Former Austell Mayor, Joe Jerkins, passes away
The City of Austell and surrounding communities of Cobb County are mourning the loss of its former mayor, Joe Lee Jerkins. Jenkins died of natural causes on Sunday night. The 79-year-old was in the care of hospice when he passed away. The city announcement on Facebook said, “Mayor Jerkins passed last night. He is affectionately remembered, and will be deeply missed.” Flags were flown at half-staff Monday and Tuesday in recognition of Jerkins’ accomplishments in Austell. First elected in 1989, Jerkins went on to serve almost 30 years as Mayor, which earned him the title, longest serving mayor in the city’s history. Jerkins stepped down in 2019 due to declining health.
Jerkins was a beloved leader who did double duty for Austell, serving as Mayor and as County Manager at the same time. While in that role, he refused a salary for 14 years, which saved the city money. The funds were used instead for Christmas bonuses for the employees of Austell. Mayor Jerkins had several accomplishments under his belt including helping the city acquire the former factory, the Threadmill, which was restored and is currently used for government offices and private businesses. Jerkins helped negotiate a $5 million settlement with the railroad company after Austell stopped fighting against Norfolk Southern Railway’s plans to build a massive $100 million intermodal terminal in town.
Located in the southwest area of Cobb County, Austell is home to an estimated 7,000 residents. A native of Austell, Jerkins grew up poor but worked all of his life and became a self-made millionaire. At the age of 12, he got his first job. By the age of 15, he was building homes and laying tile. He eventually opened a package store and was a successful businessman by the time he took office in 1990.
Jerkins’ funeral was held on Thursday at Davis-Struempf Chapel in Austell. The former Mayor was laid to rest at Rose Hill Cemetery.
Surviving family members include Sandra Brown Jerkins, his wife of 62 years, and his daughter, Lisa Jerkins. His son, Joseph “Jody” Jerkins Jr., preceded him in death in 2017.