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Legislative preview: As Deal and Cagle depart, Sen. Butch Miller is ready to lead
President pro tem aims to keep Hall influence strong
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Sen. Butch Miller, R-Gainesville speaks during the annual Eggs & Issues breakfast Thursday, Dec 13, 2018, at the Lanier Technical College conference center.

Since 2011, when Gov. Nathan Deal took office, Hall County has had its hold on state politics.

Hall has been represented in at least one of the state’s top two offices since 2007, when Lt. Gov. Casey Cagle became the first Republican elected to Georgia’s second highest office.

Then, in January 2018, State Sen. Butch Miller, R-Gainesville, joined the ranks of top leadership when he was elected by his colleagues to serve as Senate President Pro Tempore. Miller was first elected in 2010, and as President Pro Tempore he presides over the Senate when the president of the Senate is absent and handles administrative duties for the Senate.

But with Deal and Cagle leaving office Monday, Brian Kemp and Geoff Duncan will take over as governor and lieutenant governor. Both are from North Georgia — Kemp is from Athens and Duncan from Cumming — but with the departures of Deal and Cagle, Hall will lose two of its top state leaders.

Miller said Hall has benefitted from being a regional hub for banking, the court system, retail and health care.

“There’s a natural tendency for (the region), for those individuals, to come to Hall County and Gainesville,” Miller said. “That makes Gainesville and Hall County a central business district.”

People in Hall County also appreciate leadership and are willing to support someone they believe in, Miller said.

“There’s also a culture in Hall County of altruism, there’s a culture of commitment to community, there’s a culture of economic development and quality of life and generosity and caring for your fellow man,” he said. “That is the fertile ground, that many leaders have been produced from Hall County.”

That community support is also something Deal said he appreciated during his career when interviewed by The Times in December.

“I think there’s a lot of people who are private citizens but who are willing to support good candidates,” Deal said. “…They got me started, and they have stayed with me and supported me in all my political endeavors, and they’ve done the same thing for others.”

Miller said with Deal and Cagle’s departures, Hall’s role in state politics will change, but that shift does not have to be negative.

“Politics and government is fluid, and it will certainly change,” he said. “I and our other delegation members will work very hard to continue to make Gainesville and Hall County that continued area of prosperity and growth that we’ve experienced in the past.”

But the county will be able to have influence in other ways, he said. Projects like the upcoming inland port off Ga. 365 and the new Lanier Technical College campus, also in that area, will help solidify Gainesville’s status as a destination for business and travel in the region, Miller said.

“It’s going to draw people regionally to Gainesville to work and play, and it’s going to be very, very impactful on our long-term economic health,” he said. “… It’s going to require some housing and infrastructure for students, instructors, employees, associates of both facilities.”

Brenau University, the University of North Georgia and other colleges bring young people to the area who will hopefully stay and boost the economy further, Miller said.

“When young people go to an area either to be educated or trained, whether it’s going to college, going to technical school, the graduate resident education program at (Northeast Georgia Medical Center Gainesville), the court system we have for young attorneys, when they come here and do their initial work or attend school. … All those things are going to continue to dove tail to make Gainesville and Hall County a central business and central economic development center for years and years to come,” he said.

Miller has known Deal for 35 years and Cagle for 25 years, before any of them took office, and he said he owes his success to the people around him.

“It’s been an amazing experience to have served at this unique time of our lives and our history,” Miller said.