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Political Notes: January 2015

Shifts and Shuffles: Changes to the state government lineup as Gov. Nathan Deal begins his second term mean new leadership for some key agencies.

Maj. Gen. Jim Butterworth, adjutant general of the Georgia National Guard since 2011, is the new head of the Georgia Emergency Management Agency (GEMA), replacing Charley English, who will become deputy director. Brig. Gen. Joe Jarrard, assistant adjutant general, takes over as adjutant general.

Gretchen Corbin, Department of Community Affairs commissioner and a former assistant commissioner at the Department of Economic Development, will be the new commissioner of the Technical College System of Georgia (TCSG). She replaces Ron Jackson, who is retiring. Matt Arthur, director for education reform for the Governor’s Office of Planning and Budget, will serve as deputy commissioner for the TCSG.

Camilla Knowles, who was chief of staff for retiring U.S. Sen. Saxby Chambliss, will head the Department of Community Affairs, once she is approved by the board.

Amy Jacobs, interim director of the Department of Early Care and Learning, and Bobby Cagle, interim director of the Division of Family and Children Services, will remain in their positions full time, according to a press release from the governor’s office.


Isakson Announces: Not exactly a surprise, but U.S. Sen. Johnny Isakson will run for re-election in 2016. He made the official announcement at a ceremony at the state Capitol, flanked by prominent Republicans including Gov. Nathan Deal, Lt. Gov. Casey Cagle, Speaker of the House David Ralston and members of the Georgia delegation and the General Assembly.

In a statement, Isakson said he did not want to be a “lame duck” senator for the next two years and that he wanted to work “to bring Georgia values and Georgia conservatism” to Washington.


In Memoriam: Flags at state office buildings flew at half-mast in honor of the late Gov. Carl E. Sanders, who died in November at age 89. Sanders, who served as Georgia’s 74th chief executive from 1963 to 1967, was the first “New South” governor, who helped end segregation and usher in an era of prosperity. He was an education governor who greatly strengthened Georgia’s public college system.

After he left public life, he founded Troutman Sanders, an international law firm with more than 600 lawyers. 

Six Georgia governors attended a memorial service for Sanders, including former President Jimmy Carter, who won a bitter 1970 election that denied Sanders a second term.


New BOR Officers: Atlanta businessman Neil L. Pruitt Jr. is the new chair of the Board of Regents, which governs the University System of Georgia. Kessel Stelling Jr., chairman and CEO of Synovus, is vice chair.  Both will serve one-year terms.


Eaton Re-elected: Georgia Public Service Commission Chair Chuck Eaton will serve a second two-year term as head of the regulatory agency. He was unanimously re-elected by his fellow commissioners.

A 2012 law gave the commissioners the right to choose their own leadership and extended the chair’s term to two years. The same law allows the chair to serve a second term.


New Revenue Commissioner: Former District 50 State Rep. Lynn Riley (R-Johns Creek), who was a floor leader for Gov. Nathan Deal and chair of the Fulton County delegation, becomes the commissioner of the Georgia Department of Revenue, effective Jan. 11. She succeeds Doug MacGinnitie.

A special election Jan. 6 will determine her successor. Candidates are Libertarian Christine A. Austin and Republicans Brad Raffensperger, Royce M. Reinecke, Kelly Leigh Stewart and Paul Troop, who did not list a party affiliation when he qualified but ran as a Democrat last fall against Riley. The runoff date is Feb. 3.


Honors for Lawmakers: House Minority Leader Stacey Abrams (D-Atlanta) has been named one of nine “2014 Public Officials of the Year” by Governing magazine, which cited her ability to work across the aisle on issues that benefit public education and working families.

State Sen. Renee Unterman (R-Buford) is the recipient of the Georgia Chapter of the Alzheimer’s Associa-tion’s Forget-Me-Not Award, for her support of the Georgia Alzheimer’s and Related Dementias State Plan. Chapter President and CEO Leslie Gregory praised her “true leadership and passionate championing of the Alzheimer’s movement.”


Interim Leaders: The University System of Georgia chancellor has named interim presidents at three state schools where presidents have retired. Tom Hackett takes over for Tim Mescon at Columbus State University; Charles Patterson assumes the duties of Kendall Blanchard at Georgia Southwestern State University; and Margaret Venable succeeds John Schwenn at Dalton State College.

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