By Maria Saporta
Washington, D.C. — Cobb Chamber of Commerce President David Connell humbly stood before members of the metro Atlanta LINK delegation Thursday morning after to apologize.
The day before, as Connell was going through security at Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport, he was detained for having a handgun in his bag. He subsequently was arrested and taken to the Clayton County jail.
Connell finally rejoined the LINK delegation Thursday morning, and he went to the podium to address what had been the buzz of the trip on Wednesday.
“Sorry for any distraction I have caused this group,” Connell said. He then jokingly said that his arrest had meant that “television stations have focused on me rather than on the LINK trip.”
A couple of years ago, when the LINK delegation traveled to Phoenix, a television station tried to paint the annual trip as a junket and questioned the value of the fact-finding missions.
That coverage actually led members of the LINK delegation to become even more supportive of the efforts to build regional relationships and to seek solutions to problems in metro Atlanta by studying other metropolitan areas.
“I can’t tell you how much I am glad to be back,” Connell told the group. “I made a mistake.”
He then spoke highly of the Transportation Safety Administration and other law enforcement agencies.
“I’m very, very proud of our TSA organization,” he said. “When I fly, I want to fly safely. Our TSA folks did a fabulous job.”
He also thanked Atlanta Mayor Kasim Reed and Clayton County Chairman Eldrin Bell, who both are on the trip, for the professionalism of their public safety organizations.
Connell then offered some advice to the members of the delegation — to be extra careful when packing their bags.
He said he got in late Tuesday evening and ended up packing the “wrong bag,” one that he didn’t realize had a small handgun.
“Talk to your family members,” Connell said. “The folks at the airport said this happens all the time.”
As a testament to the bonds that are formed on the LINK trips, Connell was surrounded by friends from across the region who offered the chamber president their sympathies and support.