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Governor appointing Mills to state Pardons and Paroles board
His South Hall state House seat may be filled in special November election
0922James Mills
James Mills has served as a state representative from South Hall County since 1992.

South Hall state Rep. James Mills is leaving the Georgia General Assembly in October for a job on the State Board of Pardons and Paroles, The Times has learned.

His open seat in the state House likely will be filled in a November election.

Gov. Nathan Deal, a fellow Hall County resident, will announce Mills’ appointment today.

Mills, an 18-year lawmaker and the owner-operator of mini storage warehouses in Hall County, will join the board Jan. 1.

Wednesday, he said he looked forward to his new duties, calling them a “tremendous responsibility.”

“Every decision you make on that parole board impacts someone’s life immediately,” Mills said.

Mills’ appointment makes him the second former lawmaker on the five-member governor-appointed board, joining former state Rep. Terry Barnard, a businessman from coastal Georgia.

Other board members include an attorney and former corrections officials. Gale Buckner is a former law enforcement official. Records show Buckner was paid approximately $136,000 in salary and travel expenses for her work on the board in fiscal year 2010.

In contrast, Mills was paid $16,674 for his service in the state House that year.

Mills was first elected to the state House in 1992, the same year Deal was elected to Congress.

In his 19 years in the state House, Mills has been known for his anti-abortion and illegal immigration policies. He has, on more than one occasion, authored a bill to mandate that tests for Georgia driver’s licenses only be given in English.

In 2001, Mills was named Christian Coalition Legislator of the Year, and has received the “Pro-life Hero” award from the Georgia Right to Life organization, according to his House biography.

He also takes credit for adding “In God We Trust” to the current state flag.

His legislative background and his commitment to his faith is part of the reason Mills says he is a “perfect fit” for the pardons and paroles board.

“From my teen years to my adult life, I understand the law of God and know the love of God and live in the grace of God,” said Mills. “It’s my desire to extend that same grace to those violated victims and those that deserve a second chance.”

The governor, in a statement, also said Mills’ faith will make him an able member of the board.

“The duties of the Pardons and Paroles board involve equally important and difficult decisions,” the statement read. “James Mills is a man of strong faith, who will ably balance our hopes for rehabilitation with our need for community safety.”

As Republicans gained power in the state House in the early 2000s, Mills did, too, sticking close to former House Speaker Glenn Richardson, who in 2004 became the first Republican House Speaker in Georgia in 130 years.

Richardson appointed Mills to the House Committee on Assignments that year, allowing Mills to help choose which representatives got key positions in the state House.

Richardson resigned in late 2009. 

The former speaker had burned bridges with leaders in the House whom he had punished for voting against him in 2008 when he moved to replace Mike Evans as the chairman of the state Department of Transportation board. Mills had supported Richardson in the effort; those who had not were stripped of key positions in the House.

When David Ralston became speaker in 2010, Mills’ allegiances to Richardson were not forgotten.

Late in 2010, Mills unsuccessfully challenged Rep. Larry O’Neal for the role of majority leader. Then in January, Mills lost a chairmanship on the Banks and Banking Committee.

Mills is still a member of the Appropriations, Banks and Banking, and the Ways and Means committees. He is also secretary of the House Rules Committee.

His departure from the state House will leave a vacancy in the District 25 seat that covers South Hall.

Deal’s chief spokesman, Brian Robinson, said the governor announced Mills’ appointment early so a special election could be called in time for the Nov. 8 local elections.

The official announcement will come today, one day after the execution of a man whose case garnered international attention.

Pope Benedict XVI and President Jimmy Carter had asked for Georgia to spare Troy Davis, who maintained his innocence for the 1989 slaying of Savannah police officer Mark MacPhail, and  seven of nine witnesses who testified against Davis in the 1989 murder had recanted their statements.

The state Board of Pardons and Paroles denied Davis’ request for clemency this week and also refused to reconsider its decision if Davis took a polygraph test. The U.S. Supreme Court late Wednesday rejected a request to halt the execution.

Mills would not comment on Davis’ case Wednesday, saying he had not studied the case in full detail.

“It would be unwise for me to comment,” Mills said. “You should have all the facts before you comment on something regarding the gravity of that.”

Mills is a graduate of Mercer University. He and his wife, Rita, have four children: Micah, Moriah, Malachi and MaryQuinn.