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Deal gives oath of office to his staff

His first appointment: Naming Gainesville's Wilheit to Board of Regents

POSTED: January 10, 2011 7:12 p.m.

Nathan Deal's first order of business as Georgia's 82nd governor - signing his desk.

It's a tradition for each governor to sign the desk in the ceremonial governor's office under the Gold Dome.

"Now we get to serious business," he said as family and friends laughed.

After Monday's official swearing in, Nathan and Sandra Deal inspected the troops stationed in the Capitol rotunda. They then immediately walked into the governor's office to sign papers.

Deal signed his official oath of office and then moved aside so his top seven staff members could sign theirs. Though packed with people, the room was silent. Deal looked around as a slow grin spread across his face.

"Y'all act like I'm fixin' to pardon somebody," he said, breaking the tension and sparking a laid-back atmosphere.

His next order of business? Appoint Philip Wilheit to the Board of Regents, which oversees Georgia's 35 colleges and universities.

"At my first opportunity to appoint, I choose a close personal friend who I've known a very long time," Deal said. "He has long been dedicated to education in this state."

Wilheit, president and managing partner of Wilheit Packaging Materials, was Deal's campaign manager and a transition vice chairman. Wilheit served on the state board of education under Sen. Johnny Isakson.

"I'm flattered that I'm his first appointment," Wilheit said. "Great things are coming to this state, and Gov. Deal, I'm looking forward to your leadership for the next eight years."

Deal then gave the oath of office to his top seven staffers at the same time and took pictures with the staff members and their families.

"Y'all have to get shorter now," he said.

Rounding out his first day as governor, Deal signed a few more papers, including one that continued Georgia's state of emergency after harsh winter weather coated the state.

"Don't panic, but I just signed a state of emergency," he told family and friends with another smile. "Be safe on the roads going home."

Deal's Monday started off with a focus on the day's big event. He spent 9 a.m. to 11 a.m. in speech preparation, took a quick lunch, held a brief prayer with family members and met with outgoing Gov. Sonny Perdue for an informal pep talk.

"We've been friends for a long time, and I complimented him on the time he was governor," Deal said Monday after the ceremony. "He gave some advice and wished me the best."

Deal decided to spend time with staffers Monday night, thanking them for all the hard work during the campaign and transition, before getting back to business today.

"I'm ready to get to work," he said. "I'm looking forward to talking to the members of the General Assembly, presenting the budget at the State of the State address Wednesday and getting to work after that on important issues such as the HOPE scholarship and education."

 



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