As 2014 ends and 2015 waits by the door, here are a few personal impressions of the passing year.
Best campaign moment: The debates at the Georgia National Fair in Perry. The raucous crowd and the candidates’ barbed exchanges brought a sense of 19th century Americana to 21st century races defined by attack ads, Facebook and Twitter feeds, media consultants and spending by outside groups.
Best family campaigner: Family dynasties provided political theater. Former President and Gov. Jimmy Carter and first lady Rosalynn Carter hit the campaign trail for their grandson, Jason Carter, in the governor’s race. Sam Nunn made commercials for his daughter, Michelle Nunn, in the Senate race. Senate winner David Perdue received silent support from his first cousin, former Gov. Sonny Perdue.
The best family campaigner, though, turned out to be Georgia first lady Sandra Deal. The commercials showing her traveling to read books to young students stood out among all of the endless TV ads. Her warm personality and old-fashioned charm made a major contribution to husband Nathan Deal’s victory.
Most convoluted campaign theme: Jason Carter’s torturous explanation of why he voted against Deal’s state budget because of insufficient education spending failed to connect with voters.
Most effective endlessly repeated theme: Perdue tying Nunn to President Obama’s policies. As Atlanta Mayor Kasim Reed said in an election post-mortem, Nunn and other defeated Southern Democrats might have done better embracing the president on such issues as the improving economy.
Best moment: UGA alum Bubba Watson’s soaring drive on Augusta National’s 13th hole, the signature moment of his second Masters championship. The shot will go down as one of the greatest in the tournament’s history.
Saddest moment: Georgia running back Todd Gurley’s knee injury after returning from a suspension. Gurley will be remembered as a great player whose career never reached its full potential. Best of luck for a stellar NFL career.
Best emerging star: Freshman Nick Chubb admirably stepped up to fill in for Gurley, showing power, speed and durability. Here’s to more great seasons.
Best team performance: Georgia Tech’s surge after a mediocre start to land a spot in the ACC championship and the Orange Bowl.
Most disappointing season: The Atlanta Braves’ September collapse brought an end to GM Frank Wren’s tenure and set in motion major off-season restructuring.
Most pleasing pro team: The Atlanta Hawks, who took the Indiana Pacers to the limit in the NBA playoffs last spring and are off to a rousing start.
Farewell, Smitty: Falcons coach Mike Smith, the most successful in team history, was fired this week by team owner Arthur Blank. Smith’s gritty, everyman presence on the sidelines will be missed. Sure, he had a few issues with clock management, but those could have been overcome by a more talented team. Now, with GM Thomas Dimitroff barely holding on to his job and executive search firm Korn/Ferry helping find a new coach, Blank embarks upon yet
another change of direction in hopes of building a Super Bowl champion and selling tickets to his opulent new stadium.
Farewell, J-Hey: In their most surprising move, the Braves traded home-grown talent Jason Heyward to the Cardinals. Heyward never reached the hitting heights expected of him, but he showed star power with his amazing catches in right field, daring speed on the basepaths and dramatic home runs.
Buckhead Atlanta: The opening of OliverMcMillan’s new shopping/residential/business site at last closed a gash Buckhead’s heart. Despite the unimaginative name, the complex promises to give Atlanta a needed shot of big-city glamor.
Farewell, AirTran: The once feisty competitor to Delta Air Lines made its last flight over the weekend, folded into Southwest Airlines. Rising from the demise of ValuJet, AirTran offered spunky service and efficient, low-frill flights.
Underground revival: Mayor Kasim Reed’s late-year deal with South Carolina-based WRS brought new hope to downtown’s beleaguered site. Along with the revived deal for Tyler Perry to develop a movie facility at Fort McPherson, redevelopment plans for the Civic Center and Turner Field and the relocation of high-tech businesses, Atlanta appears ready for an economic resurgence.
Surging suburbs: State Farm broke ground in May on its Dunwoody campus, expected to add about 3,000 jobs over the next few years, and GM sold its Doraville site to developers. The Braves’ new stadium and commercial center in Cobb County also marks renewed vitality in Atlanta’s close-in suburbs.