It was a convincing victory for Dendy, who headed a winning ticket that included Rose Wing, first vice chairwoman; Eric Thorsen, second vice chairman; Janet Bell, treasurer; Jamie Carswell, secretary; Gus Makris, assistant treasurer; and Helen Story, assistant secretary. The team won with 213 delegate votes to Wilson team's 121 votes.
As chairman, Dendy replaces businessman Scott Johnson, who was limited by the party to serving two, two-year terms. He credited hard work, grassroots support and a better vision for his win.
"I know that there is a huge challenge ahead of me and there's a lot to be done to get ready for 2012," said Dendy, 66. "The Republicans have a lot of hard work to do."
At the convention, conducted inside a large gymnasium on the Roswell Street Baptist Church campus, Dendy told the 366 delegates that his mission is to bring more people into the GOP fold, particularly in the Democratic stronghold of south Cobb. He said he wants to improve the party by engaging voters year-round, working on community projects and fundraising with presidential hopefuls.
"The party is in pretty good shape right now but we must grow the party to become a party of inclusion," he said. "I've got ways that I want to bring more people of different faiths, nationalities, races, all within the party and make it a party of inclusion."
Wilson, 50, was gracious in defeat, offering a motion to approve Dendy's secret ballot election by a vote of acclamation.
A native of Laurens, S.C., Dendy graduated from Clemson University and served five years active duty in the Army during the Vietnam War. He was most recently state Rep. Sam Teasley's (R-Marietta) campaign manager and raised $100,000 for Gov. Nathan Deal's election. Previously, he was state director for presidential hopeful Mike Huckabee's Georgia campaign in 2008. He and his wife Billie, have two children and 10 grandchildren.
"We've probably got one of the best overall teams of leadership for Cobb County than we've ever had," said Georgia GOP Chairwoman Sue Everhart, after Dendy's election.
The main purpose of Saturday's county convention was to elect party officers and delegates to district conventions on April 16 and the state convention, May 13-14 in Macon.
Everhart acknowledged that she is facing a tough re-election bid as state chairwoman against fellow Cobb resident and party activist Tricia Pridemore, who flew on a private helicopter into the convention to make an appearance with the governor, as they traveled to multiple county conventions.
"I'm having to work hard and continue to," Everhart said. "It's a difficult race when the governor is putting himself in the race and visually supporting one candidate over the other."
In his speech to the convention, Deal did not mention either candidate. Instead, he told his fellow Republicans that even with recent midterm wins under their belts, they cannot afford to take anything for granted in the upcoming presidential race.
"I can assure you that President Obama, the greatest thing he can have happen in his favor is to have a third party candidate at the federal level to split off some of that coalition that came together behind Republicans," he said.
"We need as a party to be as unified as possible. To be able to outreach to those who call themselves tea party people, 9-12 people or whatever other label they chose to put on it."
Those sentiments were echoed by other speakers, who included U.S. Rep. Phil Gingrey, state Attorney General Sam Olens, Cobb Chairman Tim Lee and General Assembly members.
"The grassroots of Cobb County is what make the Cobb County Republican Party as successful as it has been and needs to be in the upcoming election in two years," Lee said. "We live in the greatest county in the country."
The Cobb County Democratic Party, which does not conduct a convention, elected its chairwoman Melissa Pike and other officers to a two-year term on Nov. 18. The party held its state convention last August in Athens.