Woody Thompson reflects on his career, history of South Cobb
by Jon Gillooly
December 10, 2012 01:08 AM | 5854 views | 9 9 comments | 9 9 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Southwest Cobb District Four Commissioner Woody Thompson reflects back during his time served as commissioner. The Journal sat down with Thompson this week to talk about his time in office, his hits and misses and what he plans for the future as he steps off the board on Dec. 31. <br> Photo by Laura Moon
Southwest Cobb District Four Commissioner Woody Thompson reflects back during his time served as commissioner. The Journal sat down with Thompson this week to talk about his time in office, his hits and misses and what he plans for the future as he steps off the board on Dec. 31.
Photo by Laura Moon

Outgoing Southwest Cobb Commissioner Woody Thompson said Mableton has seen a lot of changes since he lived there as a boy.

“It was a working-class area,” Thompson said of the area in the mid 1950s. “They built hundreds and hundreds of three-bedroom, one-bath, bath-and-a-half homes. They were all brick, hardwood floors, built to last forever. Good construction. I live in one of them right now.”

But now, some people who live in those houses can’t maintain them. Other houses became rentals with absentee landlords, he said.

“If you turn off Mableton Parkway and go down Community Drive to where I live now, a lot of those little houses, people haven’t been able to keep them up. The roofs and the gutters are starting to sag and stuff like that,” Thompson said. “I’ve heard of some people living in basements.”

The Journal sat down with Thompson this week to talk about his time in office, his hits and misses and what he plans for the future as he steps off the board on Dec. 31.

Thompson, who turns 66 this month, moved to Mableton in 1956 at the age of 10 when his father transferred the family’s dry cleaning business from East Point. South Cobb was a fairly rural community at the time, but during the 1950s and ’60s it began to see “white flight” from northwest Atlanta, which kicked off its growth, said Thompson, who can recall his school bus driving down dirt roads in Mableton.

Thompson, a real estate agent by trade, said he sold his first house off Factory Shoals Road for $22,500.

“That’s about what it’s worth today,” he said.

Thompson said the problem is not a “black and white” issue, but a socioeconomic one.

East Cobb avoided the problem because it built upper income housing from the start, although that’s not what the market called for in the 1950s, he said.

Thompson was first elected commissioner in 1996 and served through 2004, when he was unseated by the highly controversial Annette Kesting.

Kesting’s four year-term is best known for a scandal involving a “voodoo high priestess” from South Carolina.

The “high priestess” filed a police report in Cobb County, alleging Kesting had asked her to perform a death ritual against Thompson — and written her bad checks.

“I read the police report,” Thompson said. “(Kesting) asked for prayer for her son, who I think had a drug problem. You know, I always have sympathy for someone who has that problem. For her and her husband’s finances, which was understandable since she couldn’t fix up her duplexes there in Powder Springs. And then the last thing, ‘I want you to do a hex on Woody Thompson where he’ll either die in an automobile accident or he’ll catch a disease and die.’ Everybody thought it was funny except me.”

Last he’s heard, Thompson said Kesting was living in an apartment in Hiram after losing her house.

“Like I said, she’s more to be pitied than anything else,” he said. “It’s the strangest thing that’s ever happened to me in my life,”

Re-elected in 2008 after switching from Republican to Democrat, Thompson was unseated by Lisa Cupid of Austell in the Democratic primary this year.

Thompson said his advice to Cupid, “No. 1, since she lives in the Six Flags area, I think she’s going to give that a lot of attention, but remember that the district is a whole lot bigger than Six Flags,” he said.

A good commissioner is also a good listener, he said.

Reflecting on his 12 years in office, Thompson takes pride in the development of the South Cobb Recreation Center on Six Flags Drive, which opened in 2002. Since that time, the 10-acre tract has seen the Boys & Girls Club move in, along with the health department and an aquatic center.

“We used several years of (federal) funding, and it was finished while I was out of office,” Thompson said. “We put something down there that got the kids off the street.”

Thompson estimates the complex cost between $12 million and $15 million.

“We used to hear all this stuff where ‘South Cobb is the stepchild. We don’t get anything.’ I start naming off these multi-million dollar projects,” he said.

Looking back, Thompson said a likely regret is how much time his role as commissioner took away from his private life.

“You’re not going to get rich doing this job,” he said. “It pays a decent salary, but it can eat up a lot of your time too, so it’s kind of hard to balance it. To do this job, you’ve either got to be self-employed, retired, or somebody like Commissioner Ott who has a very understanding employer. You can’t do it if you have an eight-to-five job.”

Thompson said he won’t miss getting flooded with emails or receiving “some of the kook calls.”

“I can do without that,” he said.

But he will miss working with the county staff, gesturing to his assistant, Jackie Jones.

“It almost makes me tear up to think about because they get to be like family,” he said.

But like most families, there are arguments.

“I know after the redistricting this time, I fought that, and (Commissioner) JoAnn Birrell was helping me. We finally came up with a map that we could live with, but before that they were eating into South Cobb, they were getting the Mable House and putting it in (Ott’s) district,” Thompson said. “Bob got so mad he wouldn’t speak to me for four or five months. Wouldn’t speak to JoAnn. I said, ‘well, that’s too bad.’ I’d pass him in the hall and say, ‘morning, Bob.’ Then one day he just started talking again. JoAnn said, ‘I liked it better when you weren’t talking to us.’”


Commissioner Bob Ott has a different take on how the redistricting controversy played out. 

“Commissioner Thompson and Commissioner Birrell went down on their own, drew a map, unbeknownst to anyone else on the board, and that is the one that they pushed through and got passed by the rest of the board, which I thought was inappropriate because the chairman had asked us to go down, the two commissioners who would go down and talk about common borders, and instead what Commissioner Birrell and Commissioner Thompson went down and drew their own map without any conversation or discussion with me and forced it through the board, so that’s what it was all about,” Ott said.

Thompson said his own style is not to take things personally.

“It’s kind of like the attorneys,” he said. “They go into court and fight each other, and then they go to lunch. You have to have a mindset for that. I got along as well with (former county chairman) Bill (Byrne) as well as you can. Some days you just can’t get along with him. He’d walk down the hall and you’d see a little dark cloud behind him. He’d come over here and try to pick a fight just for the fun of it.”

Thompson said his friend Don Wix, chairman of the Development Authority of Cobb County, said Byrne couldn’t help it because “he’s a Yankee.”

“So I started using the same terminology because I’m working with several commissioners that are Yankees,” Thompson said. “We say it in fun and laugh. I told somebody one time, I said, ‘us Southerners will usually just sit there and listen to it, and everybody has a flash point,’ and then I said, ‘when you get past that, we hit them right in the mouth and walk on down the road.’”

County Chairman Tim Lee referred to Thompson as a consensus builder.

“He likes to work with people to get stuff done to everyone’s mutual benefit,” Lee said. “I will miss him as a person, and I will miss him as a commissioner. He made a great contribution to this county, and I will miss him and hopefully keep in contact with him.”

Thompson, and his wife, Betsy have two daughters, a son who passed away, and a 2-year-old granddaughter. He plans to become more involved in his real estate business and with his granddaughter in the future.

Read more: The Marietta Daily Journal - News, Sports, Classifieds, Businesses in Marietta, GA

Comments-icon Post a Comment
December 10, 2012
...Commissioner Thompson was the crucial vote for the millage increase last year, without which most of the libraries and who knows how many parks would have been closed down.

Some will say, "But my children are all grown and gone! Why should I pay for parks and libraries?"

Your vocabulary word for today is "community".
Slimy Cobb
December 10, 2012
SOME of Gwinnett County's indiscretions have come to light. Cobb, don't count your chickens before they are hatched. I'll bet that once the FBI finishes and they thoroughly investigate everything they should, Cobb will be engulfed by indictments; there seems to be so much obvious wrongdoing in Cobb County government.
mk @ just wait..
December 10, 2012
Yes, there has been corruption in Gwinnett recently that has been weeded out . There will be a higher level of scrutiny throughout Gwinnetts government ^ whatchdogs, because of the exposure.

In Cobb, the corruptions there,.. it's just bubbling under the surface!

I believe some things will be uncovered very soon!

The difference, when the dust settles,.. Gwinnett will be in good shape , economically,... Cobb,.. living the 3rd world dream!!
Funny Woody
December 10, 2012
He said what was true and in a humorous way. Perhaps he should not have quoted Birrell since she has to stay behind and work with Ott, but Woody's own part with Ott and Byrne were funny. It is so childish when someone refuses to speak to another, especially to someone with whom he works. Think it is not true? Oh, yes, many of us have seen both of these men do it time and time again. Maybe reading it in the MDJ will help Ott soften his temper when he fails to get his way.
JR in Mabletong
December 10, 2012
Woody served the area well and was a nice man and a good listener.

However, South Cobb needs a lot of attention. I agree with MK on the need for jobs.
Just Saying
December 10, 2012
It would be a much better story if the MDJ would not just ask questions and then print the answer but do some investigative work or at least ask the person that was just smeared what their response is! Now that would be a story. Ott was ambushed by Thompson and Birrell when they presented a new map. How about a bit of decency to have included him on your little secretive plans? The both of them did nothing to make things better in fact with this deal it had to go to a judge to make the maps. How much did that cost the taxpayers? Yes, nice work Birrell and Thompson!
mk- no jobs in cobb
December 10, 2012
Good bye Woody , good riddance & wish you could take the rest of the do nothing Cobb officials w/ you!!!

What an nothing, uninspiring farewell!

South Cobb, and really 3/4's of Cobb is in sad shape, due to lack of vision & the good ole boy backwards network. Smyrna, included.

Watch Gwinnett become the leader!

It takes JOBS, to pull communities up!

JOBS !!!!!

Gwinnett has become the hub for technology, manufacturing , bio-science & world headquarters.

It took tireless work & leadership!(not a do nothing , poor mentality!!)

Recent Gwinnett expansions(JOBS) include-


Mitsubishi Electric

Red Clay Interactive

Rose Paving


Heatcraft Worldwide Refrigeration


Childrens Healthcare of Atlanta

Instant Imprints

Spectral Response

Farrah Tech


Analyst, Inc.

Peak 10


I-Tech Staffing

Hire Dynamics

Just Wait
December 10, 2012
Yeah, Gwinnett, home of county leaders most often sentenced to jail. Home of underhanded business dealings, paid for votes, and unscrupulous politicians and businessmen. Sure, that's what we want in Cobb County!
December 10, 2012
MK is all bah-humbug. Woody did an outstanding job. Most excellent. The areas MK bashes all the time are older areas of Cobb County -- developed over 50 years ago. You can't just say "old people, leave your old homes so we can razz them down and plant trees and buildings." You can't just say to poor people "leave Cobb County now, so we can put in inscale shops nobody can afford to buy from." Great job, Woody. Don't let the bah-humbugs get you down--ever.
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