Borden is a master of self-promotion, parlaying his dogsled racing exploits, his string of small businesses, his ever-present smile and his baker's dozen of splashy Websites into what had seemed like a business and electoral juggernaut until the revelations of recent days.
Voters in north-central Cobb will decide in the July 20 Republican Primary whether Borden or event planner Kathy Angelucci is the best candidate to represent them on the county school board. But Borden, after years of working overtime to land himself in the public spotlight, is now finding the limelight can sometimes be harsh.
SO WHO IS the "real" Bill Borden? Is it the altruistic community servant currently running for school board, hoping to bring a measure of stability to that strife-torn body and school system? Is it the Bill Borden who did what few if any Georgians have ever done - compete successfully and finish in the Iditarod sled dog race across Alaska back in 2002?
Is it the Bill Borden who claims to be a high-dollar mortgage loan originator, the crack real estate salesman in a down market, the fast-talking auctioneer who can fetch top dollar on the auction block? The Bill Borden who is a motivational speaker who challenges young people by the thousands to think cool dreams? Is it the lawyer who once owned and ran a bustling real estate closing office? The self-appointed lobbyist for the Boy Scouts? The man who seems to operate more businesses than Warren Buffet? Agent for an Internet marketing firm? The community pillar and Acworth and Kennesaw political insider? The adventurer who fearlessly swims with piranhas in Brazil and crocodiles in Jamaica?
Or is the "real" Bill Borden the narcissistic mystery man who deals in half-truths, hides much of his past, pads his resume, milks his sled-racing stories for all they are worth, and ignores rules and regulations and laws about things like car tags and business licenses? Is the real Bill Borden the one who calls Kennesaw home, or the one who calls Wasilla, Alaska, home? Is the real Bill Borden the one who wants to serve the people of Cobb, or the one who still has Alaska plates on his truck and can't seem to give a straight answer as to why? The Borden who is profiled as one of the rising stars of the Cobb business community by the Cobb Chamber of Commerce's in-house magazine ("Cobb In Focus"), yet who operated for 15 years without a business license for one of his businesses until the MDJ brought that fact to the public's attention this week?
Is it the Bill Borden who has a juris doctor ("doctor of laws") degree, likes to be addressed as "Dr. Borden" and ran a business that specializes in real estate closings? Or the Borden who now claims he was just a lowly law clerk at that business? The Borden who, as it turns out, never passed the bar, has no license to practice law and says he has no desire to do so? Is it the Borden who saw two of his biggest clients serve time in federal prison for fraudulent mortgage loans?
Is it the Bill Borden who parked his truck snug up against the wall back-end first in the county parking deck at Tuesday's Cobb Republican Women's Club candidate forum, so as to keep anyone from seeing his tag? And who then acted in a bizarre manner when he saw that a news photographer had his truck staked out in hopes of snapping a picture of the tag?
TO HIS CREDIT, many of Borden's friends are standing by him. Acworth Mayor Tommy Allegood sent AT a letter Friday touting Borden's candidacy and noting he is a past Kennesaw Citizen of the Year, graduate of Leadership Cobb, sponsor of Shop With A Hero, a Rotarian and longtime member of the Acworth and Kennesaw business associations.
"Since completing the Alaskan Iditarod in 2002 Bill has volunteered hundreds of hours of his time to transform his Iditarod journey to a story of character education for the school children in Cobb County. Bill's Iditarod story makes him a 1,200-mile "Iditarod Finisher" and this same tenacious spirit has made him successful in his business and community leadership," the letter states in part.
"Those of us who have known and worked with Bill for many years are keenly aware of his leadership skills and personal character contributions that have helped create quality of life in our schools and throughout our community."
Allegood failed to mention he and Borden are agents for an Internet sales scheme similar to Amway.
Among the letter's signers were Kennesaw Mayor Mark Mathews, former state Rep. Roger Hines, pastor the Rev. Marlon Longacre, former Cobb Chamber Chairman Fred Bentley, Kennesaw City Attorney Randall Bentley and Bonnie Hall of the Cobb Chamber.
BORDEN, OF COURSE, thinks the MDJ is picking on him. What he forgets or doesn't realize is that "news" is the different and unusual, and Borden fills that bill. Most of those who run for office in these parts are lawyers (we don't have enough ink to list them all by name), or have more mundane jobs like landscape architect (former Commission Chairman Bill Byrne), teacher (Commissioner Thea Powell and school board member Alison Bartlett), pastor (the school board's Dr. John Crooks), government bureaucrat (retired CDC exec Dr. John Abraham of the school board) or sewer pipe contractor (longtime school board member and current legislative candidate Lindsey Tippins). Airline pilot (Cobb Commissioner Bob Ott and, before him, Commissioner Bill Cooper), jeweler (late Marietta Mayor Joe Mack Wilson) or "chicken-plucker" (late state Rep. Al Burruss of Tip-Top Poultry) is usually about as exotic as it gets when it comes to vocations of local politicians. But then there's Borden.
How often do dogsled racers run for office in Georgia? That's a "man bites dog" story, not the other way around. And in an era when facial hair is a rarity for political candidates, Borden is, as far as AT can recall, the first man ever to run for office in Cobb while sporting not just a beard but a ponytail.
Borden doesn't fit the usual mold, and thereby attracts more scrutiny almost by default. And once questions about items like his truck tags, his legal residence and his lack of business license and possible lack of mortgage origination license came to light, coverage only increased.
Combine all that with the fact that most of the other local political contests this season are snoozers and it's easy to understand the focus on Borden.
Borden can keep on blaming the MDJ if he wants to, but even if we and the rest of the traditional local media disappeared tomorrow, he would still be scrutinized. That's because these days, anyone with a computer, an Internet connection and a flipcam can be a blogger or "citizen journalist." And Borden is about as rich a fodder for such bloggers as you'll find around here.
Is the real Bill Borden a stand-up guy, an up-by-the-bootstraps leading citizen of north Cobb and deserving candidate? Conversely, is he a flashy, braggadocios man of mystery with what some are beginning to suspect is an unsavory side? Or is the real Bill Borden all of the above? Stay tuned.
COBB SHERIFF NEIL WARREN’S ANNUAL CORN BOILIN’ is from 5:30-7:30 p.m. Monday at Jim Miller Park. With the primary just eight days later, you can be sure that the event will be heavily stocked with candidates for everything from governor to dog catcher. It’s the biggest non-partisan event of its kind in the state and was started 20 years ago by then-Sheriff Bill Hutson. A portion of the proceeds go to the Cobb Youth Museum. Tickets are $20. Call (770) 429-8287. ... Gubernatorial candidate Roy Barnes will speak at 9:15 at this morning’s Cobb Democratic Breakfast at the Piccadilly Cafeteria on Cobb Parkway.
TRATON HOMES’ Bill Poston, along with brother Milburn and sons Clif and Chris, will host a “Final Sprint to Victory” fundraiser/reception for state Senate candidate Lindsey Tippins from 5:30 p.m. to 7:30 p.m. July 15 at the Traton office at Kennesaw Avenue and Tower Road in Marietta. Tippins is locked in one of this summer’s hottest Cobb political campaigns, trying to unseat incumbent John Wiles (R-Kennesaw) in the July 20 GOP Primary.
NORTHWEST COBB Commissioner Helen Goreham, who’s fending off a challenge from former Kennesaw Mayor Leonard Church in the GOP Primary, is making the most of the prevailing anti-incumbent mood that’s sweeping the country. She tells people that the “I” beside her name on the ballot stands for “Integrity.” … Southeast Cobb Commissioner Bob Ott walked with U.S. Sen. Johnny Isakson in the July Fourth parade. Isakson had his share of health concerns earlier this year that hospitalized him for a week, but was wearing a pair of athletic shoes and seemed perfectly fit at the parade. Said Ott: “I had trouble keeping up with him.”
SICK BAY: A pair of Marietta “Neils” is on the mend. Neil Barfield, executive director of the Marietta Schools Foundation and retired Cobb banker, suffered a heart attack after watching the July Fourth Parade with his grandchildren. After having two stents implanted at WellStar Kennestone Hospital, he’s recovering at home. … And Neil Bonds, who spent three decades teaching English at Marietta High, where he also served as faculty adviser to the school yearbook, “The Olympian,” is now back home after a stay at Kennestone.
FUNDRAISING for the Marietta Kiwanis Club’s “Forever Remember” statue honoring service members, first-responders and their families continues. The club will host a pancake breakfast from 8-10:30 this morning on Marietta Square. On the menu are pancakes, sausage, coffee and OJ. Price is $10 each or $25 for families of three or more.