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Ga. House clerk is a daily ray of sunshine

POSTED: January 20, 2013 12:30 a.m.

Every weekday morning, I take a walk through the Georgia Capitol. There is nothing new about it; in fact, next year the old girl will be 125 years old.

I often walk by the bust of Peter Early, a former Georgia congressman and governor. He was governor during the Creek War of 1814.

When I walk in the other direction, I go by the bust of John Adam Treutlen, the first post-British governor who served after we informed the King of England that we were striking out on our own. Treutlen was murdered in 1782.

Occasionally, I look up the staircase and see Gen. James Edward Oglethorpe, the man often referred to as our founder. His bust features his image glancing to the side.

Another regular fixture at our Capitol is a nice man named Robert Rivers, or Robbie, as most people call him. Unlike Early, Treutlen or Oglethorpe, Rivers is very much alive and is especially busy at this time of year.

Robbie Rivers is the clerk of the Georgia House of Representatives. While he is a fixture at the Capitol, he is not exactly a household word.

When the House was convened to order last week, it was Rivers who had command of the gavel. The House has to elect a speaker and until it does so, it is the duty of the clerk to preside.

It is Rivers and his deep voice that reads the caption of each piece of legislation introduced, referred to committee or being considered for action in the House. He speaks in an almost monotone patter as he rattles off the information. Robbie Rivers does not read to an attentive audience. While he reads a bill, House members are likely to be engaged in conversation with their colleagues.

Rivers and his staff keep up with every bill and amendment that is offered on the floor of the House. In a two-year term, the number of bills will go well over 1,000.

While he is not a member of the House, he treats the hallowed chamber with a respect that is somewhere between a proud papa and a loving caretaker.

If he wasn’t clerk, he could easily be Mr. Congeniality of the House. He is one of the nicest people you’ll ever meet.

When representatives have guests, they will often introduce them to Rivers, knowing that he will have glowing things to say. “We think so much of your representative and he does such a good job, “ he might say.

In the offseason, I occasionally bring guests to see the House chamber. Rivers is likely to walk in and personally welcome them to his House.

“I’m so glad y’all came by and I hope you’ll come back and see us,” he says, and you know, somehow, that he really means it.

Rivers is a resident of Haralson County and began his service under the late Speaker Thomas B. Murphy. He was so beloved by the House that he has continued under the three speakers who followed Murphy.

As he concludes almost every conversation with every person he meets, Rivers has the same litany, but I never grow tired of it.

“Hey, I know you’re busy, but I need you to do me a favor?” he says earnestly.

“Yes?” the person responds.

“I need you to have a nice day,” Rivers shoots back.

It never fails to make me smile.

Harris Blackwood is a Gainesville resident whose columns appear on the Sunday Life page and on gainesvilletimes.com/harris.


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