Candidate profile: Lisa Cupid, Cobb Commission Chairwoman

Lisa Cupid, Cobb Commission Chair candidate

In serving as the lone Democrat on the Cobb Board of Commissioners for the last eight years, Lisa Cupid has become accustomed to going against the political grain.

But says her decision to run countywide as the chair of the commission comes from a desire to unite citizens, groups and areas of the county that haven’t always felt properly represented on the county’s five-member governing board.

“I know I have the ability to bring people together,” said Cupid, who is challenging Republican incumbent Mike Boyce on the Nov. 3 general-election ballot. East Cobb News profiled Boyce earlier this week.

(Here’s Cupid’s campaign website.)

She was unopposed in the Democratic primary, and worked to support Monique Sheffield, who will succeed her in representing District 4 in South Cobb.

“We need a chair who’s going to move the entire county forward,” Cupid said. “I love the connections I’ve made in the community I serve, and this wasn’t something I was considering when the current chairman took office.”

But Cupid said while she has been an ally of Boyce on a number of votes, and has served as his vice chair, she doesn’t think the board as a whole has worked together like it could.

She said the county has historically fostered good partnerships with organizations and citizens in the community, “but that’s not something I see occurring” now.

A most recent example was her vote in September against the formation of the Council for Peace, Justice and Reconciliation, which Cupid said was done with little community input.

Another was her only opposing vote against the Atlanta Braves stadium deal in 2013, in which she also protested what she said was a rushed process.

Cupid says the board has suffered by not having had any full-fledged retreats since she took office. There have been some day-long meetings, but she said nothing expanding into a format in which commissioners sit down with elected officials from across the county.

“We’re just not building bridges and relationships,” Cupid said.

What’s changed most of all since Cupid won a second term in 2016, when Boyce ousted then-chairman Tim Lee, is the shifting political winds in Cobb County.

Democrats have been highly energized and are seeking all levels of public office, following countywide-wins by Hillary Clinton in the 2016 presidential race and Stacey Abrams in the 2018 governor’s race.

Democrats have made some inroads in Republican East Cobb, winning a school board seat and having a Democratic member of Congress for the first time in 40 years. For the second election in a row, there’s a Democrat running in every race for a seat representing East Cobb.

In the primary, Cupid received 90,446 votes to 45,257 for Boyce, who easily defeated two GOP opponents.

She has raised $161,000 in campaign contributions, and had more than $80,000 in cash on hand at the end of June, according to her latest financial disclosure report.

Boyce by comparison has raised around $102,000 overall for his re-election bid and had nearly $40,000 on hand shortly after the primary.

A native of the Detroit area, Cupid had ambitions of a career in the automotive industry, and came South to earn a mechanical engineering degree at Georgia Tech.

Instead, she stayed, receiving degrees in English, public administration and law from Georgia State University. She lived for a while in East Cobb while at Tech when her parents moved into a home of Johnson Ferry Road.

Cupid and her husband Craig have two sons who are home-schooled.

She said many of the issues she has been championing for her district resonate across the county, including affordable housing, land use, transit, public safety and economic development.

“We’re in such a unique time, and we need to have a strategic foundation as a board” in the county’s long-term response to the economic fallout from COVID-related closures. “We need to have a level of trust.”

Her philosophy on land use matters includes not only the traditional issues of density and traffic but also looking at individual projects “that can be transformational” in promoting the health, safety and welfare of citizens.

Those include incorporating quality-of-life amenities, affordability and transportation components that make sense in a given area.

While Cupid said District 4 area has “led the realm” in terms of affordability, “housing values don’t lend themselves to amenities” that are just as much of an attraction for homeowners.

“It’s an issue that resonates the same way across the county,” she said.

Cobb’s vote in 2019 to implement a step-and-grade salary and retention system for public safety employees “is one of the most significant measures we’ve put into place,” and Cupid said “it’s a very important step forward.”

She’s an advocate of community-policing initiatives, and has worked to include home-based business owners in the county’s CARES Act relief grant program.

A supporter of Boyce’s 2018 property tax increase, Cupid said hiking the millage rate again to address a possible COVID-related budget gap would be problematic.

“Our efforts are to keep the same level of service without adding to the monetary burden of citizens,” she said. “A lot of people are hurting right now.”

Cupid said she’s campaigning the same way in all areas of the county and tries to include local leaders when doing events in a particular community.

“I try to be consistent, because we all want the same things,” she said.

There hasn’t been a Democrat to serve as county commission chair since Ernest Barrett, who led Cobb into its initial phase of suburbanization from 1965-1984.

She also would be the first female and black head of the county government if elected. Her background “makes me sensitive to anyone who feels they don’t have a seat at the table.”

But Cupid said while she understands the symbolism of her campaign, that’s not why she’s running.

“I am more than that,” she said. “This could be an historic election, but I don’t want to get elected to make history.

“I want to get elected to make a difference.”

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