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Gainesville's Dent loses bid for DOT board post

Former state senator from Dalton wins seat

POSTED: June 10, 2008 5:00 a.m.
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Steve Farrow

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ATLANTA — A former top official of the Georgia Department of Transportation was defeated in his bid to become a member of the state board that oversees the agency.

Larry Dent, a retired DOT deputy commissioner, lost in the second round of balloting to Steve Farrow, a former state senator from Dalton. Farrow was elected Thursday on a vote of 17-7 to the 9th District on the state transportation board.

In two rounds of balloting, Farrow won over three candidates — Dent, Dalton businessman Phil Neff and Lookout Mountain City Councilman Ray Seipp.

Farrow had campaigned heavily for the position, meeting one-on-one with most of the 24 members of the 9th District caucus of state House and Senate members.

"I worked hard, but you never know if it’s going to coalesce," Farrow said. "I wanted to go all over the district, because I wanted to be a board member that represented all of the district, not a particular region. Even though people voted a private ballot, I’m confident I got support from all over the district."

After the first round of balloting, Farrow had nine votes while Dent had seven. Neff and Seipp had four each and withdrew from the contest.

Dent was nominated by state Rep. James Mills, R-Chestnut Mountain, who called Dent a candidate who "could hit the ground running."

Dent, who addressed the caucus, said his 35-year career was preparation for the board position.

"I’m familiar with DOT and the process there," Dent said. "I know the partners involved — I know the Federal Highway Administration folks, and I know all the players involved — and I’m committed to work with the legislature, the leadership in this state and the citizens in this state to move transportation forward."

While the ballot was secret, it is believed that most of Dent’s support came from the Hall County area. His nomination was seconded by Sen. Lee Hawkins, R-Gainesville.

However, the lawmakers from the central and western portion of the district, which stretches from Hall County to the Alabama and Tennessee lines, fell in line behind Farrow on the second ballot.

House Speaker Glenn Richardson, R-Hiram, casually dressed in a golf shirt, dropped by briefly before the caucus began. However, Richardson, Lt. Gov. Casey Cagle and Gov. Sonny Perdue are said to have taken a hands-off position on the caucus.

Later in the afternoon, Cagle issued a statement congratulating Farrow.

"Steve is someone who cares deeply about the transportation needs of our state, and I am confident in his abilities," Cagle said. "I look forward to working with him as we move forward with a real transportation solution for our state."

Farrow, then a Democrat, entered the Senate at the same time as Cagle. Farrow said he stayed out of partisan politics when he served as chairman of the State Ethics Committee, but became a Republican at about the same time as Gov. Sonny Perdue, with whom he also served in the Senate.

The transportation board is the only state panel that is elected solely by members of the General Assembly, which has sent a number of its former members to the board.

Farrow joins former State Reps. Johnny Floyd, R-Cordele, Garland Pinholster, R-Ball Ground, and Larry Walker, D-Perry, as members of the Transportation Board.

The man he replaces, Mike Evans of Cumming, was a former Republican state representative from Forsyth County.

Evans resigned in April after informing the transportation board of his budding romance with DOT Commissioner Gena Abraham, who is now his fiancee.



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