Smyrna Mayor Max Bacon, left, stands with Councilman Charles “Corkey” Welch at the annual State of the City Address on Thursday.

SMYRNA — After 34 years, Smyrna community members and leaders say their beloved mayor will end his service to the city on a high note.

Attendees of Smyrna Mayor Max Bacon’s 2019 State of the City address on Thursday were stunned when, only days after he expressed his intention to run for his 10th term as mayor, he announced he had changed his mind.

“I made the decision yesterday,” he said.

Like many others in the packed Smyrna Community Center, Ward 7 Councilman Ron Fennel said he never saw the announcement coming. Fennel added that it will “take days to understand the ramifications.”

“The city of Smyrna is undeniably the success it is because of people like Max Bacon and Max Bacon’s leadership, vision and willingness to step out on a limb,” Fennel said. “Smyrna is better because Max Bacon decided to choose public service. We’re grateful.”

Derek Norton, Ward 1 councilman and mayor pro tem, said though the decision blindsided many in the Smyrna community, he and the rest of the council will support him in whatever choice he makes.

“I think he’s been struggling with this decision for quite some time. But it’s whatever is in his heart,” Norton said. “I’m sad to see him go, but I’m looking forward to the next chapter of the city.”

Smyrna Police Chief David Lee, who called Bacon a “great partner” to the police department, said he was shocked at the mayor’s announcement.

“This was such a surprise,” Lee said. “I’ve been in public safety for a long time, and I’ve worked with a lot of mayors, both good and bad, in the past. He’s the kind of person who you know where you stand with him, and he listens to you.”

Curt Johnston, a former Cobb school board member, called the mayor’s decision not to run again “a curveball,” but said he’s chosen the right moment to make the announcement.

“I think it’s time. He’s done his job. He’s done a great job, and it’s always great to go out when you’re on top,” Johnston said.

Cobb Commission Chairman Mike Boyce agreed. Boyce said Bacon’s announcement rendered him speechless, but it was the right decision. He said the mayor’s news likely reflects his knowledge that change is coming to Smyrna and to Cobb County.

“It takes courage to get out when you’re ahead. I think this is something he probably prayed about and thought on a long time, but deep down inside, he knew it was the right thing to do. He’s a man of courage, and I admire him for what he did today,” Boyce said.

Sharon Mason, president and CEO of the Cobb Chamber of Commerce, called Bacon’s legacy “absolutely tremendous.”

“We’re going to see that for so many years to come,” she said.

Mason said though he named a couple of his successes, there is a “long, long list.”

Former State Sen. Doug Stoner, D–Smyrna, said the longtime mayor’s legacy will include his ability to lead and rally the support of the citizens of Smyrna to turn a community that had become “stagnant” into one that is now a “vibrant, very progressive, great community to live in.”

“I think Max’s legacy is ... his ability to keep everybody focused and moving forward,” Stoner said. “That’s called leadership.”

Bacon’s leadership also made the city inclusive, said Deane Bonner, former president of the Cobb NAACP. Bonner said when she came to Smyrna in 1972, she could not rent an apartment as an African American. Now, she could move to the city “in a heartbeat.”

“All of the of the new and progressive things that have happened in the city is attributed to Bacon. ... He made this city inclusive,” she said. “Today, I think for Max Bacon, it’s a great opportunity to go out on a high note, and that’s how to do it.”

Follow Thomas Hartwell on Twitter at twitter.com/MDJThomas

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