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Gov.-elect Deal begins transition into office

Transition team created to work with Perdue's office

POSTED: November 7, 2010 12:23 a.m.
TOM REED/The Times

Nathan Deal campaign workers Blake Fulenwider, left, and Trip Addison take apart office furniture Thursday as they move out of the campaign's Gainesville office.

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After the confetti falls and the campaign signs are removed, the real work begins.

From November through January, a transition team selected by Gov.-elect Nathan Deal will get everything in order before Deal takes over the governor’s office from two-term Gov. Sonny Perdue.

The transition team is an informal but important start to Deal’s governance. The committee is chaired by Rogers Wade, president of the Georgia Public Policy Foundation. Vice chairmen are Philip Wilheit of Gainesville, who was chairman of Deal’s campaign; John Watson, former chief of staff to Perdue; and Pete Robinson, a former Democratic state senator.

Beginning Monday, the group will get to work on anything and everything that needs to be done.

“There’s no job description on these things because it doesn’t happen often enough,” Wade said. “There’s no playbook. It’s all different every time.”

Though the transition team has not identified a specific schedule yet, there are a few main challenges they must tackle over the next few months.

“Probably the largest transition that will happen ... is the budget,” Wade said. “Perdue had department heads prepare a budget that can be used by Nathan Deal as a guideline.”

In a press conference the morning after Election Day, Perdue promised to deliver Deal a balanced budget before he leaves office.

“Nathan will start, probably next Monday or Tuesday, meeting with the department heads and discussing their budgets,” Wade said.

Staffing will also be a large part of the transition team’s duties.

“We will be working with Nathan and his core staff to staff out his administration in a way that implements his view of how the government should function or operate,” Robinson said.

Deal has already announced that Chris Riley, his campaign manager and chief of staff while in Congress, will serve as his chief of staff as governor.

Wade said there likely will be new people as well as some of Perdue’s staff that could stay on board.

“They will make adjustments where they need to and bring in a few folks that have worked with (Deal) before,” Wade said.

The transition between the Perdue and Deal administrations will likely be smooth. Not only are they from the same party, but the term-limited Perdue was prepared to leave office.

Bert Brantley, press secretary for Perdue, said this transition will be much different than when Perdue took office in 2002.

Perdue defeated one-term Gov. Roy Barnes to become the first Republican governor since Reconstruction, taking many by surprise.

As a result, little was done to prepare for a transition.

“They didn’t know where to park, the most basic of things were not passed from the previous administration,” Brantley said. “In 2002 it was a whole bunch of people just trying to figure out what they needed and doing it on their own ... We did not want that to be the case for the next governor.”

Brantley said Perdue and his staff will be working with the transition team to pass along any knowledge needed to prepare for Deal to take office.

“It’s a big job. There’s more than 80 different state agencies,” Brantley said. “It’s really impossible to address every issue in a two-month transition period. It’ll be challenging but also exciting. I think this will be a transition that Georgians will be proud of.”

The transition team is a temporary body that will be dismantled in January once Deal is sworn in.

Charles Bullock, a professor of political science at the University of Georgia, said a new governor typically stocks a transition team with people he knows well.

For example, Robinson has known Deal since he was a state senator.

“He was a role model for me as a young state senator,” Robinson said. “It doesn’t mean we agreed on everything. But I looked up to him then and I look up to him now.”

Wilheit is a friend and adviser who has been with Deal since he announced his intent to run for governor.

“It’s an honor to be put on the transition team, but it’s an honor that has some responsibilities with it,” Bullock said. “This is very much of a personal thing in which the chief executive picks individuals with whom he has great confidence.”


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