Forsyth County’s newest commissioner hasn’t been on the job long but is ready to get to work.
District 1 Commissioner Molly Cooper, who took office at the beginning of the year, spoke with Forsyth County News on Monday ahead of her first work session as a commissioner the following day. After observing meetings as a citizen, candidate and commissioner-elect, she said she is trying to have all possible information going into the work session.
“I spend a lot of time at home reading,” Cooper said. “With this next work session, there are going to be some votes on numerous parcels, so I’ve looked up every one of those and read everything about them … Also when you’re reading it and doing research, to make sure that I am paying attention to that which is really relevant to what we’re going to be voting on.”
Cooper, who operated Inside Additions Furniture and Home Accessories for 16 years, took office in January, replacing her longtime predecessor Pete Amos, who decided to not run for re-election last year. She defeated fellow Republican Dooz Owings, earning 77.3 percent of the vote, or 3,000 votes, in May in the Republican primary for the seat and did not face a Democrat in November.
“The thing now is spending a lot of time in preparation, going through the agenda, making sure I know what is on there within every one of the districts,” Cooper said. “That’s new to my life. It’s a different type of preparation than what you’re doing when you’re just observing.”
Representing District 1, which is made up of the majority of the city of Cumming and much of west Forsyth, Cooper said some of the issues she is most interested in are working with the city about the upcoming Cumming City Center and preparing for the widening of Canton Highway (Hwy. 20 west), including architectural standards and bringing quality development.
“I want to see businesses that are going to be an asset to the county and also bring employment and businesses that are a compliment to folks whose homes are right there just off of 20,” Cooper said. “You’ve got to be careful with that and not put something in there that is going to be a problem and a detriment to them and their lifestyle.”
Preparing for the meetings, Cooper said she is trying to only focus on what she can control and make decisions on and not getting stuck in matters outside the county’s purview.
“I think one of the things that may be one of the biggest challenges is we do have extreme factors over which we have no control, but we have to abide by,” she said. “We have state regulations, we have federal regulations, even to the point that every zoning has its own topography, things that are not in your control and [we] have to work within those boundaries.”
She said making decisions should be fact-based and not driven by emotion.
Cooper – who previously served a variety of positions with Republican groups, including as first vice chair and delegate for the Forsyth County Republican Party and president of Republican Women of Forsyth County – said she believes contacts she made within the party, including state legislators, will aid the county and help her get information about potential legislation.
“We’re not an island,” she said. “We’re really connected to a lot of different variables out there, and just making sure that I can pull all that together.”
Cooper’s addition to the board means for the first time, the commission has a female majority. Along with new officers, she said she is excited for what is essentially a new board.
“I’m one of those that believes in equality. I don’t believe in gender preference or any of that; it’s the individual,” Cooper said. “With having three women on there, the county also has faith in the fact that leadership is not a gendered trait, it’s an individual trait. It feels good to have the county say, ‘Yeah, this is what we believe, too,’ and I love being a part of that.”
Cooper said during her term she wants to be a voice for those both in and out of her district.
“For me, I think when you’re representing people – and you are, you’re representing not only your district but the whole county – so you have to look at it from what it was like when you too were just a constituent, the type of representation you wanted,” Cooper said. “So for me, it’s important not only to hear what’s going on but to listen – that’s making sure you absorb it – as well as putting your own values in there.”