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City leaders push to keep Mike Evans on DOT board

Council sends letters of support to legislators

POSTED: January 3, 2008 5:02 a.m.
Some state officials may be on the road to booting Mike Evans from his post on the Georgia Department of Transportation board, but the Gainesville City Council wants to push them down a different path.

Earlier this month, the City Council sent a letter to all members of Hall County's state legislative delegation voicing support for Evans' re-appointment to the DOT board.

Rep. James Mills, who represents the southern end of Hall County in the General Assembly, sent a short note in response, saying there are two sides to a story.

Evans, a former state representative from Cumming, was elected to the 9th district post four years ago. Evans also currently serves as the chairman of the DOT board. He served in the legislature in the 1990s, and emerged as a party loyalist as Republicans swept to power with the 2002 election of Gov. Sonny Perdue.

In November, Evans was one of seven members of the board voting to name Gena Abraham as commissioner of the Department of Transportation. He selected Abraham over Vance Smith, a state representative who was supported by Evans' former House colleague, Glenn Richardson, now the powerful speaker of the House.

Evans, who faces a re-election vote when the General Assembly reconvenes in January, is now at odds with Richardson, who is seeking to replace him and another member, Raybon Anderson of Statesboro.

Richardson recently had a letter published in The Times, citing his reasons for wanting to make changes on the DOT board. Richardson's letter stated that Evans had not been focused on what was best for the DOT when it was time to vote for commissioner, but only on his own agenda. Evans' agenda, according to Richardson, was to become DOT commissioner himself.

The City Council discussed Mills' note in their work session Thursday but didn't plan any further response, according to Councilwoman Myrtle Figueras.

Members of the city council and Mayor Robert "Bob" Hamrick told The Times on Saturday night that Mills' note, addressed to Hamrick, thanked him for his input and also included copies both of Richardson's letter to The Times and newspaper's editorial about Evans.

Hamrick said the note was written on official House of Representatives letterhead. He stressed that the note did not spell out in any way Mills' opinion on the issue.

When contacted via e-mail by The Times on Saturday night, Mills acknowledged he had received letters both in supporting and opposing Evans' re-election bid. He wished to view any letter sent to the City Council before commenting on it.

Ruth Bruner, Gainesville city councilwoman, asked at Thursday's work session if the council's letter to local state representatives was all the council could do to help Evans in January.

Gainesville City Councilman Danny Dunagan said he had sent another e-mail to state representatives and senators that represent the Hall County area, encouraging them to vote for Evans in January.

"Keep pushing them," Dunagan said. "I think the more they hear the better off they are (with) more pressure we put on them to do the right thing."

Members of the council have praised Evans' efforts to push road projects along in Gainesville on more than one occasion.

Figueras said the City Council also voiced support for Evans at the Dec. 14 listening session in which local government bodies were able to speak with members of Hall's legislative delegation.

"We've already said that we support Mike Evans because of how he has been very responsive to our area and doing the things that we need here," Figueras said Saturday night.

Thursday, Hamrick said that Gainesville had received more than $300 million in funds for transportation projects, complete and ongoing, over the past five years. Evans has served on the DOT board for four.

"That's wonderful," Hamrick said.

Senior Content Editor Edie Rogers contributed to this report. 




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