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Political Notes: Ups, Downs and In-betweens

BOR Members: Gov. Nathan Deal made three new appointments to the University System of Georgia Board of Regents (USG BOR) and two reappointments, all effective in January.

Bárbara Rivera Holmes, president and CEO of the Albany Area Chamber of Commerce and a former journalist, represents Georgia’s 2nd Congressional District. She lives in Albany.

W. Allen Gudenrath, a senior vice president with Morgan Stanley’s Wealth Management Division, represents the 8th Congressional District; he lives in Macon.

Erin Hames, president of ReformEd and a former chief of staff for policy for Deal, is an at-large representative for the BOR; she lives in Atlanta.

The reappointments are Don L. Waters, Savannah, 1st Congressional District, who is CEO of Waters Capital Partners LLC, and C. Thomas Hopkins Jr., Griffin, an orthopaedic surgeon who represents the 3rd Congressional District.


Olens Leaving KSU: Kennesaw State University (KSU) President Sam Olens, a former Georgia attorney general, Cobb County Commission chair and chair of the Atlanta Regional Commission, will step down effective Feb. 15, after serving less than 17 months.

Olens’ resignation comes after University System of Georgia (USG) officials criticized his handling of a student protest in which five cheerleaders took a knee during a football game and subsequently were kept off the field during the national anthem.

In a statement, USG Chancellor Steve Wrigley said, “Sam is a truly dedicated public servant to the State of Georgia and has contributed much of his life for the betterment of Georgians. I thank Sam for his service to Kennesaw State University and the University System of Georgia.”

Ken Harmon, KSU provost and vice president for academic affairs, will serve as interim president of the school.


In Memoriam: Former State Rep. John Yates died in December at the age of 96. Yates, a Republican, was the last World War II veteran to serve in the state legislature – from 1989 until 1991 and again from 1993 until 2016.

House Speaker David Ralston said of the former legislator, “John Yates was a public servant and a patriot – a hero in the truest sense of the word. He understood better than most the meaning of sacrifice.”


Consolidations – Done: Two USG consolidations became official in January, when Georgia Southern University and Armstrong State University merged to operate as Georgia Southern University, and Abraham Baldwin Agricultural College and Bainbridge State College combined as Abraham Baldwin Agricultural College.

USG Chancellor Steve Wrigley said in a statement, “The new Georgia Southern University and the new Abraham Baldwin Agricultural College are well-positioned to increase college attainment levels in these areas of the state.”

The university system now has 26 institutions, down from 35 in 2011, when the consolidation initiative was launched.


Education Appointments: Martha Ann Todd, former executive director of the Governor’s Office of Student Achievement (GOSA), has been selected by Gov. Nathan Deal as the deputy commissioner of the Technical College System of Georgia.

“Education is the gateway to a better life,” Deal said in a statement, “and we have no greater responsibility than ensuring that every student has access to a supportive learning environment. Martha Ann has demonstrated an unwavering commitment to Georgia’s students.”


DNR Board Reappointments: Gov. Nathan Deal has reappointed Nancy A. Addison, Richmond Hill, and S. Paul Shailendra, Atlanta, to the state Board of Natural Resources.

Addison is a former chair of the North Georgia Mountains Authority and a former commissioner for the Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission. Shailendra is president of SG Property Services and chair of the Buckhead chapter of Ducks Unlimited.


Here We Go Again: Proponents of a new city in north DeKalb County are trying again, this time with the name Vista Grove. The new effort, according to The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, includes much of the unincorporated northern DeKalb area east of I-85.

Efforts also continue in south DeKalb to create the city of Greenhaven.


Legislative Changes: Republican Brian Strickland of McDonough, an attorney and former state representative, won a special election in January to become the new state senator for District 17, a seat formerly held by Rick Jeffares, who stepped down to run for lieutenant governor.

Republican Geoffrey Cauble, a general contractor and chair of the Henry County Development Authority, won Strickland’s former House seat and represents House District 111 in the General Assembly.

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