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Posted: April 29, 2009 2:19 p.m.

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Following a family tradition of leadership

Photo by Gabriel Khouli/

Chairwoman: Kathy Morgan is the first female chairperson of the Newton County Board of Commissioners.

Kathy Morgan wasn't born in Newton County, but she was born in Covington. Covington County, Ala. that is. It's an appropriate hometown for Morgan, who in January became the top elected official for Newton County.

Not only was she born in the right place, she also found her place in the right family, as she followed in her husband and father-in-law's footsteps as chairperson of Newton County.

"I felt that Newton County was at a turning point. When my husband Davis was chairman between 1992 and 2000, he had a great board and they moved Newton County forward," Morgan said. "Aaron did a great job, but I felt like the county had sort of stalled and stagnated. Growth was the big issue, and we had become reactive to that not proactive. I felt compelled to run for office. I felt changes need to be made."

Morgan was born in Alabama, but her father was in the Air Force so she spent most of her early years near a base outside of Pensacola, Fla. Later her father moved to Georgia to finish an engineering degree from Georgia Tech and the family finally settled in Newton County in 1968 when her father took a job with Hercules.

Morgan began attending Newton High School, where she first met her future husband Davis Morgan.

From there she went on to Oxford College and majored in math, but never finished that degree. She married Davis in 1974 and the two opened up their own asphalt company, Morgan Asphalt, Concrete and Paving. They both ran the company and that allowed them to apply with the Georgia Department of Transportation as a woman-owned business, which helped them qualify for minority projects around the state.

When Davis became chairman, they sold the company to avoid a conflict of interest and she began working for Decatur Federal Bank, where she stayed until 2005, lasting through several bank mergers
and changing of positions.

She started out as a project manager for joint ventures between the bank and private companies to construct buildings. The law changed a couple of years later and banks were no longer allowed to partner with private firms on these kinds of projects, so she spent the next period of time selling off those jointly-owned assets that she had helped create.

Morgan then spent the next several years in a job she really loved: turn around specialist. She was transferred to the special assets department where she worked with companies that had or were in danger of defaulting on their loans to see if she could turn them around. If she found she could resolve the problem, she would help the business manager or owner by teaching them solid business practices. She helped companies diversify their client base, learn to keep enough cash in reserve instead of reinvesting all of it and uncover cases of employee financial fraud, among many others.

"I had very interesting clients. I would open up my folder and say, ‘Oh, so this is what I have today,'" she said. "I liked what I did, but at the same time there was always a negative side, because I had to start with a call to say ‘you're in default.' It was always an adversarial relationship."

Following that she became a commercial real estate officer for the bank, which involved her traveling around the state and seeking out and facilitating economic development opportunities. She would work with local developers, land owners and bank branches to facilitate development.

It was her wealth of experience in roads projects, financial matters and economic development that made Morgan sure she could handle the position of chairperson.

"I don't feel like I have all of the answers, but I have experience and I know how to put together a team,"
she said.

Morgan said she wants to bring more commerce and industry to the county and wants to continue to plan and direct the growth the county will see over the next couple of decades. She wants to see the county thrive because she loves living here.

"I believe this is the greatest place on earth to live. Davis would say some of us were lucky enough to be born here, the others came as soon as they could," she said. "It's a wonderful community with rivers, agriculture, greenspace, but it's also close to Atlanta. It's a place filled with opportunity and it doesn't matter who you are or where you come from. My friends who have lived away, when they talk about home and quality of life, they talk about Covington. They always come back to Covington."

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