LAWRENCEVILLE -- Commissioners will not have help from professional lobbyists at the Gold Dome this winter.
Board members voted this week to reject a $118,752 lobbying and governmental affairs contract with Cornerstone Communications Group, which has lobbied for the county's interests for years.
Instead, commissioners said they can do the work themselves.
"I see clearly the purpose of what lobbyists do," said Commissioner John Heard, a former state House member. "I feel the legislators would much more appreciate contact from fellow elected officials."
Susan Lee, the county's legislative liaison, said the lobbyists have proved beneficial in recent years, citing one example of legislation involving pre-paid wireless fees which netted the county $572,000 in fees through June this year.
"We had a healthy return on our investment for these lobbying ventures," Lee said when presenting the proposed contract to commissioners.
Commissioner Mike Beaudreau, who voted against the change, said the county may regret cutting out the expense of lobbyists, when their work has not only benefitted the county budget in the past but has also saved the government from costly legislation.
"I think this would be very short-sighted," said Beaudreau, who will leave his post before the next session of the Georgia General Assembly begins in January. "Our presence is not always warmly received."
Chairwoman Charlotte Nash pointed out later that the county did not employ lobbyists when she worked as county administrator in the 1990s and early 2000s, and Cobb officials still effectively lobby legislators without the help of professionals.
The county's interests should still be protected, she added, with one full-time staffer already delegated to the duty. Other staffers and commissioners will aid in the effort, and lobbyists for the Association County Commissioners of Georgia should also give a hand.
"I view this as a trial," Nash said of the cut. "If we find that we are not adequately communicating and representing the county's interests, then we will need to look at other alternatives, including a contractual arrangement to supplement efforts by staff and commissioners."