Qualifying for the November non-partisan judicial election is in March and Bodiford said that revealing his intentions now will give lawyers who are interested in running sufficient time to prepare their campaigns.
But unlike many retiring jurists, Bodiford plans to serve out the remainder of his term rather than retire early and see his successor appointed by the governor. The successors in such cases then are able to run as incumbent judges, giving them a presumed advantage.
“It’s nothing against the governor,” Bodiford said. “But this will let lawyers who are interested run for an open seat like I did 20 years ago.”
Then-Judge Watson White announced his plans to retire early in 1994 but served out his term, which Bodiford won after a hard-fought campaign against Toby Prodgers, who now is a Cobb State Court judge.
BODIFORD is arguably Georgia’s best-known judge after having presided over a string of notorious trials in the past 15 years, starting with the death penalty case against ex-lawyer Fred Tokars of east Cobb, convicted in connection with the shotgun death of his wife, Sara. He also presided over the case against Lynn Turner, found guilty of using antifreeze to poison first her husband, a Cobb police officer, and later her live-in boyfriend, a Forsyth County firefighter. She later killed herself in prison. Both the Tokars and Turner trials were held outside of Cobb because of massive pre-trial publicity here.
Bodiford in addition was called on to preside over a pair of other trials outside of Cobb that were covered gavel-to-gavel by Court TV. The first was the 2002 Walker County trial of Ray Brent Marsh, who was accused of stacking more than 300 dead bodies in the backyard of the crematorium he owned rather than disposing of them properly. Marsh eventually plead guilty after extensive pretrial hearings.
Then in 2008 Bodiford was recruited to preside over the death penalty trial of Brian Nichols, the Fulton County Courthouse shooter, after the first judge in the case recused himself. The trial had been pending for three years at that point, but Bodiford expeditiously empaneled a Fulton County jury and completed the trial within a matter of months. Nichols was convicted and is serving life without parole.
BODIFORD, 64, hopes to serve as a mediator and case evaluator after his retirement and also plans to request Gov. Nathan Deal appoint him to Senior Judge status. That would allow him to continue to try cases as needed both in Cobb and, if requested, elsewhere in the state. Cobb’s other Senior Judges are Conley Ingram, Grant Brantley, George Kreeger and Mike Stoddard.
The Powder Springs native is a graduate of John Marshall School of Law and was given its Distinguished Alumni Award in 2010. Prior to his election to the Cobb bench, he spent 10 years as chief magistrate and was responsible for setting up Cobb’s first Drug Scheduling Court to move such cases through the system in a timelier manner.
Bodiford, who underwent emergency quadruple bypass surgery in 2011, dismisses talk that his pending retirement is health related. Just the opposite in fact.
“I think my health is better now than it was 10 years ago,” he said. “I’m extremely lucky that they found the blockages when they did, and I have a lot more energy now than I did then.”
THE YEAR THAT JUST ENDED “was a phenomenal year for Lockheed and the plant, although you didn’t always hear about it in the news,” according to Lockheed Martin VP and Marietta site GM Shan Cooper.
The plant delivered 25 new C-130J Super Hercules cargolifters in ’13 and is projected to build 24 this year. The J is the only aircraft production program at the plant these days and employs 1,930 of the plant’s 6,300 workers, according to director of communications Johnny Whitaker.
The plant delivered its 300th copy of the C-130J last year and also saw the C-130J fleet surpass a cumulative 1 million flight hours, he said.
The plant produced and delivered 37 Center Wing Assemblies for the F-35 Lightning II fighter jet, with about 40 (or about one per manufacturing week) expected this year. The Assemblies are trucked to the Lockheed plant in Fort Worth, home of the F-35 production line.
The plant upgraded six C-5 Galaxys into C-5M Super Galaxys last year and is expected to convert seven this year.
As for the rewinging program for the P-3 Orion maritime surveillance plane, the plant delivered 15 wing sets in 2013 and is projected to deliver 10 this year. The project is expected to add 15 or more years of additional life for the 50-year-old planes.
No new production lines are in the pipeline in the near term, but should LM land contracts to build the new T-X Air Force trainer, the new long-range bomber or more drone programs, “we want to position the Marietta operation to compete for the work to be accomplished here,” Whitaker said.
TAXES: Former Gov. Roy Barnes of Marietta has come out in favor of doing away with the sales tax exemption for groceries, if the additional revenue brought in goes toward education. There are more than 100 sales tax exemptions, the biggest being those for food and prescription drugs.
“We should repeal the exemptions as necessary to properly fund our public schools,” he told the Marietta Rotary Club on Thursday. “Given the choice of saving our public schools and saving a few cents on my groceries, I will choose education and future prosperity.”
As he noted several times in his talk, “I can say this now,” since he is no longer in office.
Barnes noted that when he was the state’s chief executive (1998-2002) the first question asked him by the CEOs of companies thinking of relocating to Georgia was always the same.
“It was not, ‘What are your tax rates in the state?’ It was, ‘What are your test scores?’ ‘What is the state of education in your state?’ ‘If I locate there, will I be able to have the skilled workers necessary to fill the jobs?’
“Would they talk to you about taxes? Yeah — as they walked out the door. But it was never a deal breaker. And it was never what they looked for.”
“If we don’t educate and train the new generation of students who can compete economically and have high skills, I can tell you we will not prosper as a state or nation,” he added.
EVENTS: The Civil War Roundtable of Cobb County will host Hunley Commission member Randall Burbage of Charleston at its Feb. 6 meeting. Burbage will talk about the recovery and later work done on the H.L. Hunley, which on Feb. 17, 1864 became the first submarine in history to sink an enemy warship. However, the Hunley’s crew of Confederate volunteers perished during the attack and the ship’s remains were not rediscovered until the late 1990s. The talk will take place at the KSU Center, 3333 Busbee Drive in Kennesaw. For info go to cobbcwrt.org.
DURING the Q&A period after his talk, Barnes was asked by member Chris Miller what could be done to prevent demagoguery by politicians.
“You can’t prevent demagoguery. You gotta have leadership, and folks willing to take a chance that they’re gonna get beat. But take it from me,” he added with a half-smile. “Getting beat is not the end of the world.”