DOT is looking for a leader, again

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The Department of Transportation, for the third time in four years, will be faced with the necessity of replacing its top official.

DOT Commissioner Vance Smith, a former legislator who was named to the job by the State Transportation Board just a little more than two years ago, has agreed to resign effective at the end of this year.

“I have today accepted the resignation of Vance Smith as commissioner of the Department of Transportation,” board Chairman Rudy Bowen said in a statement released Wednesday after a two-hour executive session of the board. All board members except Dana Lemon attended the hastily called meeting that was closed to the press.

“Prior to his resignation, Mr. Smith appointed Department Operations Director Keith Golden to the position of deputy commissioner,” Bowen’s statement added. “In accordance with state law, the deputy serves as interim commissioner in these circumstances.”

Golden, who’s worked at DOT for 25 years, will begin serving immediately as interim commissioner. Smith will “remain as an advisor to the department” until Dec. 31.

Smith’s possible departure had been a topic of speculation among state lawmakers and officials since May. His resignation is just the latest of several developments that have rocked the department’s administrative branch since 2007.

When Harold Linnenkohl retired as commissioner that year, a split developed among Transportation Board members over whether to appoint Smith or go with Gena Abraham, the candidate favored by then-governor Sonny Perdue. The board selected Abraham by a 7-6 vote.

Abraham was dismissed by the board about a year and a half later, and this time board members eventually settled upon Smith as the new commissioner (career DOT employee Gerald Ross filled in as interim commissioner during that period).

Overlaying this constant shuffling of commissioners was a fiscal crisis in which DOT had to deal with a massive budget deficit. Perdue also pushed for the adoption of legislation that restructured the department and transferred much of the commissioner’s authority to a transportation planning director, Todd Long, who answers to the governor.

© 2011 by The Georgia Report

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Tags: DOT , DOT commissioner , Rudy Bowen , State Transportation Board , Vance Smith