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The Gray family home decorated for the holidays

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Talent, Tenacity and Tradition

Local Leaders are Gearing Up for the Holidays

The holidays have a special way of bringing people together. They introduce a sense of unity to our communities. We support local businesses on the hunt for a perfect gift, pour our hearts into charity to spread joy and toast to the year's accomplishments with strangers, lovers and friends. But we often forget about those behind the scenes, pulling the strings that make our celebration possible and paving the pathway to our holiday cheer.

These people are founders, CEOs, influencers, stakeholders, pioneers.

They are partners, friends, confidants, family. 

They are the local leaders of East Cobb.

Dr. Jackie McMorris

Cobb County Manager

Dr. McMorris began working for the county as the Director of Public Services in 2013. She made history on three accounts during her time in office: once as the first female director of the Agency, the second time as Cobb County's first Deputy County Manager in October 2017 and again as the first female County Manager in April 2020. Today, she has over 20 years of local government experience.

"My passion is helping people reach their full potential by adding value wherever and whenever the opportunity arises," says Dr. McMorris. "I love sharing my experiences with others while listening, learning and growing as a leader."

She explains that even with the high expectations to be fully transparent, fair, responsive and fiscally prudent, she never withholds from giving 100% to those who rely on her. 

"My mantra is 'How do we get to yes without ever adversely impacting our County?'" she explains. 

East Cobb City Lifestyle: What does the holiday season mean to you?

Dr. Jackie McMorris: "It’s a celebration of faith, family and friendship. It’s a time of the year to look back at accomplishments and blessings year-round while anticipating all that God has in store for us in the coming year."

East Cobb City Lifestyle: What are the holidays like in your home?

Dr. Jackie McMorris: "My family would say that it’s not Christmas in our home unless I sing, “I’m Dreaming of a White Christmas.” I sing horribly and I think that contributes to the laughter and joy in my home."

Adam Forrand

Sandy Springs Perimeter Chamber President & CEO

Adam Forrand is a friend and advocate for business owners everywhere. After serving on the Gwinnett Chamber for seven years, he became the president and CEO of Sandy Springs Perimeter Chamber (SSPC) in November 2022. 

"The Sandy Springs Perimeter Chamber does three things really well, and they constitute what I love most about what I do: Connecting, Coaching and Community," says Adam. 

Witnessing the resiliency and determination of his entrepreneurial grandparents, Adam found his passion in the chamber world. He considers his local business community to be family and recognizes them for their prosperous impact daily through his role at the chamber. 

"Commerce knows no boundaries," says Adam. "We have members of our chamber who work or live in East Cobb and serve customers and businesses in Sandy Springs."

East Cobb City Lifestyle: What about the holidays do you look forward to most?

Adam Forrand: "As our nest is beginning to empty, we cherish our time together as a family during the holidays, and the surprise and delight of gifts given and received continue to serve as my most favorite memories."

Lauren Abernethy

The Battery Vice President of Marketing 

For years, the East Cobb community has benefitted greatly from the presence of The Battery, a curated selection of dining, entertainment and residences with Atlanta Braves fans in mind. As the vice president of marketing, Lauren Abernethy has a key role in driving business to the region.

"I love that we are a community gathering place, from Yoga to Farmers Markets to New Year's Eve there are events happening throughout the year. There's an amazing energy here and I am just thrilled to be a part of it every day," exclaims Lauren. 

East Cobb City Lifestyle: What is one unique holiday tradition you've established?

Lauren Abernethy: "For 30 years my family has been gifting a can of liver pate to each other.  It was in a large gift basket the family received one Christmas – no one was rushing to open it.  The can started showing up every Christmas.  Not knowing who will receive it each year is half the fun!"

Brittney Gray

Visit Marietta Executive Director

As the city of Marietta's official Destination Marketing Organization, Visit Marietta promotes tourism in the city and surrounding areas, driving economic growth in the region. Brittney Gray has served as the Executive Director for a year after spending 17 years working for Explore Georgia, the Georgia Department of Economic Development's tourism division.

"I really love the community pride in Marietta," Brittney proclaims. "When locals are proud of their destination and feel appreciated, they become natural ambassadors for their city."

In the same way as chambers and city government, Brittney gives back to the East Cobb community by guiding area visitors into local businesses and uplifting the business community in turn.

East Cobb City Lifestyle: What is one of your favorite holiday memories growing up?

Brittney Gray: "My sisters and I would worry Santa would get us confused and get all our toys mixed up.  To keep Santa organized, we would lay out a set of our pajamas so he would know where to place our gifts. . . My daughter is an only child, but I still have her lay her pajamas out on Christmas Eve!"

Sharon Mason

Cobb Chamber President & CEO

As the leader of the Cobb Chamber, Sharon Mason is a familiar face to almost all Cobb County business community members. With 22 years of chamber experience under her belt (four in Birmingham and 18 here in Cobb County), Sharon spends her days helping businesses ranging from startups to major corporations prosper. 

"Through our wealth of programming and partnerships, we drive economic growth, cultivate leaders, ignite the entrepreneurial spirit, and equip those seeking more," says Sharon.

Confident in her team's ability to make a difference and deliver on their promises, Sharon recounts the chamber's role in economic recovery post-covid. It involved "administering over $50 million in small business grants. . . offering 23 weekly business recovery webinars and weekly leadership webinars to help lead in crisis, and paving the way for reopening guidelines to help businesses safely get back to operations."

Though their industries, backgrounds and experiences differ, the 2,700 companies in support of the Cobb Chamber are unified in its mission: to champion prosperity.

East Cobb City Lifestyle: What is your favorite holiday tradition?

Sharon Mason: "My favorite tradition is with my husband and daughter where we watch the “Nativity Story” together each Christmas Eve to remind us of the true meaning of the season."

  • Cobb County Government Management Retreat
  • Sharon Mason and family during the holidays
  • Dr. Jackie McMorris
  • The Abernethy family at The Battery for the holidays
  • Adam Forrand
  • Adam and family at Joshua Tree for the holidays
  • The Forrand family on Christmas morning
  • SSPC Wine Fest ribbon cutting
  • Brittney Gray and family during the holdidays
  • The Gray family home decorated for the holidays