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Cobb’s Citizens & Businesses of the Year

Left to right: John Loud, 2020 Cobb Chamber Chairman; District 1 Commissioner, Keli Gambrill; Cris Eaton-Welsh, Kennesaw Citizen of the Year; Sharon Mason, President and CEO of the Cobb Chamber; Derek Easterling, Mayor of Kennesaw.
Left to right: John Loud, 2020 Cobb Chamber Chairman; District 1 Commissioner, Keli Gambrill; Cris Eaton-Welsh, Kennesaw Citizen of the Year; Sharon Mason, President and CEO of the Cobb Chamber; Derek Easterling, Mayor of Kennesaw.

The Cobb Chamber’s Area Councils and the local business associations have selected their 2020 Citizens of the Year and Businesses/Members of the Year to honor those who have made our community a better place in which to live and work. The awards were announced late last year for the following communities:

Outstanding citizens
Acworth Citizen of the Year: Janet Paulsen, a speaker and advocate for domestic violence, is an engaged and active member of the Acworth Community who shows her passion for defending the defenseless in everything she does.

In front: Janet Paulsen, 2020 Acworth Citizen of the Year; Second Row (L-R): John Loud, 2020 Cobb Chamber Chairman; Sharon Mason, President and CEO of the Cobb Chamber; Janet’s two sons; District 1 Commissioner, Keli Gambrill; Tommy Allegood, Mayor of Acworth.
In front: Janet Paulsen, 2020 Acworth Citizen of the Year; Second Row (L-R): John Loud, 2020 Cobb Chamber Chairman; Sharon Mason, President and CEO of the Cobb Chamber; Janet’s two sons; District 1 Commissioner, Keli Gambrill; Tommy Allegood, Mayor of Acworth.

On the night of Nov. 5, 2015, Paulsen’s then-husband attempted to kill her by shooting her six times. The shooting left her in critical condition, with a spinal cord injury that paralyzed her right leg. After years of invasive surgeries and grueling physical therapy, she began working as a domestic violence advocate and public speaker. She fought to close a loophole in state law that allowed some domestic violence perpetrators to keep their firearms, a provision that could have prevented her attack. She has spoken at many engagements on domestic violence, including the liveSAFE Resources Domestic Violence Candlelight Vigil in 2017, and in 2020 was appointed by Governor Kemp to the Georgia Commission on Family Violence.

“Janet Paulsen’s survival story and her work to prevent domestic violence is truly inspiring,” says Sharon Mason, president and CEO of the Cobb Chamber. “She displays such bravery and commitment to ending domestic violence and she has made a lasting positive impact on her community.”

East Cobb Citizen of the Year: Mitch Rhoden, president & CEO of Futren Hospitality, has been named East Cobb Citizen of the Year for his years of community service and stepping up to support his community during the COVID-19 pandemic. In March, Rhoden spearheaded Operation Meal Plan, a small business and non-profit support initiative created to provide food to those in need, help local restaurants keep their workers employed, and provide a vehicle for citizens to help each other.

Mitch Rhoden
Mitch Rhoden

Supported through a community-backed fund, local restaurants received orders in increments of 25 meals, which they delivered to non-profit organizations around Cobb who serve meals as part of their missions. The restaurants were paid at unit cost from Operation Meal Plan. Through Operation Meal Plan, restaurants were able to keep their workers employed and Cobb’s local non-profits were able to provide food to those in need.

“Mitch Rhoden has been an outstanding leader for our community for more than 20 years,” said Mason. “In addition to leading a small business and chairing many key initiatives and organizations over the years, for 2020 in particular, Mitch has been a champion for helping our non-profits and small businesses stay afloat.”

Kennesaw Citizen of the Year: Cris Eaton-Welsh, owner of Eaton Chiropractic, is a crucial fixture within the Kennesaw community. From sitting on the city council to founding the Swift Kids Running Club and the Kennesaw Grand Prix Race Series, Eaton-Welsh is passionate about promoting a healthy, happy and productive community. She was heavily involved in the fundraising efforts for Swift Cantrell Park, including championing its skate park, and served on the Cobb2020 Steering Committee to promote health in the county.

“Our community is lucky to have Cris Eaton-Welsh,” says Mason. “Cris is an outstanding community leader for Kennesaw. She has served on the city council, on many non-profit boards, and she works tirelessly to make Kennesaw a vibrant place to live, work and play.”

Marietta Citizen of the Year: Lisa Crossman, deputy director/director of public health with Cobb & Douglas Public Health, is the 2020 Marietta Citizen of the Year because of her tireless advocacy within the Cobb community. Crossman has personally served on the front lines, fighting COVID-19 from the very start. Through long hours and stressful circumstances, she has remained dedicated to keeping her community safe and healthy.

Lisa Crossman

At the beginning of the pandemic, she reached out to the nonprofit agencies in the area to answer questions and offer expert advice on how to meet the needs of those they serve. She set up a hotline, prioritized their team members for testing, and served as a resource to help them craft policies and procedures to continue safe and healthy operations. As testing became more challenging, she crafted a partnership with Metro Atlanta Ambulance to offer on-site testing at area non-profits for clients and staff.

Beyond her 2020 achievements, Crossman has been heavily involved in her community, including chairing and sitting on PTA groups, health committees and family planning organizations, among others. She has been heavily involved with Leadership Cobb, as well as pro-business organizations, heart health and child health councils, and the Cobb Chamber’s annual membership campaign.

West Cobb Citizen of the Year: Mary Chatman, executive VP and president of Wellstar Health System’s Kennestone and Windy Hill Hospitals, has spearheaded the fight against COVID-19 throughout Cobb and Northwest Atlanta.

On a daily basis, she displays effective leadership, fiscal management, program development, quality improvement, and interdisciplinary collaboration — all crucial to Wellstar Health System’s organized fight against COVID-19.

“Mary Chatman is a deserving recipient of the West Cobb Citizen of the Year award,” said Mason. “She is serving on the front lines for Cobb, fighting COVID-19, and working with local leaders to help us through the pandemic challenges this year.”

Along with her work in healthcare, Chatman is deeply involved in Cobb County’s community life. She has volunteered with Girls Inc. and BUY Cobb, and serves on many local, state and national boards, including the Georgia Board of Nursing and the Georgia Hospital Association.

Business association awards
Acworth Business Association’s 2020 Business of the Year is the Acworth Police Department. The association said the Acworth PD navigated the un-chartered and sometimes choppy waters of this year with professionalism and steadiness. They continue to serve through a community-oriented philosophy, and not just a policy.

Acworth Business Association’s 2020 Person of the Year is Becky Cross of the Northwest YMCA. The association said Cross has been a huge part of providing meals and other vital needs to 141,000 people.

East Cobb Business Association’s 2020 East Cobb Business Person of the Year, is Jon Wittenberg, owner of Minuteman Press of Sandy Springs.

Three-13 Salon. Cobb County Marquee Monday. (Photo: Karl L. Moore)

Cobb Chamber’s 2020 Small Business of the Year is Three-13 Salon, Spa & Boutique of Marietta. Partners Lester Crowell Jr., Marian Crowell, and Joseph Tony Lacey have been operating this spa and salon for 46 years with a motto of “Be Your Best You.” They also host an annual “Angels of Life” event, which has raised awareness and $560,000 over the past nine years for The Georgia Transplant Foundation, an organization near and dear to managing partner Lester Crowell, whose own two heart transplants have given him new life and determination.

Kennesaw Business Association’s Business of the Year is the Kennesaw Police Department for their unwavering community support during an unprecedented year.

Kennesaw Business Association’s Member of the Year is JRM Management, which continues to support communities throughout Cobb County in new and innovative ways when its traditional business model of producing large, public events was put on hold.

Michael Jensen (left), the 2020 and 2021 NCBA President, with Andrew Graham of Graham Heating and Plumbing, the NCBA Business Person of the Year.

Northeast Cobb Business Association’s 2020 Business Person of the Year is Andrew Graham, owner of Graham Heating and Plumbing. Graham’s impressive community record and quality of work are unsurpassed, the association says.


Kathy Winiarczyk
Kathy Winiarczyk

West Cobb Business Association’s Member of the Year is Kathy Winiarczyk. She is the business development officer at Credit Union of Georgia. Winiarczyk has been involved with WCBA for the past several years and has volunteered in multiple roles on the leadership team. She will be stepping into the role of president for WCBA in 2021.


West Cobb Business Association’s Business of the Year is ALL Print Marketing. ALL Print Marketing & Media Solutions is dedicated to delivering the highest quality products at the most affordable prices while providing an unsurpassed customer service experience. Their team has more than 40 years of experience in the industry and offers custom graphic design, dynamic print materials, banners and signage, as well as branding and marketing solutions. Members of WCBA since 2011, Samantha and Donnie Glass have served in many volunteer and leadership roles within the association.n

Editor’s note: Some local business associations were unable to celebrate and honor their members during 2020 due to the pandemic. We hope that this year, all of the organizations will have events and individuals to applaud.

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