such as Credit Reports and Scores, Budgeting Basics, Home Buying, and Auto Buying. Plus, there is a wealth of blog posts, webinars, and other resources for anyone looking to further their financial education. COBB

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Education Anyone interested in taking advantage of these educational tools can do so. One does not need to be a member of the credit union. The free resources are available at CUofGA.org. It is easy to get started, so don’t delay. “We feel it is important for parents to be involved. Parents can share their stories and they can learn from one another,” Arnold said. Educators, if you invite a Credit Union of Georgia rep to teach a class, which for the time being are being completed via Zoom, you can

Membership may have privileges that LGE reps would be happy to discuss, but the company’s Financial Education Center tools are free to use by anyone.

expect a tailored experience catered to the needs of your chosen financial education topic, Arnold said. The presentation would be taught by a knowledgeable financial professional with hands-on activities and information, and tools to help students further their education on finances. Reach out to the marketing department at marketing@CUofGA.org to request someone for a financial literacy class. Credit Union of Georgia serves those who live or work in Cobb, Cherokee, Fulton, Paulding, Bartow, Douglas, and Gilmer counties.

LGE Community Credit Union LGE launched a series of online financial education programs last year to help everyone better manage their money. “We’ve always known there was a need for financial education within our community and our community relations team has done countless in-person financial education presentations for schools and businesses,” said Rebecca Duvall, marketing manager at LGE. “When the pandemic hit and people were spending a lot of time at home (and many experiencing financial stress), we knew it was imperative that our members — and 18


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the community — had access to online content to help navigate them through not only these unprecedented times, but their whole financial journey.” LGE has been doing just that — helping people through their ‘whole financial journey’ — since 1951 when a group of Lockhead Georgia employees sought to establish a better way to bank. Today, LGE serves communities in Northwest Georgia as a not-for-profit financial institution. Unlike a bank, whose profits go to its shareholders, LGE’s profits go to its members in the form of better rates and lower fees. And no, you don’t have to be a Lockhead employee to join. Everyone who lives or works in Bartow, Cherokee, Cobb, Fulton, and Paulding counties is eligible to apply for membership. And with 13 full-service LGE locations in our area, and access to more than 48,000 shared ATMs nationwide, you won’t have trouble finding a spot to do most of your banking. Membership may have privileges that LGE reps would be happy to discuss, but the company’s Financial Education Center tools are free to use by anyone. The online service is easy to navigate and includes quick-link options for resources on Financial Wellness 101, Banking Basics, Lending Basics, Homeownership, Investing in Your Future, Retirement Planning, and Financial Caregiving. There’s also an option to create your own “personalized playlist” based on your financial needs and goals. Duvall said users can expect short, easyto-use modules with interactive and video content that makes financial topics accessible and easy-to-digest. The free courses are available in both English and Spanish, and the website (at lgeccu.org/learn.html) will keep track of your progress as you complete the chosen lessons. These modules, Duvall noted, are primarily designed for older teenagers and adults, so be sure to include your kids in these lessons if they are of age. With such extensive financial education tools available to us all, there no longer are any excuses to delay improving our money management skills. Your newfound financial aplomb will have a lasting impact on your life. In addition, the lessons in which you involve your children will improve their lives and see to it that at least one aspect of their journey into adulthood is a much smoother road. Just think back to your own maturation and the money management lessons you learned the hard way. Break the cycle. n

Special Section

Leaders of Cobb


ince its establishment more than 180 years ago, Cobb County has been defined by its people. Some of these individuals have made their mark by becoming pioneers of business, captains of industry and heads of state. And if you’re reading this, you likely know why Cobb is attractive to so many. It hosts exceptional schools, is within close reach to the world’s busiest airport, has all of the convenience of proximity to the

big city and is fertile ground for entrepreneurship. The list goes on, but it always comes back to the people who have built this county into what it is. On the following pages we have profiled individuals who are among Cobb’s premier leaders. We wanted to find out about their jobs, delve into their personal life and gain some words of wisdom. And of course, we asked: Why have you picked Cobb County?


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Photo by LaRuche Creative

Leaders of Cobb such as marriage, divorce, relocation, retirement, or even a death in the family. Regardless of what’s going on in their lives, good or bad, it most often is a significant personal and family disruption. Those emotions can spice up the tone of a transaction. Basically, I am trained to diffuse situations so my clients can think and process decisions more clearly rather than just respond emotionally. WHY I CHOSE TO LIVE IN COBB: I lived briefly in Fulton and Gwinnett prior to moving to Cobb. I immediately fell in love with Cobb County and have been here 24 of my 26 years in Georgia. The draw was the quality of life, the park system, and the accessibility to the major highways, city, and airport. My decision to invest in Cobb also was influenced by the school system, the socioeconomics, and the strong real estate market. I give credit to the way the county is run and to the people who live here. WHAT DO YOU LOVE MOST ABOUT YOUR JOB? I approach real estate in a similar fashion to my work as a therapist and that involves three things: trust, credibility, and being very good at what you do. You don’t ask someone to trust you, when they prove it to themselves they do it on their own. Credibility is built with the approach to handling each step, process, situation, and problem as they arise. When the client gets to their best results because of your efforts, that’s the best feeling. My most important award is the re-ward of a happy and satisfied client.

Tom Andre

Associate Broker, REALTOR®, & Licensed Professional Counselor

THE STORY: I am originally from southern Connecticut, where my father and grandfather operated a real estate brokerage for a combined 75+ years. I spent my youth in and around real estate, whether that was at construction site, a home flip, an open house, or my dad’s office. I went to college in Boston and moved to Atlanta just two weeks after I graduated. I earned a bachelor’s in organizational and interpersonal communications, and later in Georgia received a master’s in counseling. I am a full-time REALTOR at Atlanta Communities in East Cobb. Prior to going full-time, I worked two jobs as a licensed psychotherapist and a REALTOR. It’s a great combination when it comes to negotiations — it helps me navigate through so many “people” issues that can arise. While working both professions, I had an epiphany; behind most every real estate transaction is a transition,

LEISURE TIME: I enjoy exercising, socializing, and volunteering my time, which like most people have suffered from the many adjustments due to the pandemic. I also recently bought a classic car, a convertible Porsche that has quickly become my latest passion. BEST ADVICE: My best advice comes from the mantra of my family’s business. Honor your word. Your word is everything because sometimes in life it can be your only thing, your last thing of value. WHAT’S NEXT? Aside from managing my real estate business, I’ve appeared on The American Dream TV show, a national television show that weaves its storylines between topics like lifestyles, entrepreneurship, charity, neighborhood, and family. Currently, I am writing a proposal for my own show. Imagine Dr. Phil with an HGTV component; that’s my latest dream, which is really just reflective of a day in my current life — only recorded.

Atlanta Communities  •  678.472.1934 • www.consultingandre.com 20


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Photo by LaRuche Creative

Leaders of Cobb THE STORY: I went to the University of West Georgia and studied economics and journalism. I ended up graduating from the business school with a major in economics and minor in mass communications. It’s rewarding to now serve on the Board of Trustees for the same university that gave me such a great start. I have always enjoyed writing, telling stories, and communications. I started working at a newspaper in high school as a stringer, and I continued to work in the field as I developed in my career. I worked in PR for many years before getting introduced to advertising, and the blend of both keeps me challenged, motivated, and excited to continue in this profession. WHY I CHOSE TO LIVE IN COBB: Cobb County has great schools, great businesses, and is an exceptional location. With lots of travel around Atlanta and beyond, we chose a location that has proximity to the airport, downtown, Buckhead, and more. I strategically located my office there because the Battery is such a great, central location and a cool place to work. Our office is on the ninth floor of a building across the street from the Braves stadium, and as a lifelong Braves fan, it makes me smile to sit in our conference room and enjoy the view. WHAT DO YOU LOVE MOST ABOUT YOUR JOB? Diversity. I appreciate that every day is different. I enjoy the many hats I wear as a business owner, CEO, and chief of marketing and communications for brands. I appreciate the challenge to grow the business and give back to my team and my community. LEISURE TIME: I started golf lessons a few years ago and really enjoy the game. I enjoy playing the piano, guitar, and having dance parties with my four-year-old daughter. I also enjoy spending time with friends and shopping at local businesses in Cobb County. Before COVID days, I also enjoyed traveling and typically take a few trips a year. Last year, I had the opportunity to travel to Paris, Oslo, and Tromso (Norway) with two of my best friends and roommates from college.

Amanda Lucey

Chief Executive Officer, The Partnership BEST ADVICE: Stay hungry, keep hustling, and stay humble. That’s my motto. Leaders have to remember to stand on the shoulders of giants, as the saying goes, and rely on others. It’s so inspiring to watch team members grow, and to help others develop. Oftentimes, we are so busy hustling we forget to stop and celebrate the wins, and we forget to communicate. The ABCs of business isn’t about “always be closing;” it’s about always be communicating. It’s important to look up and see the horizon so you don’t get sea sick with the day-to-day in the business work. Share your story not only to promote your brand, but to encourage others and help them. By sharing your story, you inspire other business owners; after all, small business supporting small business keeps us all going. WHAT’S NEXT? We will continue to grow and scale. We will continue to tell brand stories and increase market share for our partners. And, we will continue to give back to our community. My focus is on growth — growing our talent, growing our team, growing our partners, and growing our presence in this community to make a positive impact and help others.

1100 Circle 75 Pkwy SE, Suite 930, Atlanta, GA 30339 • 404.880.0080 • thepartnership.com COBB

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Giving Members as Much Value as Possible LGE Community Credit Union pushes through 2020 and looks forward to its 2021 plans



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By Lindsay Field Penticuff


All photos by LaRuche Creative

hile many individuals, small businesses, and companies faced quite a few obstacles throughout 2020 — making the best of what they could during the COVID-19 global pandemic — LGE Community Credit Union continued to push through with relocating its new headquarters. Company executives also look forward to what 2021 has to offer the Mariettaheadquartered credit union.


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Murali Krishnan, LGE Chief Information Officer, Carol Wagner, LGE Chief Administrative Officer, Rodney Grizzle, LGE Chief Operations Officer, Sean Ferrell, LGE Chief Financial Officer.

Founded in 1951, LGE is now occupying space in the Cumberland Center II complex off Cumberland Boulevard Southeast in the Cumberland area of Cobb County. They moved into their new space in April 2020. “LGE had been headquartered at 430 Commerce Park [in Marietta] since 1981,” says Chris Leggett, president and CEO at LGE. “Back then, we had fewer than 40,000 members and fewer than 100 employees.” The credit union now serves more than 117,000 members from Bartow, Cherokee, Cobb, Fulton, and Paulding counties, as well as Partner Groups companies and family members of existing LGE customers. There were a few reasons LGE leadership

decided to relocate, but one of the top motives was that Cobb County expressed an interest in purchasing their old building. “We believed it presented an opportunity for LGE to secure a location that would better meet our future needs,” adds Leggett, who has been with the credit union for 13 years. When the journey to find a new location began, LGE was intentional in looking for and planning their new headquarters space. Leaders wanted to make sure the new office was selected and designed with the future of the credit union in mind. Carol Wagner, SVP and chief administrative officer with 18 years of experience at LGE, says the new location occupies the entire 16th and

“We believed it presented an opportunity for LGE to secure a location that would better meet our future needs.” —Chris Leggett, President and CEO, LGE Community Credit Union



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17th floors, in addition to part of the 15th floor, of Cumberland Center II. The space houses staff that support all facets of LGE operations. “We completely renovated the space prior to move-in to feature natural light viewable from all workstations, standing desk options for all workstations, and different options for working throughout the space, including nooks, hubs, and booths,” shares Wagner. The cool thing about the new location, she adds, is that they were deliberate about designing a space that allows LGE team members to be able to better serve credit union members. “It’s a complete change from the traditional office space we occupied previously. The [new] space was designed to foster creativity, increase collaboration among teams, and promote

About LGE Community Credit Union LGE Community Credit Union was founded in Marietta, Ga., in 1951 by employees at Lockheed Martin Corporate, an aerospace, defense, arms, security and advanced technologies company with locations all cross the United States. Throughout the years, LGE began serving others in the community by adding Partner Groups to their field of membership. In 2008, LGE converted from a federally chartered to state-chartered credit union, allowing them to serve anyone living or working within a geographical field of membership. Today, LGE serves more than 117,000 credit union members. Everyone who lives or works in Bartow, Cherokee, Cobb, Fulton and Paulding counties, in addition to Partner Groups companies and family members of existing members can join.


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informal communication. It features natural light all around, and sweeping views of both Cobb County and the Atlanta skylines.” The space also features wireless connectivity throughout, adds Murali Krishnan, SVP and chief information officer who has been at LGE for two years, in addition to virtual conferencing capability and intermetal staff mobility that allows employees to work anywhere, anytime. “Currently, and due to the COVID-19 pandemic, much of our headquarters staff is working remotely at least part of the time,” Wagner says. “However, we have roughly 150 employees whose home base is our new headquarters — with room for that number to grow.” Feedback that LGE’s leadership has received from staff since opening eight months ago include the space being attractive, comfortable, and

having a lovely open environment. Employees have raved about loving the new views and the mobility within the space. When asked what he is most proud of with regards to the new space, CEO Leggett says that it provides LGE with a greater presence in the community and flexibility as their future evolves.

On the horizon in 2021 And while 2020 has offered an abundance of opportunity for LGE with its relocation to a new space, leadership is excited about what 2021 will afford its staff and credit union members. “We will continue enhancing our digital offerings and adding value to our members,” Leggett says. “We are planning to finish our branch renovations and refresh in 2021.” With these advanced offerings on the

“It features natural light all around, and sweeping views of both Cobb County and the Atlanta skylines.” —Carol Wagner, SVP and Chief Administrative Officer, LGE Community Credit Union 26


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“Our reason for plans of any kind is to give our members as much value as possible. As a cooperative, it’s in our DNA!” —Chris Leggett, President and CEO, LGE Community Credit Union

horizon, Leggett believes LGE will create a better environment for members to do business, as well as a more pleasant experience for staff working in those facilities. “Our environment is fast-evolving with the way business is conducted today,” Wagner adds. “LGE needs to be proactive by implementing products and services that support this new environment.” For example, Wagner shares, LGE’s digital channel continues double-digit growth and they must continually focus on enhancing the capabilities of that channel. “We must remain relevant

in digital — and other channels — to continue delivering value to our members.” Rodney Grizzle, SVP and chief operations officer who has been with LGE for eight years, adds that thankfully COVID-19 hasn’t impacted or delayed their plans for 2021; rather, it has caused LGE to accelerate in response to the needs of credit union members. “It sounds like a broken record,” Leggett concludes, “but our reason for plans of any kind is to give our members as much value as possible. As a cooperative, it’s in our DNA!” n

LGE Community Credit Union Leadership Chris Leggett, President and CEO (13 years) Rodney Grizzle, SVP and Chief Operations Officer (eight years) Sean Ferrell, SVP and Chief Financial Officer (11 years) Murali Krishnan, SVP and Chief Information Officer (two years) Carol Wagner, SVP and Chief Administrative Officer (18 years)


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In Your Community

Ahead Of The Class Cobb County opens a new police academy By Cory Sekine-Pettite


obb County has opened a new training facility for its police force, replacing an older training building that it shared with the county’s fire department. The Cobb County Public Safety Police Academy, at 2435 East West Connector in Austell, was opened this past November and is housed in a renovated structure that once was a BJ’s Wholesale Club. Following a $24-million reconstruction process (including the land and building purchase) that was funded through a 2016 SPLOST (Special Purpose Local Option Sales Tax) referendum, the Academy is now considered the most modern in Georgia, featuring more classroom space (with state-of-theart audio-visual equipment), more tactical



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training options, a modern fitness center for officers, and meeting rooms and an auditorium that can be used for Cobb County government business or public/ community events. The facility also contains a full-scale tactical “village” consisting of eight training scenario rooms such as a bank and a courtroom. According to the county, Cobb Police mandates one of the most lengthy and extensive training programs in the state for the new officers. The 115,000-squarefoot Academy offers the county the ability to be more flexible with that training — which typically lasts 26 weeks for officer trainees — and the facility gives the county space to bring in national training programs.

“The Cobb County Police Academy operates the 26-week expanded basic Mandate training course (Police Academy) for newly hired Cobb County Police Officers to become Georgia POST (Peace Officer Standards and Training) certified police officers in the State of Georgia,” said Captain Matthew Hurst, Academy Director. Additionally, he said the Advanced Training unit provides required ongoing annual training that all county officers must complete — 20 to 40 training hours each year — in topics such as Ethics and Professionalism, Use of Force, De-Escalation, Community Policing, CPR, Emergency Vehicle Operations, Legal Updates, and more. “Finally, we offer advanced, specialized

and career development training that is open to both Cobb County police officers and law enforcement officers from around the country,” Hurst added. “Some of these courses are taught by Cobb County Police instructors, but many are taught by national training organizations such as the FBI, Public Agency Training Council, International Association of Chiefs of Police, FEMA, and many other organizations we host for training.” The Cobb County Public Safety Police Academy also is affording the county the opportunity to partner with other organizations. Hurst said the police department’s latest partnership includes Columbus State University, with which it is offering college-level courses for law enforcement officers. Other university partnerships are in the works. “Additionally, we have in the past — and plan in the future — to host numerous community courses for the public in the facility, including the Citizens Public Safety Academy, Youth Police Academy, Hispanic/Latino Police Academy, Gun Safety, and Physical Self Defense courses and more,” Hurst said. “COVID-19 is currently delaying many of these planned public events.” Hurt said the first police academy class to graduate in the building actually did so on Nov. 19, 2020. The next class of recruits, known as Mandate 55, started

Oct. 19, 2020, and they will graduate on April 22 of this year as the first class to do basically all of their police academy training in the new building. The next class, Mandate 56, starts on Jan. 25, 2021. “We typically run three overlapping police academy classes a year,” Hurst said. “Once

the new class starts in January, we will have a total of about 40 police recruits in the building training daily, and anywhere from 10 to 75 additional officers in annual, advanced, or career development training depending on what is going on that particular day.” n


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Arts & Recreation

Get To Know Rugby ATL

This pro sports team calls Cobb home. By Cory Sekine-Pettite


here’s no doubt that metro Atlanta is a major sports destination. With professional teams in baseball, basketball (men’s and women’s), football, soccer and now rugby, there’s no shortage of hometown teams for which we can cheer. Atlanta also is home to the annual SEC college football Championship, and the College Football Hall of Fame. But did you know that Cobb County is a major player in professional sports? Of course, everyone knows that the Atlanta Braves now are based in Cobb County at Truist Park, and some of you may know that the Atlanta United’s training facility (Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta Training Ground) is in Marietta. But did you know that Cobb also now boasts a professional rugby team? That’s right, Rugby ATL (part of Major League Rugby, or MLR) is headquartered in Marietta and plays their games on a new field adjacent to the Life University campus. The team made its debut in February of 2020, but that inaugural season was cut short because of the pandemic — just a few games into what should have been a



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celebratory introduction for Atlanta’s sixth major professional sports team. The team is looking for a reboot, a little redemption, and frankly just a chance to play out their first full season, which is 16 regular-season games just like football. Cobb In Focus recently had the opportunity to speak with General Manager and Head Coach, Scott Lawrence, and player Jason Damm about the shortened 2020 season, Rugby ATL’s second chance at a proper, full season, and what fans can expect at the matches. (Yes, the games are called matches, just like in soccer.) “As you know, Atlanta is a great sporting market; a diverse city,” said Lawrence, who spent 15 years running the college rugby club at Life University and also was the USA Rugby National Team Defense Coach prior to joining Rugby ATL. “We have … people from everywhere here. You can see in the energy that Atlanta United has generated that there is an appetite for international sports in Atlanta.” Lawrence spent a year building up his team and getting the program ready for its

2020 debut — just as the pandemic began taking its toll on America. Certainly, this wasn’t the way anyone at Rugby ATL wanted to start the year, but Lawrence and his squad saw the pandemic as an opportunity to give back and stay connected with the community. “Job number one for us was to continue to support these people and businesses in Marietta, in particular in Cobb County, and then do our part in serving those who are struggling,” he said. Among its community partnerships, the team joined Catered Southern Events and MUST Ministries to feed the homeless. The team collected toys for Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta, and they support youth rugby across the Southeast with their Pathway 404 Foundation. The team also has spent this year training and gearing up for a relaunch of sorts. Lawrence says fans can expect to see an exciting brand of the sport played here in Cobb, with a stimulating environment on their home field — or pitch, as they call it in rugby. “We have recruited some what I would call ‘X-factor’ players this year, which

2021 Rugby ATL Home Matches Saturday Opponent March 20 Rugby United April 3 Toronto Arrows April 10 Old Glory DC April 24 New England Freejacks May 15 Dallas Jackals May 29 Houston SaberCats June 19 NOLA Gold June 26 Los Angeles Giltinis

I think was missing when we initially got started,” he said. “So I think from a fan and stadium experience, [we have been] upping that fan experience and making sure that it’s a family environment where you can come, you can have a good time, you can be yourself, you can support the team, and do it in a relaxed atmosphere that’s affordable for families.” Speaking of the fan experience, if you’re new to rugby, Lawrence says what you can expect to see is a physical game like football — but with no pads — mixed with elements of soccer. “If you would imagine a football team that ran 12 plays in a row with about three seconds’ break in between each play, that is what rugby is like. So a lot of action,” he said. The Rugby ATL team features many international players — including a large contingent of players from South Africa, but there are local players as well, such as Damm, who was born in Marietta. Like many Southern boys, Damm grew up playing football. He didn’t discover rugby until he went to Clemson University and was asked to join the school’s intramural club. “They opened so many doors for me, so I’ll be very grateful to them forever,” he said. Playing professional rugby was in

the back of Damm’s mind as he graduated with a biological sciences degree and began teaching at a nearby high school. Eventually, he was able to try out for the MLR’s Glendale Raptors near Denver and made the team. One season later, he moved to Atlanta to be closer to his fiancé, who lives in Charleston. “Luckily enough, the [Rugby ATL] crew were happy to have me, so I made the move back down to my roots,” Damm said. “I love this team. I love how dedicated we are to trying to build up rugby in the Southeast.” Much of that excitement will come from the way the team handles itself on the pitch. Damm said they have an aggressive strategy this year, so fans will have a lot to enjoy. “You don’t have to understand the game to enjoy it, but you can get the basics of it. If you’re going to run with the ball, someone’s going to try and tackle you. If you can understand that concept, you can enjoy a rugby game.” Many local fans already are enjoying the games, so Rugby ATL wants to build on that energy for this season. “The Atlanta area and the town of Marietta have been superaccepting of us as a team and as a culture,” Damm said. “So I’m just excited to get back together as a whole team and start building on for next year. And I think we’re going to have a great squad. We’ve got some new guys coming in that I’m excited to play with, and obviously a lot of the same guys from last year who have really built a bond together. …And, you know, we didn’t really have a chance to stamp our name on the game last year. I think we’re just hungry for that recognition and that opportunity.” To learn more about the team, and to purchase tickets for the upcoming season, visit https://rugbyatl.rugby. n COBB

in focus  J A N U A R Y / F E B R U A R Y



Final Focus

Traffic Enforcement Myths By Cory Sekine-Pettite


y brother is in law enforcement, so I have it on fairly good authority that there are many myths still perpetuating our culture when it comes to traffic laws and moving violations. With our cars getting much safer yet more powerful — the average American car has about 200 horsepower, according to car news website topspeed.com — not to mention the always-available, lightning-quick speeds offered by electric vehicles, it is easy to get carried away. So let’s unlearn a few things about traffic stops. And please, be safe out there and be courteous to your fellow drivers. Myth: Police departments have end-of-themonth ticket quotas Most police departments in Georgia follow the guidance of the National Association of Chiefs of Police and the Georgia Association of Chiefs of Police in developing policies and procedures that eliminate quotas. This does not mean that officers are not held accountable for what they do during their shift, or that officers



in focus  J A N U A R Y / F E B R U A R Y


assigned to traffic units should not meet certain production standards. But no officer is given a minimum number of tickets to issue. Myth: Traffic tickets don’t transfer to other states Drivers think that tickets they get out of state won’t show up on their Georgia driver history report. Most states are members of the non-resident violator compact or the driver’s license compact. Therefore, ticket data can be shared between compact states on a voluntary basis. In most cases, Georgia will honor any points, punishments, fines, suspensions, or revocations from other states, which will affect your Georgia driver’s license and privilege to drive. Myth: Officers can’t follow drivers outside of their jurisdiction Police officers attempting to make lawful stops for violations that occurred within their jurisdictions do not have to stop at the county or city line. Violations of the law (criminal and traffic law) committed within a jurisdiction can be enforced

outside the jurisdiction to include crossing city, county, and state lines. Myth: Matching the “flow of traffic” and passing are valid excuses for speeding Speeding to follow the flow of traffic is not going to get you out of a speeding ticket. Passing another vehicle will not keep you from getting a traffic citation. If the speed limit is set at 55 MPH and you accelerate to 70 MPH to complete the pass, you have just exceeded the speed limit and are subject to being stopped for speeding. Myth: Traffic violations are not a big problem. Police should go find real criminals The average American is more likely to be involved in a traffic crash than to be the victim of a violent crime, and almost as likely to be involved in a traffic crash as to be a victim of non-violent crime. So yes, what we do in our cars is important. Traffic enforcement also is another avenue law enforcement uses daily to identify and capture “real criminals.” For instance, many of this country’s most notorious murderers were captured because of traffic stops.  n

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Profile for New South Publishing

Cobb Ib Focus January/February 2021  

Cobb Ib Focus January/February 2021