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Political Notes: Ups, Downs and In-betweens

New KSU President: Pamela Whitten began her tenure as president of Kennesaw State University in July. She was formerly senior vice president for academic affairs and provost at the University of Georgia.

“Dr. Whitten brings a deep commitment toward building an outstanding academic experience for students, as well as an uncompromising dedication toward quality research and leadership that will serve KSU and its community well,” said University System of Georgia Chancellor Steve Wrigley in a press release. “We are excited about the feedback from students, faculty and staff who participated in Dr. Whitten’s campus visits.”

Whitten’s predecessor, former Georgia Attorney General Sam Olens, stepped down after a tumultuous 15 months as KSU president.

“It is an honor and privilege to join the KSU community,” Whitten said. “I am thrilled to be able to partner with the entire Owl Nation to champion our students, faculty and staff across Georgia and beyond.”


United States of Barbecue: For the 10th year, Georgia’s Republican Sen. Johnny Isakson hosted his summer bipartisan barbecue lunch for U.S. senators and staff.

“It’s my honor every year to treat my colleagues and the staff who keep this place running with fresh Georgia barbecue,” Isakson said in a release. “It’s a perfect way to kick off summer in D.C., and it’s a great opportunity for Republican and Democrat senators to join together over lunch and put aside politics for a while.”

Among the nearly 70 senators attending were fellow Republicans Mitch McConnell, Kentucky, the Senate majority leader, and Susan Collins from Maine; and from the other side of the aisle, Senate Minority Leader Charles Schumer, New York, and Elizabeth Warren from Massachusetts.

The luncheon was catered by Marietta’s South 40 Smokehouse, which brought their own smokers and meats to D.C. for the event.


Not Over Till It’s Over: The Georgia-Florida water war continues. The U.S. Supreme Court decision handed down this summer didn’t resolve anything; it simply sent the case back to Special Master Ralph Lancaster Jr. for further review.

Lancaster recommended that the Supreme Court dismiss the case in which Florida sued Georgia, claiming that the state used too much water from the Chattahoochee and Flint rivers and significantly harmed the oyster industry in Apalachicola Bay. Florida argued for a cap on Georgia water consumption, and Georgia warned that a cap would seriously harm the state’s economy.

Lancaster’s conclusion hinged largely on the fact that Florida had not also sued the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, which regulates the water flow.

The court’s 5-4 decision did not break down along the usual ideological lines. Justice Stephen Breyer, writing for the majority, said Lancaster had “applied too strict a standard” in saying the court could not find an equitable solution and that “further findings” are needed. He was joined by Chief Justice John Roberts and Justices Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Sonia Sotomayor and Anthony Kennedy.

Dissenting were Justices Clarence Thomas, Samuel Alito, Neil Gorsuch and Elena Kagan. Thomas, who grew up in Georgia, wrote, “It makes little sense to send this case back to the Special Master,” indicating that the Court has all the information it needs and noting the lack of “clear and concise evidence” that a usage cap “will benefit Florida more than it will harm Georgia.”


Evans To Luxembourg: After a long wait for his Senate confirmation, J. Randolph “Randy” Evans is U.S. ambassador to Luxembourg.

Evans, a lawyer and prominent Georgia Republican who grew up in Dublin, was confirmed more than eight months after he was nominated by President Donald Trump.

He has been a member of the Republican National Committee and former counsel for the Georgia Republican Party, and he headed Georgia’s Judicial Nominating Committee. Most recently, he was with the law firm Dentons.

His clients have included former U.S. House Speaker Newt Gingrich, Gov. Nathan Deal and former governor and current U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue.


New CCG Head: Michelle Johnston is the state Board of Regents’ choice to lead the College of Coastal Georgia in Brunswick. She was formerly president of the University of Rio Grande and Rio Grande Community College in Ohio.

“The College of Coastal Georgia is a special place with a clear focus on student success,” Johnston said in a press release. “I am eager to join the faculty, staff and students and to further the commitment to academic excellence, student development and our partnership with the community.”

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