Staying out of jail with Oz Nesbitt (S3E15)

Attitude, approach and appearance, this is what guides Rockdale County, Georgia commissioner Oz Nesbitt’s day. A former cop, a coach and a forward thinker, this is a guy you want to listen to.

Thanks to our sponsors:


Oz Nesbitt: David. My work is my ministry. I have a passion. So this is really not a job for me. This is how I was called to do what I’m doing. So I don’t see it as a job at all. Three out of five residents in Rockdale County, Georgia, have 95,000 residents. Let me give you that number again. Three out of five, I believe, have my personal cell phone.

And they text me, they I’m accessible.

People need tangible leadership. I talked last year about the three ugly E’s. David, don’t miss this. The three ugly E’s. What are they? Emotions, egos, entitlement.

The essence of leadership is service. Let me say it again. The essence of leadership is service. It’s not about you.

David Martin: Welcome to the Good Government show. I’m Dave Martin. And you’re about to hear my conversation with Chairman Oz. As the chairman of the Board of Commissioners. Oz Nesbitt is known down in Rockdale County, Georgia. He started his career in public service as a police officer. He was a cop for 15 years before being elected to office, first as a county commissioner and twice now as the chairman.

As you will hear, Chairman Oz has a lot to say about government and a lot to say about leadership. The essence of leadership is service, he says, and he served in lots of capacities. He’s a Toastmaster, a member of 100 black men in America. He’s a former basketball coach and active in his local church. He’s also a member of the Atlanta Regional Commission, and that’s a forward thinking organization that’s really planning the area’s future.

Chairman Oz is now. He’s highly quotable. Here’s just one attitude, approach and appearance. This is how he prepares for the job every day with the right positive attitude. Being out in the community and looking the part of a county leader chairman has also created a way to introduce government to the people of Rockdale. And you’re going to hear about that too.

And we talk a little golf and a little barbecue. So join me in my conversation with Ozzie Nesbitt on The Good Government Show. And I’ll have that conversation right after this break.

The good government show is sponsored by NACO. That’s the National Association of Counties. County Government is actually the oldest form of government in the United States, and it touches more people directly. Roads, highways, hospitals, schools, recycling law enforcement, water and sewers in most of the country, those services are maintained by the county that’s county government. Naco is a nationwide organization that represents all 3069 counties across the U.S. Naco helps county government work better together to things like sharing best practices.

Because when county government works well, well, that’s just good government. Welcome to a good government show and a conversation with. And right now we’re having a conversation with Ozzie Nesbitt. So if you would introduce yourself and tell us where you’re from and what your what your job is.

Oz Nesbitt: Well, David, first, let me say thank you for having me on your podcast, The Good Government Show. That’s just intriguing right there by Alan. But I’m from Rockdale County, Georgia. We are a suburb of Atlanta, Georgia. We’re part of the metro Atlanta area and we make up part of that region. So I’m I-20 east on in Atlanta.

David Martin: And so tell me a little bit about your background. I’m always in politics.

Oz Nesbitt: I haven’t always been in politics. I started my career early way back in the mid eighties in law enforcement. I was a cop.

David Martin: You were a cop?

Oz Nesbitt: Yeah.

David Martin: What made you decide to be a cop?

Oz Nesbitt: Well, I always had a passion for people and community. I grew up involved in the church. My aunt, who was the most influential person in my life, was a school teacher. And everywhere she where she took me. And I learned how to be exposed to people and community problems and issues. And it was just it became a passion.

David Martin: How long were you police officer for? 15 years. 15 years? Yeah. Were you a patrolman? What?

Oz Nesbitt: A patrolman. I was on the DUI task force on down drunk drivers. I taught the DARE program. Remember? Did their program say no to drugs? Yes. I was a morning traffic reporter on the CBS affiliate. Really? And urban radio station there in Augusta, Georgia, the home of James Brown. And by the way, we have a little mini golf tournament called the Masters Tournament every year.

David Martin: I’ve heard.

Oz Nesbitt: Of it just coming.

David Martin: Up. Have you played at the Masters Tournament? I’m not a golf course.

Oz Nesbitt: I’m not played at the Masters. That’s a big thing to be able to see. But I’ve worked and been there on multiple occasions.

David Martin: Right. And did you pick up any tips?

Oz Nesbitt: I picked up several tips. And number one, how to network with people and how to make relationships and build relationships, because that’s really what the whole tournament.

David Martin: Was just talking about, golf. Do you play? Do you play golf? You play.

Oz Nesbitt: I play a little bit. I know how to hold the club. I walk, talk and look golf more than I play from Augusta. So I don’t need I don’t have to know how to play because I’m from the place that players play.

David Martin: So you look like you look like you could play.

Oz Nesbitt: A little bit.

David Martin: All right, good. What’s going on in your town?

Oz Nesbitt: We’ve got everything going on in Rockdale County in a very good way. That’s what really intrigued me about your your show, your podcast, The Good Government Show. What I’m thinking about, good government. I think about all across the country, including Rockdale County. There are so many local elected officials who have taken the oath of office in doing some very good work on behalf of the people.

We’re moving our county forward in terms of infrastructure, public safety, and probably on one of the hottest topics is mental health and mental illness. We’ve got a brand new facility that’s about to come online. Will we’ll be able to deal with those people who are suffering with mental illness and mental health. So this is a big, big deal.

Then, of course, the biggest project, probably over 100 years in Rockdale County, is a brand new government complex, judicial complex.

David Martin: Okay.

Oz Nesbitt: Yes. We the courthouse that we currently have is one of the greatest locations for the people who are in the film. And movie industry.

David Martin: There. Why is.

Oz Nesbitt: That? Well, it was built between 1936 and 1939. So they come in and shoot movies, but it’s not ADA compliant. It’s not up to today’s standards. So we’re building a brand new complex. The old wood looks pretty. It looks pretty. As you know, a courthouse is the central place of every community, particularly in the south. You start with your courthouse and you build all around from there.

And that’s where you begin to build your old town and your city and your community.

David Martin: Well, I guess that sort of goes back to your police officer experience, the sort of the center of law enforcement and law.

Oz Nesbitt: Well, I think being able to touch people and communicate with people a source of information, a resource center, whether it’s good, bad or indifferent, depending on the situation you’re involved in. But having that centrally located place where people can go to gather and to gain information about what’s going on in their community.

David Martin: Now, I have to ask this 15 years of law enforcement, you’re getting close to retirement and full retirement from police department. Why did you why did you step out and do something else?

Oz Nesbitt: Well, retirement in terms of number of years, I was nowhere near there in terms of number of age. I joined the sheriff’s office when I was 18 years old and £150, If I can get that size 32 ways back, I just I kiss you.

David Martin: Okay. Well, you’re you’re a striking shadow. That’s okay. Let’s just keep our size where we are. All right? What is what? What are the some of the challenges that you’re having to deal with in your life in Rockdale? What’s what are people talking about there?

Oz Nesbitt: Well, what’s new on the horizon is basically information, education and communication. And what I mean by that, David, we’re kicking off a brand new series called Info Sessions. What we’ve learned of a lot of citizens just are uneducated about the inner workings of local government. So on February two, feel things all the way through the month of October this year, we’re going to be spotlighting each and every one of our local county departments to teach and explain to citizens how government works.

How does Parks and Rec work? How does the water department actually works? What is the importance of the stormwater department? Who runs the tax assessor’s office? Who is the tax commissioner and how it’ll work, how a government is.

David Martin: I mean.

Oz Nesbitt: They know is they don’t know. They think they know, they don’t know because what happens each year when it’s time for us to sit in the military and people want to know why we’re going up on taxes, they don’t understand this is an opportunity to connect the dots. So we’ve got to educate the people and inform them. We’re going to show them and give them somewhat of a bird’s eye view.

David Martin: And this will be the first year doing this.

Oz Nesbitt: Will be the first year we’ve done it to this level and to this. We’ve done some service surface things in the.

David Martin: Past to educate how well they received.

Oz Nesbitt: I don’t know what we’re going to see come February 15th.

David Martin: The ones you did, you said this.

Oz Nesbitt: Was done in the past, a bill I think receive on a more moderate type way. The interest has grown because the community has grown, which means we’re spending more money. I mean, we’re hiring more people. We’ve got to be able to explain that. People are saying, show me the money. Yeah, what am I getting? What is my return?

So what’s your.

David Martin: Version? What do you see? How do you think this is going to go?

Oz Nesbitt: I think we’re going to have a tremendous turnout of people. We’re excited about it. We put a lot of work behind this to make sure that we market and advertise and make sure people are aware. We’re encouraging people to come out. We’re going to hope that the folks who come to the first month will serve as ambassadors for all the rest.

David Martin: Sure. Now, your title is chairman of the Board of Commissioners, but you’re also the county manager, right? I’m so explain to me of the kind of unique government set up.

Oz Nesbitt: You’ve got this a unique situation. There’s only two counties in the state of Georgia that has that setup. And that’s Rockdale County, of course, and DeKalb County. So I serve as both the chairman of county government, as well as some might call the county manager or the county administrator. I’m the CEO of the county office. I’m wearing to ask I’m their day to day.

I’m a 24 hour service. I don’t get a day off. What time off? I’m around the clock. Me and the sheriff both works around the clock. I’m running the local county government.

David Martin: So what happens when you go out to the local barbecue place for dinner? What?

Oz Nesbitt: What happens? I get mentally prepared to have barbecue and talk with folks all around the place and and get engaged. And guess what? They like seeing me at the barbecue joint and at the barbershop, at the grocery store and at the church. And I’m all over the place. Yeah, Yeah, I love it.

David Martin: You’re you’re you’re out in the community and everybody can find you.

Oz Nesbitt: David, My work is my ministry. I have a passion, so this is really not a job for me. I was called to do what I’m doing, so I don’t see it as a job at all.

David Martin: Does it have to be, I mean, to be an effective government leader? Does it almost have to be a calling?

Oz Nesbitt: I really believe it has to be a calling. It has to be your true passion to be able to do this. Because one of the things about public service is two things. It’s both rewarding and challenging all at the same time. So you have to have a passion for people to be able to serve and you have to be a little bit too crazy to do this too, because, I mean, let’s face it, are you a little crazy?

I’m a little bit about 2% crazy because only, too, you got to be willing to accept folks throwing darts at you and all got to have thick skin to be in this business at 8:00. People are going to love you. At 815, some of the same people are going to hate the hell out you.

David Martin: Yeah. What’s the reaction when people see you?

Oz Nesbitt: Most people get excited.

David Martin: Yeah.

Oz Nesbitt: Because I’ve always I pride myself in my county and my community on being accessible. Three out of five residents in Rockdale County, Georgia. We have 95,000 residents. Let me give you that number again. Three out of five, I believe, have my personal cell phone. And they text me, they I’m accessible. I pride myself because I grew up in a.

David Martin: Cell phone right here. That’s right. I broadcast.

Oz Nesbitt: Right. Well, I broadcast to seven, seven, 624944, six.

David Martin: Go to call any time.

Oz Nesbitt: That’s right. 7706249446. It’s about being in touch and in tune with the people. People need tangible leadership. I talked last year about the three ugly E’s. David, don’t miss this, the three ugly E’s. What are the emotions, egos, entitlement. Yeah. Oh, man. When you’re in leadership and you let yourself get tripped up by those three ugly E’s emotions, egos, entitlement.

You had a for destruction. What has saved my life Of the three A’s, they are attitude, approach and appearance.

David Martin: Do you mentor other county commissioners, new county commissioners.

Oz Nesbitt: Have brand new. There is a brand new county commissioner in Albany, Georgia Dougherty County.

David Martin: Those three E’s well go. They can be any one of you.

Oz Nesbitt: I’m serving as his official mentor and I’m working with him on a hand on a close basis. But I talk to other folks. I’ve been doing this now for a few years, so I get a chance to talk with all the county commissioners and leaders throughout the state. People need to know why they are in office. They’re not at office for themselves.

You’re in office to serve the essence of leadership is service. Let me say it again. The essence of leadership is service. It’s not about you.

David Martin: There are politicians who are in it for themselves.

Oz Nesbitt: They are. I see them all the time and those people are headed for destruction. If they’re not headed to jail, I won’t go. I’m just calling it like it is. Yeah.

David Martin: What do you tell a new county commissioner who comes in and gets their first time elected? What do you tell them?

Oz Nesbitt: One word three times, which is humble, humble, humble. Stay humble.

David Martin: Do they hear that?

Oz Nesbitt: They hear it in the beginning. But when they get all the fanfare and the prestige, and every time they go to an event, someone say, please stand up, want to recognize all the love that they bask in their own glory, that becomes a problem. That’s a part of those three ugly E’s emotions, egos and entitlement.

David Martin: Does go back to that.

Oz Nesbitt: Yeah, absolutely. You got to stay grounded. I’m not a holy roller, but I am a man of God. So I have a strong faith in relationship with my God. And I understand that I’m serving to make it real. I’m not trying to sound like a saint or a good God. I’m just calling it like it is. Yeah, I’ve bumps and bruises and flaws and I’m a regular, everyday person like everybody else, but at the same time, my heart is in the right place and that’s where the people are.

People need leaders who are able to do what I lead.

David Martin: I’m sure there are some police officers that you’ve got onto the department with now. They see you as a county commissioner and the chairman of the county commissioners. What’s the reaction like of the guys that you used to work with?

Oz Nesbitt: Most of those guys, they smiled because they remember the days of us answering calls and working in the trenches in the streets. Most of them are proud of my accomplishments in the time and the transition from law enforcement to now being a legislator for local county government.

David Martin: So we’ve we’ve put together a questionnaire.

Oz Nesbitt: All right.

David Martin: We’re going to get to the bar boy. We’re going to get to the heart of what government means to you.

Oz Nesbitt: So that was just a warm up.

David Martin: It was just that was that was the day.

Oz Nesbitt: You ready? Oh, are you ready? Here we.

David Martin: Go. All right, I got it. I got to read that right here.

Oz Nesbitt: All right. They bring it out.

David Martin: From where you sit as county chair. Defined good government.

Oz Nesbitt: Good government includes one word first, and that is listening. In order to be an effective leader, you have to have the ability to communicate. In order to communicate, you have to have great listening skills.

David Martin: If you have those.

Oz Nesbitt: I believe I.

David Martin: Do. Did you develop those or do you feel like you’ve always had it? Do you are you constantly working at it?

Oz Nesbitt: David I was part of the fabric of the community, so before I became an elected official, I was aware of some of the issues and the problems that existed in our community. So it drew me to say, Hey, I want to be a part of making the change and making a difference. In order to do that, you have to be able to communicate with people.

David Martin: How do you know if you’re providing good government? What’s your personal yardstick for holding yourself accountable?

Oz Nesbitt: Well, we can go and make a difference with a senior citizen or perhaps a young school aged kid, whether they be in elementary, middle to high school. And we can have a real positive impact on either the senior citizen or their school age child in terms of getting something that they need. That’s something they need to be making sure they get resources to pay their rent or their utilities or give us all a ham or turkey during Easter or Thanksgiving for that young person who has a desire to go to college.

David Martin: So you’re really looking at this on a on a very personal level.

Oz Nesbitt: Is very personal because all politics is local. Yeah. And the issues are local. The folks who run the country are not on Pennsylvania Avenue. They’re all Milstead Avenue, Rockdale County. That’s where the rubber meets the road, because that’s where the real difference is made is not made in the White House. The folks in the White House should be carrying out what we’re doing in the local trenches around community.

David Martin: So how should the citizens of Rockdale hold you, hold you accountable? How should they make sure you’re delivering good governance?

Oz Nesbitt: They need to show up. They need to be present. They need to be present as frequently as often as they can when they see county employees or city employees doing good work. They need to acknowledge that and praise it when they see someone at all. And they need to make a report of that as well. Showing up holds your elected officials accountable for the work.

When you’re not there, it leads them to their own decision, their own demise, because they think that no one’s watching be present is what I would say.

David Martin: And if they show up and they don’t like what they see, what should they do?

Oz Nesbitt: They should do several things. Show up again, send an email.

David Martin: All right, call you. You’ve got call.

Oz Nesbitt: Me request to meet with that particular elected official that has either rubbed in the wrong way or drive in the wrong direction.

David Martin: All right. So you want him to get all the way.

Oz Nesbitt: Back to the first time we started talking about which a questionnaire communication.

David Martin: Okay.

Oz Nesbitt: And listening to the.

David Martin: Government isn’t easy. There’s lots of moving parts. There’s lots to it, There’s lots of departments, there’s lots of people to manage. What would you like people to know about government as an insider? What would you like them to know?

Oz Nesbitt: Beware of easy like beware of easy. There’s absolutely nothing easy about the work that we do. And for the citizens to know that there are good people in the community who are committed to doing good work and making sure that they represent the constituents that they’ve been called to serve, but communicate, communicate and engage with your leaders to make sure that you tune in on track with where they’re going.

And if there’s something you don’t like, don’t get all frustrated. Don’t take it personal, Go see them, have a can of beer or a cup of coffee.

David Martin: Okay. All right. Here’s an easy question. Who’s your political hero?

Oz Nesbitt: Wow, that’s a that’s a big one there.

David Martin: All right. Maybe it wasn’t easy.

Oz Nesbitt: Well, it wasn’t easy, but let me just tell you, I’m still a big fan of President John F Kennedy. I’ve always been a big fan of his. He says, ask not what your country can do for you, but what you can do for your country. I think, again, it’s all about service and meeting people where they are. When I think about the Kennedy administration way back then, he wasn’t afraid to break barriers.

He wasn’t afraid to step outside the box. And during the brink of the civil rights era, if you can remember that time zone, it was his administration between he and his brother, who did things that no one else was bold enough to do. We’re still on the brink of being bold. Every day. People often ask me about my legacy.

You know, where my legacy is is right now sitting here talking to David on this podcast about good government, my legacy won’t be a name on the bridge or a name on a building. It’s what we can do every day to make a difference in the lives of other people. The essence of leadership is what service, right?

David Martin: Well, that said, Kennedy does have a name, but a few things.

Oz Nesbitt: He does, but he didn’t put him up there. So I’ll say the floor is not.

David Martin: Going to be like an ice Nesbitt Airport.

Oz Nesbitt: Well, let me tell you, I won’t come up with that. That’ll be up to the people. Rockdale County is not for sale. So any candidate who’s thinking about challenging me for this opportunity, I will say to them, Rockdale County has lots of sell. I can’t ask you to give me an award. I can’t ask you to put a proclamation in my name.

My work and my service should speak for itself. The people know who’s doing the work you can’t buy. Rockdale County is not for sale.

David Martin: What’s your. You’re from Georgia. What’s your favorite dish? What’s your What’s your favorite cuisine? Where your place to go? What do you what do you like to eat?

Oz Nesbitt: Well, my favorite dish being from Georgia, I have to say fish and grits. Fish? Yeah. Fish and grits is probably my best Southern meal. I’m. I’m a true Georgia boy, so I like good old fried chicken, collard greens, mac and cheese, comfort food, and a good old piece of cornbread.

David Martin: Go to a barbecue place.

Oz Nesbitt: Absolutely. I love good barbecue ribs. And the best pit master I know in the state of Georgia is a man by the name of Mr. Timmer. He’s down in Albany, Georgia. He can really a slow roast some ribs and make them fall off the bone. That’s the place to go. That’s the place to go. Oh, absolutely.

David Martin: So, you know, you started off in law enforcement something a little bit different. But was politics something you always had in the back of your mind? Was it something you always thought about you class president?

Oz Nesbitt: Law enforcement is politics. When I was like that, it is absolutely all day, every day. But yeah, when I was a kid in high school, I was a part of Junior achievement. I was in the JROTC program. We had an Air Force ROTC program for the kids. So I was a cadet. I was a part of the police explorers.

I was taught a program in my local church, a Baptist church called the Royal Ambassador. So I’ve always been attracted to structure and discipline and order. I learned that I had a gift for public speaking by growing up in the church, being active and involved in my local church. That’s where it all started. I didn’t know that I was truly a public speaker.

Later in life, I learned to be smart enough to join the local Toastmasters club.

David Martin: So that was due to a great speaker.

Oz Nesbitt: It will. It really will. Because when you learn to be an effective communication communicator, it’ll open up any door.

David Martin: You stop by our booth here at the National Association of Counties Convention here in Washington, and you saw the good government show banner. You went, Oh, I like that. I like what’s going on. Give me an example of of some good government that you’ve been able to provide to the folks down in your town. Again.

Oz Nesbitt: Not hesitating when the weather is very inclement and, you know, you’ve got to open up a warm and cellar because there are some homeless people in our community that didn’t have a place to stay and they’ve got to be outside with the elements. I don’t need to have tons of meetings to make a decision about a facility that we already have, that we can open the door and bring those people off the street into a nice warming place.

There’s a senior citizen who’s on a fixed income. She gets Social Security or SSI, that’s probably 12, maybe 1400 dollars a month. What is she going to do with that? Because it’s Easter. And on Palm Sunday, the Sunday before Easter, I’m giving out hams to those senior citizens. You said a ham pork. Yes, because guess what? Some of these senior citizens are stuck raising their grandchildren for many different reasons.

We do the same thing at Thanksgiving time. We give away turkeys to make sure they can provide. That’s the most expensive part of the meal. Those are basic things in them in the right direction to help them with their utilities, with groceries, with transportation. One thing I’m really proud of we were able to do for the local veterans in our community.

We now have a county owned and operated van called the Eagle. It has all of the armed forces emblems represented on the outside of the van, But this van is wheelchair accessible. Okay, We can hold two wheelchairs. It will give you door to door service for veterans, pick you up and take you to your doctor’s appointment, wait on you and bring you back home.

All right. That’s big. That’s huge. Sure. There’s a lot of veterans who have fallen through the cracks. They don’t have transportation. They don’t have a support system. They don’t have loved ones of family or friends who can support them. We’re taking care of the veterans in Rockdale County.

David Martin: So any rest?

Oz Nesbitt: I don’t have time to rest. There’s no time.

David Martin: What do you do for fun? What do you got? A softball team.

Oz Nesbitt: What do you do? Power walk? Yeah. Cook. Okay, listen.

David Martin: What do you make what you’re cooking?

Oz Nesbitt: Oh, I cook a little bit of secrets. This is one of the things that we make. Okay? But I smoke a cigar every now and then. I like. I’m.

David Martin: I’m so I don’t I don’t see relaxing. Get any of it.

Oz Nesbitt: I do relax a little bit. I smoke a cigar every now and then, and I might have a glass of Crown Royal every now and then with the cigar. It was a cigar. But I love doing that with my wife. Okay. Yes. Good. Absolutely.

David Martin: So she I my guess is she makes sure to schedule it.

Oz Nesbitt: Yes, she’s in charge of that. And she works just as hard as I do.

David Martin: This has been a great conversation, the business. But thank you for stopping by, being intrigued by what we’re doing and for doing what you do. So thank you.

Oz Nesbitt: Thank you for having me on The Good Government Show. David, your podcast is doing some phenomenal work and is really amplifying and highlighting so many good people who held their hand and taking the oath to serve in public office. This is a leadership.

David Martin: That’s that’s all tried.

Oz Nesbitt: It. Thank you so much, David.

David Martin: Thank you for stopping by. Great to.

Oz Nesbitt: Meet you. Thank you for having me.

David Martin: The good government show is sponsored by our CO. That means our community, our CO has found a way to make government even more effective. Article provides a platform that blends in-person and digital interactions and that connects people with their government. Their mobile app transforms meaningful conversations into reliable data, and the result is actionable insights that inspires a positive change.

It’s sort of like having a flagpole. Do you want to know if the community would rather have a dog park or a bike trail? Our echo can get you an answer immediately from the folks in your community. With our CO, you can engage your citizens or any group, learn what they want and build programs and policies that advance your county, your job creators and your constituents.

So visit our COCOM. That’s 0urco dot com and learn how they do it. And while you’re there, book a demonstration. Well, like I said, Chairman Oz is highly quotable, and here’s a few that stood out for me. The essence of leadership is service. And then he said, Those who don’t follow that are his words. Here’s a quote headed for destruction if they’re not headed for jail.

And his advice for newly elected officials, be humble and listen. And he said leaders need to watch out for the ugly E’s. Those are emotions, egos and entitlement as he says his work is his ministry and he believes he was really called to do this. So overall, this is pretty impressive for a man who admits to being at least 2% crazy.

So that’s my conversation with Ozzie Nesbitt of Rockdale County, Georgia, where he offered up some real insight into leadership. Join me again on the Good Government show. We have another conversation with another government leader. I’m Dave Martin. Thanks for listening to the Good Government show and a conversation with is produced by Valley Park Productions. Jim Ludlow, David Martin and David Snyder are the executive producers.

Our editor and producer is Jason Stershic. This is a good government show. Thanks for listening.


**This transcription was created using digital tools and has not been edited by a live person. We apologize for any discrepancies or errors.