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Evans-Abraham: What's next for the DOT?

Possible successors mentioned to fill Evans' seat

POSTED: April 28, 2008 5:00 a.m.

The most immediate question for the State Transportation Board is the future of Gena Abraham.

The 39-year-old engineer holds a doctorate from Georgia Tech and has drawn praise for her work at correcting a multitude of problems within the agency.

But the 12 remaining members of the DOT board are set to meet Monday, and on their agenda is a decision on Abraham.

"The ball is in her court," said DOT Vice Chairman Garland Pinholster of Ball Ground, who will preside over the meeting following the resignation of Chairman Mike Evans, who is involved in a romantic relationship with Abraham.

Abraham was elected by a 7-6 vote over state Rep. Vance Smith, R-Pine Mountain, who is chairman of the state House Transportation Committee, last fall.

The other remaining obstacle is to fill the seat of Evans.

The DOT board is elected by a vote of both House and Senate members from each of the congressional districts. An election would be called by House Speaker Glenn Richardson and Lt. Gov. Casey Cagle and would be held at the state Capitol.

Among those being mentioned as potential candidates are state Sen. Eugene "Chip" Pearson, R-Dawsonville, state Rep. Ben Bridges, R-Cleveland, and former state Rep. Stacey Reece, R-Gainesville.

Chris Riley, the chief of staff for U.S. Rep. Nathan Deal, R-Gainesville, had also been mentioned as a possible candidate. However, Riley told The Times Thursday that he had asked for a ruling on his possible service on the DOT board and was told he would have to resign from Deal’s staff. He immediately withdrew his name from further consideration.

Reece, a two-term lawmaker, was the hand-picked candidate of House Speaker Glenn Richardson to oppose Evans.

"I’ve had some calls from Atlanta and from others asking if I would be interested," Reece said, adding that he had not yet made up his mind.

Pearson was said to be lining up support for his bid. While he has made no public announcement, Pearson has told Senate leaders that he would not be seeking a third term in the Senate.

The name of Bridges, a retired State Patrol captain who once headed then-Lt. Gov. Zell Miller’s security detail, was revealed by state Rep. Amos Amerson, R-Dahlonega, in an interview with the Forsyth County News, a sister publication of the Times.

A call for a caucus is likely to come quickly, and could come as early as the week of April 28, when lawmakers go to the Capitol to qualify for the July primary election.


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