Political Notes — For the DOT, a century of paving highways

[private]The Georgia Department of Transportation has reason to celebrate today, as the venerable state agency observes its 100th anniversary.

GDOT plays an important role for each of Georgia’s 159 counties, all of which have roads or bridges that were constructed through department-funded projects.

It all started back on Aug. 16, 1916 with the creation by the General Assembly of what was then known as the State Highway Department, which was tasked with paving over the dirt roads that were then the only pathway in many areas for that new-fangled invention known as the automobile.

Then as now, there were federal funds tied into it.  The legislature was required to create a state highway department in order to receive federal road money.

The agency was known as the State Highway Department for its first 56 years and the most powerful highway director was Jim Gillis, whose son Hugh went on to serve more than 60 years in the General Assembly.

It was said of Mr. Jim that he paved so many roads in his home county, Treutlen, that the chickens had to go to the next county to scratch.  Legislators knew their political future often depended on persuading Gillis to pave a road back home in the district.

When Gov. Jimmy Carter reorganized state government in the 1970s, the agency’s name was changed to the Department of Transportation.

Although Bert Lance was head of the DOT during that transition period, the first person to enter the newly renamed office as GDOT Commissioner was a politician named Downing Musgrove (jokingly referred to by some legislators as “Drowning Muskrat”).

GDOT today has been revitalized by last year’s passage of an increased motor fuel excise tax that generates an extra billion dollars or so a year for transportation projects.

“While a centennial is a time to reflect on the past, it is also a time to look ahead to new challenges,” Commissioner Russell McMurry said.

“Drones, connected vehicles, self-driving cars — these are just a few of the evolving technologies that will have a tremendous impact on transportation in the not-too-distant future,” McMurry said. “In the next century, Georgia DOT will continue to embrace change and rise to meet new challenges, break new barriers and positively affect more lives.”

Automotive expansion

Voestalpine Automotive Body Parts Inc., a European manufacturer of auto body components, said it will invest $50 million to expand its existing operation in Bartow County, potentially creating up to 150 jobs.

“This investment is an important step in the growth strategy of our company in the U.S. and positions us well in the center of the southern automotive hub,” said Philipp Schulz, managing director of Voestalpine.

Honors for the budget director

Teresa MacCartney, director of the Governor’s Office of Planning and Budget, has been honored by the National Association of State Budget Officers (NASBO) as the 2016 recipient of the Gloria Timmer Award, the organization’s highest honor.

“I’ve long considered Teresa an exceptional budget officer and am proud that NASBO recognizes her as one too,” Gov. Nathan Deal said. “For the past four years, I’ve worked closely with Teresa to develop fiscally conservative budgets that prioritize the needs of Georgians, particularly educators and law enforcement officers.”

MacCartney began her state government career in 2001 as a policy analyst in the Office of Planning and Budget, and moved up the ladder to become director in 2012.

Rest in peace

The mother of U.S. Sen. David Perdue, Gervaise Wynn Perdue, has died at the age of 90.

“As my mother’s health declined in the past few months, many of our family and friends across the state have filled her heart with joy, and we thank everyone for their kind support,” Perdue said in a statement.

“My mother was a generous woman of great intellect and strength,” Perdue said. “She was a daily inspiration to our family and so many others in our community.”

She was born in Irwin County, Georgia in 1926 and taught for more than 30 years after receiving a bachelor’s degree and later a master’s degree from the University of Georgia. She initiated one of Georgia’s first gifted student programs in the Houston County School System.

© 2016 by The Georgia Report

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Tags: DOT , Russell McMurry , Teresa MacCartney , Voestalpine Automotive Body Parts