Political Notes: August 2014

New Ports Authority Chair: Gainesville businessman James A. Walters is the new chairman of the Georgia Ports Authority (GPA), succeeding Savannah’s Robert Jepson.

Walters was appointed to the board of directors in 2012 by Gov. Nathan Deal and previously served as vice-chairman. James L. “Jimmy” Allgood is the new vice-chair, and A.J. “Joe” Hopkins is secretary-treasurer.

On Jepson’s watch, the GPA saw Congress pass, and President Obama sign, a measure giving final authorization to the long-awaited Savannah Harbor Expansion Project (SHEP). “I am confident that with Jim’s leadership, we will quickly move forward with the construction and completion of this critical project,” Jepson said in a press release.

GPA Executive Director Curtis Foltz says May was the strongest month ever recorded in GPA’s 69-year history for total tonnage, which was up 10.5 percent – 251,000 tons – from May 2013, reaching 2.63 million tons.

New DFCS Head: Bobby Cagle is taking on what is likely the most difficult job in all of state government. He is the interim director of the state’s Division of Family and Children Services, appointed by Gov. Nathan Deal. Cagle replaces Sharon Hill, who has a new job at the Governor’s Office of Planning and Budget.

The departmental shakeup comes after the deaths of several children, whose families had been checked and cleared by DFCS. DFCS will now report directly to the governor’s office.

Cagle was formerly commissioner of the state’s Department of Early Care and Learning.

Legislative Honors: The Georgia Chamber of Commerce named Sen. Fran Millar (R-Atlanta) and Rep. Mark Hamilton (R-Cumming) as its 2014 Legislators of the Year and Rep. Sam Watson (R-Moultrie) as the top freshman lawmaker.

Chamber Board Chair Ernest Greer calls the three “shining examples of the kind of leaders we need to keep our economy growing.”

Millar was singled out for his support of Common Core standards in Georgia’s schools, and Hamilton for his work on legislation related to the state unemployment insurance trust fund. Watson was selected for providing strong representation for the agriculture industry and for rural Georgia.

TAG, You’re It: The Technology Association of Georgia (TAG) has chosen Sen. Butch Miller (R-Gainesville) as its 2014 Technology Legislator of the Year. The award is given each year to a legislator who demonstrates support and understanding of Georgia’s technology issues and industry, TAG says.

TAG President and CEO Tino Mantella cited Miller’s work to pass the Mobile BILD Act, which “streamlines and standardizes aspects of local review of wireless facilities.”

National Award For Deal: Gov. Nathan Deal was honored by the National Association of Drug Court Professionals (NADCP) as 2014 Gov-ernor of the Year.

The organization honors a governor who has demonstrated leadership in advancing public policy in the areas of drug courts or criminal justice reform related to sentencing.

“In Georgia, we are offering misguided youth and nonviolent offenders a second chance,” Deal said in a press release, “but ultimately we are creating productive citizens rather than more dangerous criminals.”

First Amendment Award: Georgia’s Judicial Qualifications Commission (JQC) is this year’s recipient of the Georgia First Amendment Foundation’s Charles L. Weltner Freedom of Information Award.

The commission is being honored for an opinion issued in 2013 that bolstered the importance of open judicial proceedings in Georgia, stating that judges who do not adhere to open courtroom principles may be in violation of the Code of Judicial Conduct, the Constitution of the United States and the Constitution of the State of Georgia.

Foundation President Hyde Post said the opinion “significantly, and almost immediately, improved public access to court proceedings in Georgia. The commission advanced the cause of government transparency to the benefit of all Georgia citizens.”

Eleven individuals, including current and past JQC members and staff, will share the award.

New College Heads: Dr. Donald J. Green becomes president of Georgia Highlands College in Rome in September. He comes from Ferris State University in Big Rapids, Mich., where he is vice president for extended and international operations.

At Georgia Gwinnett College, Dr. Stas Preczewski, who served as interim president, is now permanent president. 

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