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Political Notes: Ups, Downs and In-betweens

Recent Appointments: Chris Carr, former commissioner of the Georgia Department of Economic Development (GDEcD) and a former chief of staff to U.S. Sen. Johnny Isakson, became Georgia’s attorney general in November, succeeding Sam Olens, who resigned to become president of Kennesaw State University.

Carr’s appointment was made by Gov. Nathan Deal, who named Pat Wilson, the economic development department’s chief operating officer, as the new commissioner.

The governor tapped State of Georgia Chief Operating Officer David Werner to succeed Wilson as GDEcD’s COO and executive director of Georgia Allies.


More Changes: Shawn Ryan has been named by Gov. Nathan Deal as president of the Georgia Student Finance Commission; he succeeds Tricia Chastain, who became vice chancellor for administration for the University System of Georgia. Ryan was formerly director of the Georgia Integrated Eligibility System.

And More: Homer Bryson became director of the Georgia Emergency Management and Homeland Security Agency (GEMHSA) Dec. 1, succeeding Jim Butterworth.

Bryson is the former Department of Corrections commissioner. He is succeeded by Greg Dozier, who was assistant commissioner and chief of staff since 2012.

Sean Casey is the new executive director of the Georgia Vocational Rehabilitation Agency as of Oct. 24.


Olens To KSU: Sam Olens became president of Kennesaw State University last month, stepping down as Georgia’s attorney general to take on the new job.

His appointment by the university system Board of Regents was not without controversy; some expressed concern over his lack of academic administrative experience and the regents’ failure to conduct a national search.

Olens said he was honored to serve as president. “I pledge to work in partnership with the Kennesaw State campus community to focus our efforts on advancing our academic mission,” he said in a statement. “Working with students, faculty and staff, together we will continue to make KSU a leading university.”

Olens was formerly chair of the Cobb County Commission and the Atlanta Regional Commission. He was Georgia Trend’s 2016 Georgian of the Year in recognition of his work fighting sex trafficking and prescription drug abuse and his advocacy of open government.


New Judges: Gov. Nathan Deal has named three new Georgia Supreme Court justices: Court of Appeals Judges Michael Boggs and Nels Peterson and State Solicitor General Britt Grant.

Two of the judicial positions are new, coming as a result of legislation passed this year to expand the court; the third opening will occur when Chief Justice Hugh Thompson retires in January.

The governor has also appointed three to the Court of Appeals, including Clyde Reese, former commissioner of the Georgia Department of Community Health, who fills the term of Judge Herbert E. Phipps, who has retired. The other new appellate judges, state Sen. Charlie Bethel (R-Dalton) and Bibb County Superior Court Judge Tripp Self III, will replace the two elevated to the state’s high court.

Boggs, Peterson and Bethel were among the 13 Supreme Court candidates recommended to Deal by the Georgia Judicial Nominating Commission from a pool of 130 applicants.

Others on that list included Court of Appeals Judges Elizabeth Branch, Carla Wong McMillian and William M. Ray II, and Presiding Judges John J. Ellington and M. Yvette Miller; Dougherty Judicial Circuit Judge Stephen S. Goss; Fulton County State Judge Eric Richardson; Western Judicial Circuit Judge Lawton E. Stephens; and Fulton Deputy District Attorney Paige Reece Whitaker.


New Face: Former West Point Mayor and Republican Drew Ferguson defeated Democrat Angela Penally to replace retiring Republican Rep. Lynn Westmoreland to represent District 3 in the U.S. Congress. All other Georgia congressional representatives retained their seats.


One No, Three Yeses: Amendment One on Georgia’s November ballot, which would have created an Opportunity School District to allow the state to take over failing schools, was soundly defeated. Three other amendments, including one that will remake the state’s Judicial Qualifications Commission, giving more power to the General Assembly, won approval.

The defeated amendment, strongly supported by Gov. Nathan Deal, would have given an appointed district superintendent control over local schools and local funds. Opponents, including many within the state’s education community, mounted a strong and successful campaign against the measure.

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