Governor Nathan Deal has changed the face of state government in Georgia. Most folks see a different picture (Governor Deal in the place of Governor Sonny Perdue) hanging in government buildings around Georgia and think that is the new face. Yet, some of the most significant changes involve new faces in key government positions throughout state government.
Interestingly, unlike some of his predecessors, Governor Deal has not used prior financial support as his litmus test for appointments. Using even the anti-Deal Atlanta Journal Constitution's assessment (as of May 2011), 60% of Governor Deal's appointees were not contributors. This is not to say that being a supporter was a disqualifier either - after all, 40% did contribute. Basically, being a contributor does not appear to increase or decrease the chances of appointment by the Deal Administration.
So who are the new faces that are making a difference - other than obvious ones like Chris Riley (Chief of Staff) and Brian Robinson (Deputy Chief of Staff for Communications)? Here are four (in alphabetical order).
David Cook - Commissioner, Department of Community Health
Healthcare has been front and center stage on the national and state levels. Like other states, one of Georgia's greatest challenges is managing healthcare costs for the state and its citizens. President Barack Obama's national healthcare legislation only complicated this challenge. As a result, Cook stepped into one of the most challenging roles in all of state government. There are no good answers and lots of problems. But, Cook's experience and skills have enabled him to move Georgia forward while considering big solutions and implementing important tactical changes.
Cook previously served as the executive director and CEO of the Medical Association of Georgia. In that role, he gained an important understanding (and appreciation) of the challenges for physicians on the state and national level. Indeed, he established the Physician Institute for Excellence in Medicine. Cook graduated from the University of Georgia School of Law in 1982.
Chris Cummiskey - Commissioner of the Department of Economic Development.
As Georgia (like the rest of the country) tries to work its way out of an economic mess, Cummiskey has been able to use his experience and connections to open doors that might not otherwise exist. It helps that he knows well the limits of what can get done in the Georgia Legislature (as the former Chief of Staff to the House Speaker) within the burdensome boundaries of the federal government (having worked for U. S. Senator Johnny Isakson.)
Even so, in the world of economic development, things do not just happen with the snap of a finger. But, as illustrated by the news coming out of Governor Deal's recent trip to the far east, good things are on the way. As the rest of this year progresses, and as the next year starts, the seeds of growth planted by Cummiskey and his team will start to pay big dividends for Georgia.
Doug MacGinnitie - Commissioner of the Department of Revenue.
For lots of reasons, this was a politically charged appointment. Political enemies from both the Democratic Party, and inside the Republican Party, waited for just one mistake, or even the hint that Governor Deal had appointed someone inexperienced. It did not happen. Instead, MacGinnitie has been a star among the governor's appointments. It should surprise no one.
MacGinnitie brought a wealth of experience and talent to the position. He is a graduate of Emory Law school (and a former law clerk on the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals). He was former chief counsel for Georgia Pacific and co-founder and chief operating officer of Beecher Carlson. Basically, he knows the law; understands big operations; and knows what it is like to be a small businessman. The result has been a better Department of Revenue.
Calvin Rhodes - Executive Director of the Georgia Technology Authority and State Chief Information Officer.
Managing billions in contracts and completing the transition from pre-2000 systems has been the job of Calvin Rhodes. Managing huge vendors and antiquated computer systems in transition is a thankless job. There is no end to the problems, and solutions always seem one more step away. Yet, Georgia is steadily moving forward on all these fronts. Rhodes came to GTA in January 2011 from Paladin Investments. Before then, he had worked for Georgia based Fulton Paper Company for 27 years, serving as executive vice president, chief information officer/vice president for information technology with a focus on IT infrastructure development, application development and change management.
Rhodes is a graduate of Darton College and Georgia Southwestern University. He also has a masters of business administration. His real world experience has served Georgia well.
Of course, there are lots of other reasons why many Georgians believe Governor Deal is doing so well. These appointees are but a few.
Mr. Evans is the chair of the Financial Institutions practice at the law firm of McKenna, Long, and Aldridge LLP. He also served as outside counsel to the Speakers of the 104th - 109th Congresses of the United States. His weekly column debuts every Friday on That's Just Peachy.
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